‘So many organic things are well preserved in the Baltic where they wouldn’t be well preserved elsewhere in the world’s ocean system’
A royal ship that sank more than 500 years ago off the shore of Sweden’s Baltic region was found to hold a “unique” stockpile of well-preserved spices, including threads of saffron, peppercorns, and ginger, according to archaeologists.
King Hans of Denmark and Norway possessed the Gribshund, now a wreck off the coast of Ronneby. It is believed that the ship caught fire and sank while the king attended a political gathering on land in Sweden in 1495.
In the last few years, there have been sporadic excavations of the ship, which sports divers rediscovered in the 1960s. Large objects like figureheads and wood were found on previous dives. The spices were discovered in the boat’s silt thanks to an excavation directed by Lund University’s archaeologist Brendan Foley.
“The Baltic is strange – it’s low oxygen, low temperature, low salinity, so many organic things are well preserved in the Baltic where they wouldn’t be well preserved elsewhere in the world’s ocean system,” said Foley, according to Reuters. “But to find spices like this is quite extraordinary.”
Only the wealthy could afford items like saffron or cloves that were imported from outside of Europe. Thus, the spices would have been a sign of high rank. As he traveled to the conference in Sweden, they would have accompanied King Hans.