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The structures of the Early Modern Mediterranean shipbuilding

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ModernShip Project (The structures of the Early Modern Mediterranean shipbuilding)

Reporting period: 2019-05-16 to 2021-05-15

Surrounded by millennia of civilisation, the Mediterranean is undoubtedly the cradle of navigation. As a result, its technological development played a major role in the rise of European shipbuilding which, at the dawn of the modern era, was to be a driving force in the construction of Europe. But it remains largely unknown until today.

Archaeological research has revealed the coexistence of two different technical cultures at that time: the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. But if, over the last three decades, they have made it possible to sketch out a model of Atlantic shipbuilding, on the Mediterranean side, on the other hand, everything remains to be discovered. However, knowing that the latter is the source of many innovations and technological transfers to the Atlantic, its knowledge is essential to our understanding of the European naval organisation and its role in the development and expansion of European nations.

The ModernShip project, ‘The structures of Early Modern Mediterranean Shipbuilding’, aims to highlight this nautical space and its technical culture and to show how it contributed to make the ship an essential tool for Europe construction as a key instrument for trade, war, and discovery and world conquest.

From a methodological point of view, the project seeks to approach the description of Mediterranean naval architecture by characterising it in relation to its Atlantic counterpart. It thus intends to highlight a system of shipbuilding in which these two nautical spaces have been in continuous interaction since the Middle Ages, and attempts to understand them in all the complexity of their exchanges and technological transfers.
The ModernShip project is based on the implementation of a working methodology that involved three main activities: archaeological excavation, literature research and finally the analysis of the documentation generated for the creation of a shipbuilding model.
1- Archaeology:
The excavation operations concerned two underwater archaeological sites featuring the remains of recently discovered wrecks of Mediterranean construction tradition:
- Archaeological excavation of the Santiago de Galicia (1597, Ribadeo, Spain), with participation in two campaigns in 2019
- Archaeological excavation of the Mortella III wreck (1527, Saint-Florent, France) with the direction of a campaign in 2019
The excavation work carried out allowed the discovery of technological and architectural markers that are very important for the project. They have been observed, described and analysed in excavation reports and then published.

2 - Literature research:
The literature research stay was carried out in the Italian archives in early 2020 hosted by the University of Genoa and guided in the Archivio di Stato di Genova. A second research work was carried out in the Spanish archives on the other hand (archives of the Museo Naval and the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid). The COVID 19 breakdown led to further work in the online resources of the different Spanish archive centres, which are fortunately very rich.

3 - The Mediterranean shipbuilding model
The documents uncovered in the Genoese and Spanish archives are of great interest. Their connection with the results of the archaeological excavations is at the heart of the project and has led to valuable results that have enabled the first milestones of Mediterranean naval technical culture to be set in the early modern period.

4 - The dissemination of the ModernShip project.
These results are revealed in several publications: a monograph recently published in English and French, a book chapter in press and two articles, one in press and one in final draft (see details in the 'Dissemination' section).
The results of the project were also disseminated through three oral communications in the scientific community.
- 'El viaje del Galeón: Historia y Arqueología subacuática mediterránea: El pecio Ribadeo 1 (S. XVI, Galicia) y el pecio de la Mortella III (S. XVI, Córcega) by Ana Crespo Solana and Arnaud Cazenave de la Roche. Conference organised in Madrid by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) on 29 October 2019:
- Lecture untitled: 'The form of the master-frame in early modern Mediterranean shipbuilding'. It was presented in November 2019 at the University of Paris-Sorbonne in the frame of the International Seminary 'Le navire du XVIe s. en Méditerranée Archéologie et histoire'
- Communication 'The ModernShip Project: The Structures of the Early Modern Mediterranean Shipbuilding' on the 5th March 2020 in the frame of the 'Research days' held by the History Institute of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).
In terms of communication to the general public, although the COVID 19 crisis has complicated our task, several actions have been able to be carried out as a workshops for children on 'Underwater archaeology, shipwrecks and the Modernship project told to children' and interview given to the Spanish radio station Onda Vasca May 2019.
The information and communication addressed to the general public and to children have been aggregated in a blog section created to promote the project and still under development visible at: www.modernship.org
Although the COVID 19 crisis forced a 20% reduction in the initially planned archaeological activity, the excellent results of the excavations carried out and of the documentary research allowed a rich interaction between these two research fields. They have made it possible to draw up a very complete inventory of the 'fingerprints' and 'architectural traits' of Italian-influenced Mediterranean shipbuilding and to lay the foundations for a model that was the main objective of the ModernShip project. It should be added that the research activities that could not be carried out due to the health crisis were compensated by increased time for modelling and writing. In the end, there were more publications than initially planned.

It should also be noted that the quality of the results obtained, their social impact and the promising prospects they open up for the future led my host institution, the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), to renew my work contract at the end of my Marie Curie project for a period of 18 months. The ModernShip project has thus been extended, which will be very useful in order to reap all the benefits and to complete certain aspects of the research that require more time to be developed in depth. This additional time will also allow me to strengthen the very active team of researchers that has formed around this project and to consolidate the network that has emerged.

In conclusion, it is clear that the progress made during these 24 months of the project has enabled us to make significant progress in our field of research, which goes beyond the state of the art. It also brings to light the fundamental questions of technological transfer that appear to be key in the development process of European nations at the end of the Middle Ages. It is important that, as a continuation of the ModernShip project, research is mobilised around this new and ground-breaking topic of study.
The Mortell III wreck: a testimony of Mediterranean technical naval culture