Archaeologists have found a “treasure” of spices on a sunken ship of the XV century

A cargo of spices was found on the ship of the Danish king that sank in the 15th century. An article about this was published in PLOS One.

In 1495, the Danish king Johann moored the ship Gribshunden off the coast of Sweden in preparation for a meeting with the Swedish ruler Sten Sture the Elder. Johann planned to strike a deal that would give him control of Sweden, as he had previously done with  Norway , creating a unified Scandinavian kingdom. However, shortly after mooring, the ship caught fire and sank, which was a great loss – it was filled with goods worthy of a rich and powerful ruler. At the same time, thanks to this ancient catastrophe, modern scientists have a chance to get to know the life of medieval Scandinavians better.



The wreckage of the ship was found in the 1960s, but during the initial expeditions, not all the cargoes of interest to scientists were found. The new study was launched in 2019, and its most valuable find is containers with well-preserved plant material, which contain about 3,000 samples.

Among other things, valuable medieval spices were found: nutmeg, cloves, mustard, dill, saffron, ginger, peppercorns and almonds. Many spices come from distant lands, including  Indonesia , suggesting that King Johann had access to a developed trading network. In that era, spices from Southeast Asia were extremely expensive in Europe, since the Ottoman Empire blocked the way to them. Also on board were less exotic foods such as dried blackberries, raspberries, grapes and flax. In addition to them, henbane was found, which in the past was used for medicinal purposes.

The researchers note that the plant samples were in excellent condition due to the unique conditions in the place where the ship was found, a cold and low-salinity part of the Baltic Sea.

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