The recent discovery of the wreck of the Royal Gribshunden, which sank in the southeastern waters of Sweden, has uncovered thousands of specimens of spices and fruits.
The Royal Gribshunden, a battleship belonging to King Hans of Denmark, was en route to attend a political summit in Sweden in 1495 when it suddenly caught fire and sank into the Baltic Sea. In 1970, the wreck was first discovered by local divers and was found to be one of the best-preserved shipwrecks from the late Middle Ages, located at a depth of 10 meters on the north side of Great Oak Island off the Swedish municipality of Ronneby.
According to a recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE, archaeologists Mikael Larsson and Brendan Foley from Lund University report that they have uncovered more than 3,000 new specimens in containers that were previously missed by earlier exploration teams.
These specimens include a variety of spices such as ginger, saffron, pepper, mustard, cloves, cumin, and nutmeg, with some originating from Indonesia, demonstrating King Hans’s extensive trade network. In addition, the team also discovered various fruits, including black and red raspberries, grapes, and dried flax seeds that were used as snacks, showcasing the wealth and power of the king. The information was reported by Ancient Origins on February 11th.
Larsson and Foley attribute the well-preserved “spice treasure” to the microenvironment created by the wooden shipwreck on the seabed. When the Gribshunden sank, it brought seaweed along with it, resulting in a thick deposit of seasonal algae. As the algae decompose, they create localized hypoxic zones, which contribute to the excellent preservation of the plant material.
In addition to spices and fruits, previous expeditions have uncovered numerous artifacts such as armor, weapons, coins, crates of butchered sturgeon, and a wooden vase with a crown symbol, which was owned by King Hans himself.
The Gribshunden spice collection, with many specimens found in excellent condition, represents the earliest archaeological examples of some luxury goods in the Baltic region. This reflects the wealth of King Hans and provides valuable insight into the lifestyle of the nobility during the Middle Ages.