ForSEAdiscovery: Forest resources for Iberian Empires

Forest resources for Iberian Empires: Ecology and Globalization in the Age of Discovery

Professor Nigel Nayling

In the Early Modern Age (16th-17th centuries) the construction of ocean-going ships was paramount to the development of cultural encounters in what became the Age of Discovery and European expansion. In the case of the Iberian Empires, the establishment of new trade routes brought up the need for armed merchantmen, galleons and smaller vessels, placing unprecedented demands on Iberian forests for the supply of construction timber.Forestry and sea power became inextricably linked, creating new geopolitical tensions, alliances and forest regulations.

Bringing together a network of researchers across Europe the ForSEAdiscovery project will address key questions in this context:

  • Could Iberian forest resources sustain the increasing demand of sound timber, or was the wood imported from elsewhere?
  • If so, how were the trade networks organized?
  • And did the lack of raw material force the technological changes occurred in shipbuilding in the 16th century,
  • Or were they a result of exchange between Mediterranean and Atlantic shipbuilding traditions?

This project will address these questions through a multidisciplinary and innovative training research program to improve the understanding of our historical past, our cultural heritage, and our knowledge of the use of resources for shipbuilding. The prerequisite for such approach is combining knowledge derived from Humanities and Life Sciences.

The aims of the project are: i) to consolidate a research line combining historical research, underwater archaeology, GIS and wood provenancing methods (dendrochronology, wood anatomy and geo/dendrochemistry); ii) to increase the background and experience of trainees in the different research areas, by engaging the fellows in training courses and workshops aimed at developing their scientific, communication, and management skills; and iii) to develop their transferable skills for future careers in academia or the private sector whilst advancing the research fields through the integration of research tools, development of reference datasets and new discoveries.

This project is funded by the European Commission through FP7-PEOPLE-2013-ITN - Marie-Curie Action: Initial Training Networks (Grant agreement no. 607545).

Further information is available on the project website at http://forseadiscovery.eu/


Marie Curie Actions  
 
Europa
 
Seventh Framework Programme

The main objective of this multidisciplinary research training programme is to increase the background and experience of PhD candidates and early career researchers in the different research areas, and to develop their transferable skills for future careers in academia or the private sector, whilst advancing the research fields through the integration of research tools, the development of reference datasets and new discoveries.

This will be achieved by i) engaging the recruited fellows in training courses and workshops aimed at developing their scientific, communication, management and leadership skills; and ii) reciprocally applying methodological techniques of the Historical Sciences, Archaeology and Life Sciences, including tree-ring research and geo/dendrochemistry, to the study of exploitation of Iberian and other European forest resources for shipbuilding during the Age of Discovery and European expansion.

The legacy of such a program will be a cohort of European researchers with a multi-disciplinary perspective, fostered within a trans-national network of academic and commercial, public and private sector established researchers.

Funders of research include:

  • European Union FP7  / Marie Curie Actions

 

  • Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior De Investigaciones Cientificas (Spain)
  • Faculdade De Ciencias Sociais E Humanas Da Universidade Nova De Lisboa (Portugal)
  • Maritime Archaeology Ltd (Uk)
  • Wageningen Universiteit (Netherlands)
  • Universiteit Leiden (Netherlands)
  • Rijksuniversiteit Groningen  (Netherlands)
  • Université De Lorraine (France)
  • Universidad de Santiago de Compostela (Spain)
  • Texas A&M University (USA)
  • Nicolaus Copernicus University (Poland)

Nayling, N. and Susperregi, J., 2013, Iberian Dendrochronology and the Newport Medieval Ship, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.

At the time of the discovery of the Newport medieval ship, it proved impossible to date the timbers used in its original construction through dendrochronology. Associated British timbers and artefacts provided dating to the mid 15th century, with the latter pointing to strong Iberian connections. The development of regional oak ring-width chronologies in the Basque Country, and their extension back in time to overlap with the ring-width mean developed for the Newport Ship, has allowed absolute dating and provenance of timbers used in its original construction. Further research is required to clarify the geographical source of the timbers and to develop a high-resolution network of tree-ring data for the region.


Domínguez-Delmás, M., Nayling, N., Wazny, T., Loureiro, V. and Lavier, C., 2013, Dendrochronological Dating and Provenancing of Timbers from the Arade 1 Shipwreck, Portugal, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 42.1, 118-36.

As part of a larger project promoting the development of historical dendrochronology in the Iberian Peninsula, ship-timbers from the Arade 1 wreck (mostly planking and framing elements), stored at the DANS/IGESPAR in Lisbon, were examined. Of

these, 52 samples were identified as deciduous oak (Quercus subg. quercus) and two as chestnut (Castanea sativa). Of 24 timbers selected for dendrochronological research, 23 could be dated, placing the origin of the wood in western France and the felling of trees between AD 1579 and 1583. Their homogeneity suggests they are part of the original construction, which probably took place shortly after AD 1583.