The Pepper Wreck
A Portuguese Indiaman at the Mouth of the Tagus River
Nautical Archaeology
6 x 9, 304 pp.
30 b&w photos., 50 line drawings., 10 maps., 46 tables.
Pub Date: 03/21/2005
Ed Rachal Foundation Nautical Archaeology Series
  cloth
Price:        $60.00 s

978-1-58544-390-1

Published by Texas A&M University Press

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The Pepper Wreck

A Portuguese Indiaman at the Mouth of the Tagus River

By Filipe Vieira de Castro

In 1606, a Portuguese ship, Nossa Senhora dos Mártires, put into Lisbon laden with peppercorns, porcelain, and other products from Cochin. A large vessel for the time, the merchantman displaced twelve hundred tons and carried three to four masts. The ship foundered during a storm in a northern channel of the Tagus River. Within hours the currents and the storm had torn it asunder and spread its precious cargo along the shores of the estuary.

The Pepper Wreck tells the story of the ship’s excavation by crews working in cold water and fast currents between 1997 and 2000, four centuries after Nossa Senhora dos Mártires went down.

Author Filipe Vieira de Castro discusses the nautical history of Iberia, with special attention to shipbuilding and the development of the nau, a type of round ship used by the Portuguese on routes to the East. He also considers life aboard the ships, describing a typical menu, musing on the incidence of disease, and distinguishing the privileges of the different social classes and the perquisites the more privileged enjoyed.

Turning to the excavation of the ship, Castro describes the site, the shifting laws governing archaeology in the region, and the fast currents that limited divers to working during ebb tides. The objects found with the wreck, from pottery to astrolabes, contribute substantially to knowledge of early modern shipbuilding techniques.

Valuable to historians of seafaring and of Iberia and to those interested in Portuguese trade with the East Indies, this carefully wrought and generously illustrated volume is a veritable treasure trove for archaeologists.

Filipe Vieira deCastro is an assistant professor of nautical archaeology at Texas A&M University in College Station. Before studying nautical archaeology, he worked as a civil engineer and as a manager. His published works include discussions of the Tantura F and Pepper wrecks and on the history of Portuguese Indiamen.

What Readers Are Saying:

The Pepper Wreck (1606): the underwater excavation of this portuguese Indiaman nau, wrecked at the Mouth of the Tagus River, was directed by Luis Filipe Castro. It was also the subject of his Ph. D. in anthropology (TAMU nautical program). Thanks to his remarkable knowledge of the manuscript written sources on Iberian shipbuilding of the XVIth and XVIIth C., Luis Filipe Castro, as nautical archaeologist, has analysed and interpreted with great accuracy, singular caution and perfect methodology, the archaeological remains to reconstruct the architectural history of an Indiaman nau. The Pepper Wreck: this book marks a new step in post medieval nautical archaeology. In the future, it will be impossible to study an Iberian wreck of this period without reference to this book henceforth classical.”--Dr. Eric Rieth

The Pepper Wreck (1606): the underwater excavation of this portuguese Indiaman nau, wrecked at the Mouth of the Tagus River, was directed by Luis Filipe Castro. It was also the subject of his Ph. D. in anthropology (TAMU nautical program). Thanks to his remarkable knowledge of the manuscript written sources on Iberian shipbuilding of the XVIth and XVIIth C., Luis Filipe Castro, as nautical archaeologist, has analysed and interpreted with great accuracy, singular caution and perfect methodology, the archaeological remains to reconstruct the architectural history of an Indiaman nau. The Pepper Wreck: this book marks a new step in post medieval nautical archaeology. In the future, it will be impossible to study an Iberian wreck of this period without reference to this book henceforth classical.” --Dr. Eric Rieth

"The Pepper Wreck (1606): the underwater excavation of this Portuguese Indiaman nau, wrecked at the Mouth of the Tagus River, was directed by Luis Filipe Castro. It was also the subject of his Ph. D. in anthropology (TAMU nautical program). Thanks to his remarkable knowledge of the manuscript written sources on Iberian shipbuilding of the XVIth and XVIIth C., Luis Filipe Castro, as nautical archaeologist, has analyzed and interpreted with great accuracy, singular caution and perfect methodology, the archaeological remains to reconstruct the architectural history of an Indiaman nau. The Pepper Wreck: this book marks a new step in post medieval nautical archaeology. In the future, it will be impossible to study an Iberian wreck of this period without reference to this book henceforth classical." --Dr. Eric Rieth, Directeur de recherche, Centre National de la Recherche Scien

“This book is a good example of the ways in which thorough research and ingenuity can be combined to glean a wealth of information from limited wreck survival. Filipe Castro has provided extensive information about the Pepper Wreck’s hull design and construction. However, he also has presented an overall view of period Iberian ship design and construction, seafaring, social and economic insights, and much, much more.” --J. Richard Steffy


“It brilliantly combines uncompromising scientific recording with a narrative that conveys the excitement of discovery, the triumph of overcoming an unfortunate legal framework and difficult environmental conditions, and the delight in demonstrating the precision with which the vessel and its cargo fit within the textual and documentary record.” --Nautical Research Journal

“…an important addition to the study of Portuguese and Iberian shipbuilding.” --International Journal of Maritime History

“…this book is a ‘must have’ for anyone seriously interested in ships in the Age of Discovery.” --Ships in Scale

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