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Shipwreck found off the coast of Tankerton


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A shipwreck found off the coast of Tankerton will be excavated by experts from Historic England.

Concealed by the sea for hundreds of years, the boat’s watery remains were discovered by volunteer group Timescapes.

Led by local archaeologist Mark Harrison, the group has been scouring the 10-mile inter-tidal zone for 20 years, piecing together the past, with an array of finds from fish traps to flint tools.

Sunrise over the wreckage at Tankerton
Sunrise over the wreckage at Tankerton

The team have gathered a vast compendium of items from the Iron Age and other ages, but this recent discovery could provide a fascinating insight into what life was like in medieval Whitstable – although an initial inspection gives an estimated date between 1200-1800 AD.

“We have limited information on the Middle Ages so this will give us much better picture," explained Mr Harrison, who also works for Historic England

"It’s very exciting."

The wreckage was discovered earlier this year while the team was undertaking work on Second World War sea defences, some of which helped with an exhibition at the Whitstable Museum, but eagle-eyed volunteers noticed an unusual outline in the sands.

Archaeologists get to work at the site
Archaeologists get to work at the site

“We spotted an oval shape and at first thought it was an oyster pit, but we then thought it was more likely to be a ship,” said Mr Harrison.

A quick phone call to expert colleagues at Historic England confirmed their thoughts and straight away experts were sent to the site to assess the scene.

Professor Nigel Nayling and Dr Rod Bale from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David used a geographical plotting system to survey the wreck site, and tree-ring dating experts were drafted in to analyse samples taken from the boat to determine its age.

Archaeologist Mark Harrison
Archaeologist Mark Harrison

The wreck features the bottom timbers of an oak-built boat but three other tree species – elm, beech and pine, were also identified.

Now Historic England, which recently protected significant wrecks off Chesil Beach in Dorset and a First World War mine-laying U-boat off Whitby, has agreed to fund an excavation.

There are currently 53 protected shipwrecks off the coast of England – Tankerton bay’s ghostly timbers will provide an invaluable contribution in the quest to piece together the picture of the past.

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