The New Ship

Agency, Space and Maritime Technology in Early Modern Europe

Project manager

Rönnby, Johan - Professor

Project type



The New Ship. Power, Agency and Maritime Technology in Early Modern Europe is a maritime archeological research project with the purpose of investigating the roles of ships in the societal change that takes place in Europe in the 1400s and 1500s. The project is a collaboration between professor Jon Adams, University of Southampton, UK and professor Johan Rönnby, Södertörn University, SE and Dr Ingvar Sjöblom, Swedish Defense School involving several other colleagues and institutions as research partners.

The general theoretical questions underlying the project concern the dialectical entanglement between humans and their things and in what ways material culture is involved in the process of social change in history. We regard the new ships at the end of the Medieval period as an unusually good subject to study if one wants to explore these issues. For a general and theoretical background to the project see Adams and Rönnby 2019.

New states and their contemporary rulers were during this time the leading agents of maritime development. Closely associated are the changes and advances in shipbuilding in which ships become increasingly complex, resource-intensive constructions, concomitant with their increasing importance to the business of State. New ships with new capabilities are thus part of a dynamic period of change in which they are instrumental in geographic discoveries, new ways of conducting long distance trade and greater offensive capability in warfare at sea. The conquests, colonization and exploitation that followed, not showing humanity at its best, are nevertheless prominent factors in the creation of the modern world.

Our perspective and the starting point for this research is the archaeological knowledge that can be obtained from investigations and documentation of a selection of Early Modern shipwrecks. This includes among other: Grifun/Gribshund (1495), “Kraveln” (1525), Mary Rose (1545), Elefanten (1560), Mars (1564) as well as some so far unidentified contemporary shipwrecks in the Baltic. The period studied also gives us an opportunity to use written sources in parallel with the archaeological material. This concerns both the provenance and social contexts of the different ships in the study, but also specific written information about material conditions on board.


Adams, J. & Rönnby, J. 2019. The Consequences of New Warships. From Medieval to Modern and our Dialectical Relationship with Things. In: Rönnby, J. (ed). 2019. On War On Board. Archeological and Historical Perspectives on Early Modern Maritime Violence and Warfare. Södertörn Academic Studies.

Rönnby. J. 2021. Grifun/Gribshund (1495). Marinarkeologiska undersökningar. Södertörn arkeologiska rapporter och studier. Huddinge.

Jon Adams, University of Southampton, UK

Research area / geographic area

Archaeology MARIS Baltic Sea region and Eastern Europe Baltic


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