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Development of basque shipbuilding typology in deep-water vessels


Following the fall of the Western Empire, its entire area of influence went into deep decline. Nonetheless, archaeological evidence shows that shipping routes in the Atlantic as far as Britannia were kept up until at least the seventh century; however we have no indication of what the ships plying these routes might have looked like. With the foundation of new coastal towns around the twelfth century, ships began to be used as marks of identity on crests and coats of arms. From that point on, naval iconography developed, giving us important information on the general appearance of the ships in each era. From them we can create a rudimentary overview of the development of Basque ships.

Sixteenth-century merchant ship. The cargo capacity was increased
to satisfy the commercial needs of the long transatlantic voyage.
Sixteenth-century merchant ship. The cargo capacity was increased to satisfy the commercial needs of the long transatlantic voyage. © José Lopez
Stone carving from the chapel of St. Peter of Tabira, Durango,
in the Bilbao Ethnographic Museum. It is thought to date from the
twelfth or thirteenth century.
Stone carving from the chapel of St. Peter of Tabira, Durango, in the Bilbao Ethnographic Museum. It is thought to date from the twelfth or thirteenth century. © José Lopez

Ship in a house in Beko Kalea in Errenteria, from the mid-sixteenth
century. During this period, the struggle for supremacy among
the European sea powers led merchant ships to develop into fighting
galleons.
Ship in a house in Beko Kalea in Errenteria, from the mid-sixteenth century. During this period, the struggle for supremacy among the European sea powers led merchant ships to develop into fighting galleons. © José Lopez
Initially the result of an adaptation of the "nao" for guarding
treasure, the galleon became the most powerful vessel of its time.
Initially the result of an adaptation of the "nao" for guarding treasure, the galleon became the most powerful vessel of its time. © José Lopez

Frigates. These ships had characteristics which were to notably
improve sailing, with enhanced manoeuvrability and speed.
Frigates. These ships had characteristics which were to notably improve sailing, with enhanced manoeuvrability and speed. © José Lopez
The greatest technological advance of the eighteenth century
came with the development of the ship-of-the-line, as science was
applied to shipbuilding. Basque shipbuilders took an active part in
developing the ship-of-the-line. Model warship. Several of these
were built in Pasaia and Orio, following instructions from Gaztañeta,
between 1713 and 1716.
The greatest technological advance of the eighteenth century came with the development of the ship-of-the-line, as science was applied to shipbuilding. Basque shipbuilders took an active part in developing the ship-of-the-line. Model warship. Several of these were built in Pasaia and Orio, following instructions from Gaztañeta, between 1713 and 1716. © José Lopez

Seal of San Sebastian from 1352. The town councils chose the
feature that would probably best have identified their trade and
their technological prowess.
Seal of San Sebastian from 1352. The town councils chose the feature that would probably best have identified their trade and their technological prowess. © José Lopez
Model based on the fourteenth-century
Model based on the fourteenth-century "cog" depicted on a keystone in the cathedral of Bayonne. The most outstanding feature is the incorporation of a stern rudder. © José Lopez

Ship from the late fifteenth century depicted in the ex-voto at
the church in Zumaia. The evolution in the rig of the ships is clear,
with new multi-masted vessels.
Ship from the late fifteenth century depicted in the ex-voto at the church in Zumaia. The evolution in the rig of the ships is clear, with new multi-masted vessels. © José Lopez
Mende
bakoitza
ordezkatzen
duten itsas
zabaleko euskal ontzien
s i l u e t e n sekuentziak garbi
erakusten digu denboran zehar izan
zuten bilakaera.
This sequence of outlines depicts the evolution of Basque deepwater vessels, with one representative from each century. © José Lopez

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