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EDITIONS
 Monday, 30 December, 2002, 12:12 GMT
Medieval ship may have crossed Atlantic
The medieval ship found at the mud of the River Usk at Newport
Reconstruction of the timbers is to start in New Year
Campaigners who successfully fought to preserve a medieval ship discovered on the banks of the River Usk, claim it could have been among the first to cross the Atlantic.

The 15th Century craft was found buried in the riverbank, in Newport, south Wales, in June, when builders started hollowing out the orchestra pit of a new theatre and art centre.

Perhaps this ship could have been there for the first trans-Atlantic crossings

Charles Ferris

At first it was feared that a lack of money would mean the boat, which is older than the Mary Rose, could not be saved.

But a campaign by local people and 3m in funding from the Welsh Assembly Government meant the ship could be preserved.

Archaeologists have finally finished excavating the remains and in the New Year will reconstruct the 65ft ocean-going vessel so that it can eventually be put on public display.

Charles Ferris, from pressure group Save Our Ship, which successfully campaigned to get the vessel preserved, says it is possible the boat was one of the first to travel to America.

He told BBC Radio Wales: "I really think that this ship is so important.

Discovery

"When you consider that the world thinks that Columbus discovered America in 1492, people now know that merchants from the Severn area were fishing off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland as early as 1480.

"Perhaps this ship could have been there for the first trans-Atlantic crossings."

He added: "It is such a relief when we had those dark days when we thought it couldn't be saved.

"We don't feel we can relax until we know that all of her is excavated and all of her will be put on display."

Kate Hunter, keeper of conservation at Newport Museum and Art Gallery, added: "We know the ship went into the Bay of Biscay and to Portugal, but we don't know if it would have got across the Atlantic.

'Internationally important'

"But the ship is internationally important. It is one of just four large medieval ships in the world and the only one of this period.

"At this period of history, the great voyages of discovery were taking place."

Around 2,000 pieces of the vessel have been taken to containers at the Corus steelworks at Llanwern near Newport to prevent erosion by air.

The city council hopes to have a display about the ship in place by 2004 in the newly-constructed arts centre basement.

Bones found at the site of the Newport ship
Human bones were found by the dig

Tree-ring dating has shown the ship was made from an oak tree felled between September 1465 and April 1466.

Artefacts found as part of the dig include shoes, woollen cloth and Portuguese pottery.

On 11 December, a set of human bones - two leg bones, a pelvis, part of the spine and ribcage and parts of the arms bones and some hand and finger bones - were also discovered.


More from south east Wales
See also:

07 Nov 02 | Wales
07 Nov 02 | Wales
02 Sep 02 | Wales
23 Aug 02 | Wales
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