The Baltic region as a marketplace for iron – the Osmund Ship, a merchant vessel from the 16th century

An underwater wreck in Stockholm’s central archipelago can be dated to the 16th century. In its cargo hold were large amounts of iron, mainly so-called osmunds (balls of wrought iron). The discovery of the "Osmund Ship" will help to clarify aspects of the history of iron exports that remain relatively unknown. Jernkontoret’s Historical Metallurgy Group’s research committee is undertaking the project: "The Baltic region as a marketplace for iron – The Osmund Ship, a merchant vessel from the 16th century." The wreck now offers a unique opportunity to investigate iron as a commodity, overseas trade and shipping from several different viewpoints.

Divers on the wreck of the Osmund ship at 28 metre’s depth, off Dalarö in the Stockholm archipelago. Photo: Jim Hansson.

In December 2017, a shipwreck was found just north of the community of Dalarö in Stockholm’s central archipelago. The wreck is called the Osmund Ship, or Osmund Wreck, since in its hold were barrels of osmund iron, which was an important trading and export commodity.

The discovery of the wreck certainly caused a stir. Only a few shipwrecks with a cargo of iron had been found previously. This wreck is dated to the 16th century, though this model of ship includes elements from the Middle Ages unknown anywhere until now. This find will help to clarify aspects of the history of Sweden’s export of iron that so far remain relatively unknown.

The research committee and this project “The Baltic region as a marketplace for iron – The Osmund Ship, a merchant vessel from the 16th century” represent a collaboration between Swedish National Maritime and Transport Museumsr (SMTM) and Jernkontoret’s Historical Metallurgy Group. KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Stockholm University are also participating. Chair of the Research Committee is Catarina Karlsson.

The Osmund wreck has provided a unique opportunity to investigate iron, overseas trading and shipping from several perspectives. On the one hand, from a micro perspective, based on the intact and undisturbed vessel that can now be investigated, and on the other hand, viewing the find within a national and international perspective.

The project also aims to describe Bergslagen’s industrial development with the focus on trading organisation, commodities traded, transportation and export. The overarching research issue is how, based on the investigations and documentation of the Osmund ship and its cargo, we can cast a light on international trade during the 16th century, the industrial organisation and development of Sweden’s major mining and metallurgical district, as well as on shipping and the modernisation of maritime technology.

Jernkontoret’s Historical Metallurgy Group plans, together with SMTM, to continue the work on marine archaeological investigation, documentation and international collaboration, all within the framework of this research committee. The current plan also includes presenting the wreck and the research project internationally.


The Osmund shipwreck as a 3D model

The Osmund Ship also provides scope for methodological development and it has already been documented in 3D. This makes it easier to conduct research into the ship’s design and components.
View the wreck in detail in the 3D model.


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