The Avondster project: An integrated maritime heritage research project around the historic port city Galle in Sri Lanka

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The Dutch East Indiaman Avondster sank on July 2, 1659 in the bay of Galle, which was the most important maritime centre in Sri Lanka until the nineteenth century. Avondster had been anchored near the Black Fort before slipping its anchor, and running aground northeast of the anchorage in the bay. A ship of 250 tons sailing primarily in Asian waters, Avondster was in the service of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) at the time of sinking, but had formerly belonged to the English East India Company. It was captured by the Dutch in Persian waters during the first Anglo-Dutch War in 1653. Begun in November 2001, the excavation of the shipwreck is scheduled to continue until 2004. The Avondster Project focuses not only on the archaeological excavation and conservation of the shipwreck itself, but also on the Dutch-Sri Lankan cultural heritage in Galle, the training of Sri Lankan underwater archaeologists and conservators, comprehensive archival research, and the building of a museum to display the fmds from the excavation. The project is expected to yield new information regarding Dutch East Indiamen involved primarily in local maritime trade, seventeenth-century shipbuilding techniques, the nature of perhaps a mixed crew of Asians and Europeans aboard the ship, the organization and logistics of Dutch seafaring, as well as the development of Galle as a major port for the VOC. The results of the project will be presented in the renovated Dutch warehouse that serves as National Maritime Museum. The paper will present the goals of the project and the results of the research to date. In my conclusions I will highlight the specific advantages and problems of an integrated archaeological-historical research on a maritime archaeological site in combination with remains of the organization in both the structure of a colonial city and an extensive archive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-37
Number of pages11
JournalWIT Transactions on the Built Environment
StatePublished - 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Architecture
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Automotive Engineering
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Transportation
  • Safety Research
  • Computer Science Applications


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