From a Watery Grave: The Discovery and Excavation of La Salle's Shipwreck, La Belle

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On a frigid, stormy day in February of 1686, a small French sailing ship lost control and ran aground in Matagorda Bay. The crew had braved an ocean voyage, attacks by pirates, raids by Native Americans, and ravaging diseases under the command of famed explorer Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, hoping to establish a colony in the New World. Pounded in the Texas bay by gale winds and storm surges, La Belle finally slipped beneath the water and sank to the bottom, where it would remain for centuries.

More than 300 years later, Texas Historical Commission archaeologists discovered La Belle’s resting place. Using cutting-edge technology and scientific innovation, investigators excavated the shipwreck and salvaged from its watery grave more than a million artifacts, including bronze guns, muskets, trade beads, axes, rings, bells, dishes, medicines—everything a new-world colony needed for survival.

Authors James E. Bruseth and Toni S. Turner use vivid photographs and engaging descriptions to share the excitement of discovery as they piece together both the ship and its tragic story. For those interested in history, archaeology, or the quest for clues to the past, From a Watery Grave tells a riveting tale of nautical adventure in the seventeenth century and reveals modern scientific archaeology at its best.

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Editorial Reviews

Nautical Archaeology
. . . can be recommended unreservedly to both the general reader and the nautical specialist.
The Kansas Anthropologist
"From a Watery Grave: Discovery and Excavation of La Salle's Shipwreck, La Belle is a book that professional and avocational archeologists and historians alike will find delightful . . . From a Watery Grave: Discovery and Excavation of La Salle's Shipwreck, La Belle is a fun read for a wide range of the public interested in history, archeology, or just an exciting story." -- December 2005
Kansas Anthropologist
From a Watery Grave: Discovery and Excavation of La Salle's Shipwreck, La Belle is a book that professional and avocational archeologists and historians alike will find delightful? From a Watery Grave: Discovery and Excavation of La Salle's Shipwreck, La Belle is a fun read for a wide range of the public interested in history, archeology, or just an exciting story.
Southwestern Historical Quarterly
The Texas Historical Commission and Texas A&M University Press have provided a visually spectacular work reporting for the general public the preliminary findings and interpretations of the archeological and historical investigations of the wreck of the Belle, one of La Salle's ships sunk in Matagorda Bay. . . . The graphics are stunning.
International Journal of Naval History
. . . stunning graphics and illustrations . . . easy to follow text. This is a primary example of what public outreach should be, providing the reader a book that not only educates but also fosters a quest for more information. . . . The historical context and overview of the site are invaluable . . . The authors also do an outstanding job of explaining the nuances of organizing an archaeological project of this size. . . . The descriptions of the artifacts and conservation efforts are also excellent. . . . every archaeologist and casual reader of maritime history should own this magnificent volume, a true example of scholarly research and public outreach at its best.
Expedition Winter
excellent---a wonderful mix of good scholarship, interesting storytelling, and stunning illustrations.
Library Journal
Authors Bruseth (archaeology division, Texas Historical Commission) and Turner (La Belle excavation project fund-raiser) present the fascinating story of the 1995 discovery and 1996-97 excavation of La Belle, the French ship lost in Matagorda Bay, TX, in 1686. In February 1686, Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, on his expedition to establish a colony at the mouth of the Mississippi in the New World, lost control of the ship La Belle in the Gulf of Mexico, where it sank to the bottom of the bay. The authors provide an informative, succinct history of La Salle's expedition that places the voyage in the context of late 17th-century world events, vividly describing the exciting discovery of the sunken ship and many of the nearly one million artifacts found by archaeologists. The projects received extensive media coverage (a NOVA documentary, a Texas Historical Commission documentary, coverage by all the major media), so this important contribution to archaeology is essential for all university archaeological collections and Texas public and school libraries.-Dale Farris, Groves, TX Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Robert S. Weddle

From a Watery Grave represents a solid and lasting triumph of nautical archaeology. James E. Bruseth and Toni S. Turner tell the amazing story of how a dedicated team of scientists and researchers rose to the challenge of preserving the fragile remains of La Salle’s 300-year-old ship La Belle–from the innovative planning and building of the coffer dam to enable excavation on “dry” land through the dismantling, transporting, and reassembly of the ship’s hull. Truly an astounding analysis of the rarest of finds–a ship laden with the items needed for founding a colony in seventeenth century America, from trade beads to buttons, carpenter tools to cannons–the report stands as a high-water mark to be striven for in all such efforts in the future.”--Robert S. Weddle, author of The Wreck of the Belle, the Ruin of La Salle
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781585444311
  • Publisher: Texas A&M University Press
  • Publication date: 1/15/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 412,909
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 10.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

James E. Bruseth is director of the archaeology division at the Texas Historical Commission, which sponsored the excavation of La Belle. Bruseth directed the excavation and serves as the project’s principal investigator.Toni S. Turner is a freelance writer and fund raiser who assisted in many aspects of the recovery of the shipwreck.
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