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A sunken ship with mercantile cargo was discovered at the islet of Gnalić, south of Biograd na Moru, in the 1960s. The site was looted by unscrupulous divers before experts arrived on the scene. The devastation of the find site continued even after research activities commenced. Research resumed in 2012, and is scheduled to last for several years.
The shipwreck occurred in 1583. The objects found in the wreckage belong to the ship’s equipment and inventory (cannons, anchors, cordage, maritime compass, etc.) and cargo, which consisted of finished products (candelabras, textiles, glass containers, window panes and mirrors, thimbles, safety-pins, razors, eyeglasses, etc.), semi-products and raw materials (brass sheets and wires, galvanized sheeting, tin, white lead, cinnabar, etc.).
The exhibition familiarizes us with the ship’s cargo, and also tells us a great deal about merchant routes in the sixteenth century. The diverse cargo, which was loaded in Venice and intended for Constantinople, originated in different parts of Europe. On the one hand, it sheds light on European manufacturing and trade, while on the other it serves as evidence of demand for European products in other regions.
The items at the exhibition should be viewed with the realization that they were under the sea for almost 400 years! They clearly document the physical culture of the early modern era, which we otherwise know about mostly based on written sources and artworks by the old masters. The wonderfully preserved cargo of this sunken ship now stands before us thanks to the efforts of many divers, undersea archaeologists, preservation experts and curators.
In Biograd na Moru there are plans to set up a modernly-equipped education/presentation/research centre in which the principal content will be the permanent display of finds from the shipwreck at Gnalić. The future museum presentation implies a state-of-the-art facility, constant professional care and safeguarding of over 20,000 objects from this richest undersea find in the Adriatic, which is in many ways unique throughout the Mediterranean. With this exhibition, the Croatian History Museum is demonstrating its wholehearted support for the Biograd project.
© Croatian History Museum.