The Casks from Vasa.

ECU Author/Contributor (non-ECU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
John E. Ratcliffe (Creator)
East Carolina University (ECU )
Web Site:
David J. (David James) 1968- Stewart

Abstract: When the warship Vasa was raised in 1961 wooden casks were found in nearly every area of the ship. Unfortunately this important find category was not subject to detailed recording and study until now. This thesis explains the use and distribution of casks aboard Vasa and their place in seventeenth-century northern European cooperage. Recording of individual cask attributes formed the basis for these subsequent analyses. This shows there were at least 145 casks of five main types aboard when the ship sank in 1628. The majority of casks were made of oak timber; the remainder of pine. The most common type of cask could hold between 117 and 146 liters and featured square bungholes. These casks contained salt meat and likely beer. The dimensions of these casks conform to multiples of the Swedish foot suggesting they were produced locally or at least according to Swedish specifications. Distribution of the containers shows a clear stowage plan with the majority of provision casks in the hold and casks of personal possessions on the gundecks above. A study of period art reveals that casks with square bungholes were common across seventeenth-century northwestern Europe but have hitherto been underrepresented archaeologically. This iconographic evidence also supports the contention that many of the oak casks held beer. The casks from Vasa remain an important tool for understanding shipboard organization and the naval supply process during the seventeenth century. 

Additional Information

Date: 2012
Archaeology, European history, Casks, Coopering, Maritime archaeology, Swedish History
Barrels--Sweden--17th century
Coopers and cooperage--Sweden--17th century
Vasa (Warship)
Sweden--History--Gustav II Adolf, 1611-1632
Underwater archaeology--Sweden

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