Report of Investigations Number 109
John R. Bratten, Principal Investigator
Archaeology Institute
The University of West Florida
May 2003

The University of West Florida (UWF) is pleased to present this Report of Investigations (No. 109) as the end product of the Archaeology Institute's investigation of the Santa Rosa Island shipwreck. The Santa Rosa Island Wreck project was sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Historical Resources, assisted by the Historic Preservation Advisory Council. The University of West Florida and the Archaeology Institute provided additional funding and resources.

Figure 1
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Discovered by a local diver in the 1980s, the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research (BAR) designated the shipwreck as an archaeological site (8ES1905) in 1992 (Spirek, et al.). The state underwater archaeology team, led by the State of Florida Underwater Archaeologist, Dr. Roger Smith, independently rediscovered the site and prepared a preliminary site plan. Marianne Franklin and J.W. Morris III, archaeologists from Southern Oceans Archaeological Research (SOAR), visited the site in 1995 and 1996. They noted construction methods that suggested an Iberian origin for the vessel and collected several wood samples. Analysis of the samples by Dr. Lee Newsom indicated that the shipwrights had utilized mahogany in the hull construction. While working in partnership with the U.S. Navy and the U.S. National Park Service, UWF conducted a partial survey of Pensacola Bay in 1998 (Figure 1). Using prior knowledge of the site provided by the State of Florida and SOAR, UWF archaeologists relocated the vessel in May 1998 (Bratten, et al., 1998).

Figure 2
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Once relocated, faculty and field school students participating in UWF's second annual summer course in Nautical Archaeological Field Methods (1998) began a pre-disturbance assessment of the site and immediately noted that the shipwreck was more exposed than that documented by the state in 1992. Exposed hull timbers also suggested a colonial vessel of considerable size (Figure 2). Over the course of subsequent field seasons (1999, 2001 and 2002), UWF undertook to excavate and document the site to record information that might be lost and, if possible, identify the specific identity of such a large colonial ship. The UWF field schools provided a means for carrying out these tasks and offered students structured hands-on instruction in a number of skills related to underwater archaeology, including site survey, excavation techniques, field documentation, operation of remote sensing equipment, and artifact conservation (Figure 3).

Figure 3
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At the close of the 1998 investigations, UWF researchers established a tentative date for the Santa Rosa Island Wreck. Olive jar fragments fell within a 1680 to 1720 period. Preliminary analysis of the hull remains revealed that the vessel exhibited characteristics similar to those of previously investigated eighteenth-century ships. Wood samples taken from a variety of hull members revealed that the ship was constructed exclusively of New World hardwoods--specifically, Spanish cedar (Cedrela spp.) and mahogany (Swietenia spp.)--two preferred building materials of Spanish shipwrights during the eighteenth century. The massive size of individual timbers in the ship's hull indicated that the wreck was once a large, oceangoing vessel, perhaps engaged in commerce or defense of European interests in the colonial New World.

Figure 4
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Although the 1998 field investigations revealed much about the shipwreck site, many important questions pertaining to the vessel's function, identity, nationality, and history remained to be answered. Consequently, UWF hosted a second field school at the Santa Rosa Island Wreck during the summer of 1999, with the goal of locating one end of the ship and gathering enough evidence to aid in the identification of the vessel. Over the course of thirteen weeks, faculty, staff, and students located, excavated, and recorded the bow of the shipwreck (Figure 4). Field school students and volunteers plotted and recovered hundreds of artifacts of many different varieties (Hunter, Bratten, Cozzi, 1999).

Figure 5
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Additional funding in the form of Special Category grant from the State of Florida allowed fieldwork to continue in 2001 and 2002. During this period, archaeologists excavated and recorded the extent of framing structure along the starboard side of the vessel and placed several transverse trenches in key portions to determine the extent of stern and port side preservation (Figure 5).

Project members recovered more than 2,300 artifacts from the wreck during fieldwork. These items range in size and type from small olive pits to large iron concretions. Among the more informative finds are two completely intact glass bottles, numerous wooden rigging items (sheaves, blocks, and parrell trucks), sherds of Mexican, Spanish, and aboriginally-produced ceramics, sweeping brooms, wooden beads, tools, floral and faunal remains, and a nearly-complete wooden box filled with iron spikes (Figure 6).

Figure 6
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UWF Historical Archaeology graduate student James W. Hunter, III initiated historical research into the vessel's identity (Hunter 2001). Dr. John James Clune and R. Wayne Childers supervised additional research in 2001 and 2002 (Clune, et al., this volume). Together, this research and the archaeological interpretation reveal that the site most likely represents the remains of the Nuestra Señora del Rosario y Santiago Apostol, a large frigate and former flagship of the Spanish Windward Fleet, which had patrolled Gulf and Caribbean waters. The Rosario was lost in a 1705 hurricane shortly after arriving to Presidio Santa María de Galve (1698-1719), near the modern city of Pensacola, Florida.

In addition to these analyses and conclusions, this report offers recommendations for the protection and management of the site.



Bratten, John R., Jason M. Burns, James W. Hunter, III and J. Cozzi
  1998 Underwater Field Investigations 1998, Pensacola: University of West Florida Archaeology Institute Report of Investigations No. 70.
Clune, John James, R. Wayne Childers, Hector L. Montford, and Cindy Bercot
  2003 "The Wreck of the Nuestra Señora del Rosario y Santiago Apostol: Documentary History and Historical Context," See this report.
Hunter, James W., III, John R. Bratten, and J. Cozzi
  1999 Underwater Field Investigations, 1999: The Santa Rosa Island Wreck and Hamilton's Shipwreck, Pensacola: University of West Florida Archaeology Institute Report of Investigations No. 81.
Hunter, James William, III
  2001 "A Broken Lifeline of Commerce, Trade and Defense on the Colonial Frontier: Historical Archaeology of the Santa Rosa Island Wreck, an Early Eighteenth-Century Spanish Shipwreck in Pensacola Bay, Florida" Thesis, University of West Florida.
Spirek, James, D., Della A. Scott, Michael Williamson, Charles Hughson and Roger C. Smith
  1993 Submerged Cultural Resources of Pensacola Bay, Florida, Phase Two, Tallahassee: Bureau of Archaeological Research, 76.