Medieval Grave Slabs Recovered From the Mortar Wreck

News June 12, 2024

Bournemouth University

DORSET, ENGLAND—According to a Newsweek report, researchers led by Tom Cousins of Bournemouth University and his colleagues have recovered two marble slabs from the so-called Mortar Wreck, a thirteenth-century shipwreck discovered in 1982 off England’s Isle of Purbeck. The wreckage was named for the ship’s cargo of grinding mortars. All of these objects had been crafted from distinctive Purbeck marble, known for its noticeable fossils. Cousins said that the marble slabs were carved with Christian crosses for use as coffin lids or crypt monuments. One of the slabs is intact, measures about five feet long, and weighs more than 150 pounds. The other slab is split into two pieces, but would have been more than six feet long and weighed about 440 pounds. “As Purbeck Marble doesn’t do well outside, they would have been placed within the church, cathedral, or monastery,” Cousins said. “The wreck went down in the height of the Purbeck stone industry and the grave slabs we have here were a very popular monument for bishops and archbishops across all the cathedrals and monasteries in England at the time,” he explained. Similar grave slabs have been found in churches in England, Ireland, and parts of France. The researchers are working to conserve the slabs for a future museum display. To read about recent research on another English shipwreck, go to "Tudor Travelers."

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