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Roosevelt Inlet Shipwreck



Image: Roosevelt Inlet Shipwreck

In the fall of 2004, a beach replenishment project pumped tons of sand onto Lewes Beach. What no one knew at the time was that this sand was peppered with artifacts from a previously unknown shipwreck. Since then, thousands of artifacts have been found by beachcombers and donated to the State of Delaware for study.

Searching for the source of these artifacts, an underwater archaeological investigation located the shipwreck site in 2005, while a second investigation in 2006 recovered a wide range of artifacts representing the ship’s cargo.

Historical data, archaeological evidence, and the geographic location of the shipwreck suggest that the vessel is a British merchant ship that ran aground near present-day Roosevelt Inlet in 1774.

The State of Delaware is grateful to all who assisted in the investigation of the shipwreck including archaeologists, historians, volunteers, and the many people who donated artifacts found on Lewes Beach.

Image: Roosevelt Inlet Shipwreck Filmstrip

Objects shown above:

  1. German Blue-Gray Stoneware:
    Salt Glazed Stoneware, Germany: Produced in the Rhineland of Germany. Frequently encountered on archaeological sites in Delaware and elsewhere.
  2. Case Bottle:
    Glass, Great Britain, Europe: Square case bottles were designated to fit into a partioned box. They held a variety of liquors and strong spirits.
  3. Tin Glazed Earthenware:
    Glaze (tin and lead), Great Britain, Netherlands: This ceramic was widely used and came in a wide range of forms. It could be plain or highly decorated.
  4. Red Earthenware:
    Lead Glaze Earthenware, Origin Unknown: The form for this ceramic is a bowl. Its purpose is unknown.

What should you do if you find artifacts on Lewes Beach?

Archaeologists now have a substantial number of artifacts to aid in researching and studying the shipwreck. Consequently, it is no longer necessary, or practical, for the state to receive additional donations of Lewes Beach artifacts. However, in order to gain as much information as possible, the state encourages beachcombers to bring their artifacts to the Zwaanendael Museum for identification and documentation.

While at the museum, visitors can also enjoy the exhibit “Rediscovery through Recovery” which showcases the shipwreck and its cargo. The museum is located at 102 Kings Highway in Lewes, Delaware. If you have any questions, please contact the museum at (302) 645-1148.

Image: Roosevelt Inlet Shipwreck Filmstrip

Objects shown above:

  1. Mineral Water Bottle
    Salt Glazed Stoneware, Germany: Produced in Rhineland of Germany. Used for storage and transport of “spa” or spring water.
  2. German Brown Stoneware
    Salt Glazed Stoneware, Germany: Stoneware bottles were an all-pupose container used to hold a variety of liquids in colonial America, Britain, Europe.
  3. Shoe Buckle Frame
    Pewter, Great Britain, Europe: Many different styles of shoe buckles were recovered from the Roosevelt Inlet shipwreck site. Buckles secured the wearer’s shoes and were a fashion statement.
  4. Round Bottle Glass
    Glass, Great Britain, Europe: Round bottles were used to hold a variety of liquids. Large numbers were shipped empty for reuse.

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