Excavation has brought up silver dollars, pewter jugs and a mystery chest from Rooswijk wreck in Goodwin Sands

Covered with seaweed, bits of shell and pebbles concreted into lumps of corroded iron, the wooden seaman’s chest from the Dutch East India ship Rooswijk remains tantalisingly locked after almost 300 years. It will take months of conservation work before the archaeologists discover whether it holds some of the silver treasure the ship was carrying, or a long dead sailor’s old socks.

A joint excavation by divers and scientists from Historic England and the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands is unravelling the story of the last hours of the Rooswijk, which ran aground and sank in the Goodwin Sands off Kent in January 1740 with the loss of every life on board – almost 250 sailors, soldiers and passengers.

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