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Anthropologist searches for the Beeswax Shipwreck

Seaside library welcomes Scott Williams on July 14

Published on July 9, 2018 1:34PM

Scott Williams has been searching for a shipwreck off of Manzanita for the past decade through the Beeswaw Wreck Project, adopted recently by the Maritime Archaeological Society.

Edward Stratton photo

Scott Williams has been searching for a shipwreck off of Manzanita for the past decade through the Beeswaw Wreck Project, adopted recently by the Maritime Archaeological Society.

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SEASIDE — Join us at 1 p.m. Saturday, July 14, as The Friends of the Seaside Library host anthropologist Scott Williams, who will speak on “Searching for the Beeswax Shipwreck.” The event will take place in the Community Room.

One of the most popular mysteries of the Oregon Coast has been the identification of the “Beeswax Wreck” at Nehalem Beach, in Tillamook County.

Identified over time by various researchers as either a Chinese or Japanese junk, a Spanish galleon, a Portuguese trader, or a lost English or Dutch pirate vessel, we have been able to determine that the ship was in fact a Spanish Galleon of the Manila Trade.

Nehalem Indian oral histories and the journals of the earliest traders in the area indicate that the galleon wrecked prior to European settlement — indeed, before most European exploration of the Pacific Northwest. The site has been buried for the last 100 years.

However, blocks of beeswax are occasionally found by beachcombers in the sand dunes adjacent to the site.

Archaeologists have recovered assemblages of Chinese porcelain sherds from nearby archaeological sites, including some that were modified into projectile points by local Nehalem Native Americans. These sherds display design motifs indicating they were manufactured in China in the late 17th century and were intended for export to the European market. Analysis of the motifs indicates the majority of the porcelain was manufactured sometime between 1680 and 1700 AD.

Radiocarbon samples from wood known to be associated with the wrecked vessel and beeswax blocks that were part of her cargo have also been dated, and, while not as precise as the ceramic dates, they also indicate the vessel is from the period of the Spanish Manila Trade.

The Seaside Public Library is located at 1131 Broadway St.. For more information, call 503-738-6742 or visit seasidelibrary.org.



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