During the 17th century, the lion was a symbol for power. A lion figurehead sent a message about its owner’s position in society. This find, plus the fact that a canon and an escutcheon belonging to a noble family in England was found aboard, could mean that the ship was used for more than trading.
A lot of information could come from examining the figurehead more closely, but since the figurehead was halfway buried and eroded, it was difficult to investigate it under water. A decision was made to salvage it for further documentation, but only for a few days. Then, it would be returned to the site.
Monday, 30 September 2008, the figurehead was salvaged from the deep. During the dive, a couple of planks were salvaged as well, which will undergo dendrochronological tests, to see how old the wood is. The following week, the archeologists were busy working with the figurehead.
The wreck site is a magical, unique imprint of the past, and should remain as untouched as possible, as part of a fantastic underwater museum
—Andreas Olsson, Maritime Museums of Sweden
The lion was measured during the days with an optical scanner to create a 3D computer model. At night, it was resting in an inflatable pool to keep it from drying out. Thursday, 2 October, the figurehead was returned to the wreck. The sculpture will now be compared to Vasa’s sculptures, and there will be tests made to see if it has been painted.
Why return the figurehead?
The opinion of the Maritime Museum is clear: “The wreck site is a magical, unique imprint of the past, and should remain as untouched as possible, as part of a fantastic underwater museum,” said Andreas Olsson of the Maritime Museums of Sweden.
When the well-preserved wreck from the 17th century was found in 2003, the researchers were really excited. Finds indicated that the wreck could be more important historically than even the world famous Vasa ship itself. The Maritime Museums of Sweden has, since the find, worked towards creating a one-of-a-kind Historical Wreck Park. Their vision is to offer guided tours to wrecks in the region spanning an era of 400 years. That might take some time, since the wrecks are protected by law, and diving is not allowed, but progress is being made