An Iberian Ship for the Atlantic: shipbuilding, life on board and the call into Angra in the 16th and 17th centuries




Code . PTDC/HIS-ARQ/104084/2008

Start . 2010

Duration . 36 months


Funding Entity

Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia

Main Research Unit

CHAM — Centro de Humanidades


Coordinator Institutions

Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas / Universidade Nova de Lisboa


 Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos / Universidade do Porto



The existing knowledge on the Iberian expansion of the 16th and 17th centuries indicates the city of Angra as a nodal point, working as a port of call for fleets and ships crossing the Atlantic. The city and its port accommodated these new functions, providing the institutional, economic and operational structures necessary for the anchoring, support and safeguard of ships in transit. The available data on the vessels docking at this port attest to the existence of different typologies adapted to the ocean environment and the functions performed on their routes. The design and construction of ships, the hull’s shape, the organisation of the shipyards and the nautical equipment are essentially known through written sources, as well as the logistic conditions of the port of Angra and daily life on these great vessels.




We intend to approach these themes in a cross-disciplinary perspective connecting history, archaeology, ecology and biology, departing from the integrated study of several sites of shipwrecks in the bay of Angra. We aim to resume the study of the Angra D shipwreck, discovered and excavated in 1998 in Angra bay. The Angra D site is considered exceptional due to its state of conservation, which permitted the collection of abundant materials related to life on board and navigation, such as ceramics, glass, metals, leather, fauna and ichthyofauna, as well as a considerable part of the wooden structure of the vessel. A preliminary context analysis indicates that this vessel to have been built in the Iberian Peninsula towards the end of the 16th century or first decades of the 17th century and involved in the transoceanic navigation at the service of Portugal or Castile. It is also aim of the project to continue the investigation of other wrecks and remains in Angra Bay, integrated in the study of its "maritime cultural landscape".

In what concerns the Angra D shipwreck, the project seeks to relocate the ship in its historical-cultural context. The diversity and quality of the written and archaeological sources will allow for addressing various issues related to shipbuilding (raw materials, management of forest resources, construction techniques and naval architecture and production organisation); life on board (food, hierarchy and social organisation) and the organisation in the ship (stowage and organisation of space on board).

Regarding other vestiges, we will try to increase the knowledge on the conditions of navigation in the Atlantic and the organisation of call in Angra, as well as the construction of the "maritime cultural landscape" resulting from the port functions the city assumed from the 15th century on.


Project Tasks








José Damião Rodrigues . Coordenator

Alexandre Brazão

Ana Catarina Garcia (CHAM)

André Murteira (CHAM)

André Teixeira (CHAM)

Artur Teodoro de Matos (CHAM)

Christelle Chouzenoux (CHAM)

Cristóvão Fonseca (CHAM)

Francisco Contente Domingues

Inês Pinto Coelho (CHAM)

João Tereso

José António Bettencourt (CHAM)

José Pissarra

Marco Pinto

Patrícia Carvalho (CHAM)

Roger Smith

Rubim Manuel Almeida da Silva

Rute Dias Gregório (CHAM)

Simon David

Sónia Gabriel

Tiago Silva (CHAM)







"The results of the project “An iberian ship for the Atlantic: shipbuilding, life aboard and Angra port of call in 16th and 17th centuries” show high scientific quality, particularly in terms of publications in international journals (refereed). The team was adequate to the scope of the project. Some difficulties in fulfilling the respective mission were beyond his control, including the impediments to accessing osteological remains from the Angra D. Undoubtedly, the knowledges of the Iberian-Atlantic shipbuilding and shipping in the Atlantic were increased, especially on the structures and the role of Terceira during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The knowledge of other archaeological sites of the Bay of Angra do Heroismo, including the ship Angra B, has also been developed whose information is quite relevant to the study of scientific subjects of the project. The indicators of scientific production expected during the submission of the project were overcome, particularly in the number of publications and international conferences. The Organization of a panel at the SHA 2013 Conference on Historical and Underwater Archaeology (Leicester, 9 to 12 January 2013) entitled “Looking for the Iberian Ship” was very timely for expected international impact. The exhibitions in the museums of Angra do Heroísmo and Horta also seem appropriate for a greater sensitivity to underwater heritage in the Azores. This project contributed to the training of new researchers in undergraduate course. It was notable the ability of the team to overcome the number of the expected publications in refereed journals and his capacity to participate at more national and international congresses. So, jury's expectations were confirmed and followed their recommendations."