While finding wrecks is very exciting, what archaeologists are really interested in is learning about the people who made and used the ships – they are interested in behavior and culture. How can you figure out how people behaved 200 years ago or 20,000 years ago? We can’t see the behavior directly – so we have to draw conclusions from what we find.
Archaeologists use artifacts – anything made or modified by people. Everything from a drinking cup to leather shoes to the ship’s log to the ship itself is an artifact. Each artifact has a part in the story of what happened at a site, how it got there and how it was used.
The everyday life of the sailors who lived and worked aboard the ship can be seen through simple items such as a drinking cup. The cup on the left has “CW” engraved on its side – often sailors marked their belongings with their initials to keep track of them. Archaeologists researched the names of the sailors on the Scorpion and there was a Caesar Wentworth aboard – he was the cook. This was likely his drinking cup!
Because of cool temperatures and low oxygen levels, underwater sites can sometimes provide a perfect preservation environment for material that wouldn’t normally survive buried in the ground.
These leather shoe fragments (shown on the right), are a great example of this preservation, and can provide details into the quality and style of how the sailors chose to dress.
Another personal item found was this 1803 penny (shown on the left). Sailors often chewed tobacco. This penny has cut marks on it, and archaeologists believe these marks were made when sailors used the penny as a cutting board to cut their rolled tobacco into smaller pieces.