It’s sometimes hard to believe that there’s anything left to discover in the world. Between imaging satellites, high-tech systems that can scan deep into the ground, and even inexpensive, remote-controlled, quad-copter drones, it almost seems like there isn’t a single square-millimeter of this planet, above or below ground (or sea), that we haven’t scoured with a fine-tooth comb.
Yet, the fantastic items featured in this story were found resting just beneath the sandy floor of the Wadden Sea, off the coast of Texel, the largest of the West Frisian Islands in the Netherlands. Likely sailing to or from England, a ship sank there around 400 years ago, where its cargo lay buried beneath the silt and sand until archeologists manned a diving expedition in 2014.
What they brought up from the depths was truly remarkable. Many items had been protected quite well from the elements and didn’t succumb to the corrosion and decay that can befall so many objects lost at sea.
Most importantly, they found a truly gorgeous dress, nearly intact. Historians believe it and many of the other artifacts date to the Caroline era, around the mid-to-late 1600s, and may even have come from the court of Charles I himself!
Thanks to a bevy of paintings from the era, it’s easy to compare this striking find with actual dresses worn during those years. Our best guess these days is that this particular dress belonged to a member of the aristocracy, possibly the royal family, and was likely used for “everyday” wear, as opposed to more formal occasions.
It’s hard to imagine wearing a detailed, hand-woven damask-silk dress to casual Friday, right? “This is my ‘laundry-day’ silk gown.”
There were other items found as well, such as a beautiful velvet bag, embroidered in a “goldwork” style with tons of silver thread.
Equally fascinating to less-fashion-oriented history buffs are some of the other finds, such as this double-sided, cow-horn lice comb. Remember, as glamorous as the dresses of this era make it seem, not everything was as amazing as the clothing. If the royals needed to carry around lice combs …
This is my personal favorite, an ornate “pomander,” used by those who could afford it to carry around chunks of whale vomit. No really! Perfumed chunks of ambergris were stored in these globes because back then, bad smells were associated with sickness and so carrying nice smells around with you was a handy way to ward off disease.
These items are only a small sample of the many wonderful, fascinating, and sometimes odd things that have been found in the salty depths around the world. We always love seeing what people have found and can’t wait until the next fruitful maritime bounty.
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