Excavation started on 18th century Dutch treasure shipwreck found off Kent coast

Board and part of a gun on the Rooswijk, which sank on the Goodwin Sands in 1740
Board and part of a gun on the Rooswijk, which sank on the Goodwin Sands in 1740. (Photo: Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency)

A team of Dutch and British maritime archaeologists are working on excavating Dutch ship the Rooswijk, which sank on the Goodwin Sands off the coast of Kent in 1740. This is the largest ever excavation of a Dutch East India Company shipwreck, BBC reports.

The Rooswijk was carrying coins and silver ingots when it sank in January 1740. The archaeologists expect that this excavation will reveal a "treasure trove" of stories about Europe's global trading history, according to the news agency. 

Last year was the first time in the over 250 years since the ship sank that the sand shifted enough to make excavation possible. The wreck is even more accessible at the moment.

"The Goodwin Sands has been a treacherous place for ships throughout the centuries and is now a trove for archaeologists", Martijn Manders, project leader for the Rooswijk Excavation and Maritime Heritage program manager at the Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency, said to the BBC. "The rapidly shifting sands mean that the site is even more exposed now than it was during our initial dives to assess the condition of the Rooswijk last year. This makes the excavation urgent."

During last year's exploration, divers brought up a number of items from the ship, including a large chest, pewter jugs, ornately carved wooden knife handles and leather shoes. This time the divers will delve further into the living quarters and store rooms in the stern of the ship.

This excavation is part of the #Rooswijk1740 project, which is led and financed by the Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency. The British heritage agency Historic England is managing the site in close contact with the Dutch government, according to the BBC. 

"Wrecks such as the Rooswijk are time capsules that offer a unique glimpse into the past and tell a story.", Alison James of Historic England said to the news agency. "We look forward to the fascinating insights and discoveries that the Rooswijk excavation will uncover this summer."