A Broken Lifeline of Commerce, Trade and Defense on the Colonial Frontier: Historical Archaeology of the Santa Rosa Island Wreck, an Early Eighteenth-

James W. Hunter, III

          Identified during a shipwreck survey of Pensacola Bay in 1992, the Santa Rosa Island Wreck was the subject of additional archaeological investigations in 1998 and 1999. Although the identity of the vessel remains elusive, documentation of its remarkably well-preserved hull remains and associated artifacts suggest a large, early eighteenth-century Spanish ship with a New World origin-an exceptionally rare find for the world of nautical archaeology. As a tangible representative of its particular culture, a shipwreck, even one that has not been positively identified, offers a unique opportunity to interpret not only the history and lifeways particular to the vessel itself, but also its role as a single component with in a much broader cultural system. This study integrates the results of two seasons of archaeological research conducted at the Santa Rosa Island Wreck with pertinent historical material. It produces a comprehensive study of an early eighteenth-century Spanish ship that was representative of a New World maritime culture and served as an essential life line between New Spain and its colonial frontier.

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