SparrowHawk Project

How do you know if a shipwreck is really as old as it’s thought to be??

In 2018, SEAMAHP helped bring in experts to take samples to perform dendrochronology testing (tree ring analysis) of the SparrowHawk at Pilgrim Hall Museum, to determine the date/origins of the wood frames. We hoped they might be able to find out exactly where the ship was built and confirm the age.

Currently, the artifact is identified as the 1626 wreck of a ship carrying settlers to Virginia. No life was lost in the wrecking and the survivors stayed the winter with the Pilgrims at Plymouth. The Sparrow Hawk has been held by the museum for over 100 years.

The full dendrochronology analysis done by Aoife Daly, at the University of Copenhagen, and reported at the 2020 Society for Historical Archeology conference (see paper “Dating the Sparrow-Hawk“) was inconclusive. Experts then used radiocarbon C14 analysis to date two timbers to the late sixteenth century, and used DNA analysis in an attempt to further the knowledge of the wreck. Unfortunately, the DNA testing (see article: DNA of centuries-old timber can reveal its origin) was also inconclusive in determining the origins of the wood frames.

SparrowHawk beams carrying2
At work on SparrowHawk (L to R): Fred Hocker (Vasa Museum), Calvin Mires (SEAMAHP), Aiofe Daly (dendrochronologist Univ. of Copenhagen), Donna Curtin (Pilgrim Hall Museum), and Greg Lott (Mass. Archaeological Soc.).

© photos property of SEAMAHP


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