A collection of blogs and musings from the people that work at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum - Florida's Finest Lightstation.

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Iron Cauldrons

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The smallest cauldron from the Storm Wreck was recently cleaned of concretion using a pneumatic scribe.

The first recognizable object that archaeologists found on the Storm Wreck, back during its dive of discovery in August 2009, was a large, iron cauldron. We raised it to the surface, so that it saw daylight again for the first time in over two centuries, on July 14, 2010. During that same summer we found three more cast iron cauldrons, and the following two years of excavation we've raised another two more. We could have easily named this shipwreck the "Cauldron Wreck."


This video was taken the day the largest cauldron was raised from the seafloor in 2010.

Since we have begun cleaning the encrustation off the recovered cauldrons, we have finally gotten a peek at the original objects within. That has lead to a renewed interest in the history of these old style cooking pots. One of the managers at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum, Lee Capitano, is a cast-iron cookware aficionado. He sent out some pictures of the cleaned cauldrons to a forum focusing on old iron cookware, and he found a lot of interest and some great information. It turns out that our cauldrons look very similar to a design developed by Abraham Darby, a British Quaker whose family ran a foundry for several generations and made significant contributions to the Industrial Revolution. He patented the use of sand casting and, after leasing an old iron furnace at Coalbrookdale in Shropshire, he went on to perfect a technique for smelting iron ore by using coke. His innovative techniques lead to the design of a thin-walled iron cooking pot that was half the weight of previous versions.

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These cast-iron pots were made by Abraham Darby in the 18th century. They are very similar in form to the cauldrons recovered from the Storm Wreck.


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Compare the rim and ear recently exposed from our cleaning of the large cauldron to those visible in the picture above.

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An 18th century engraving showing an ironworks where iron cauldrons are being cast in sand. This technique was developed by Abraham Darby.

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Click here to see a great little video produced by the BBC that shows another Darby pot and how they were cast.

Stay tuned to our blog for more information on the cauldrons, and other artifacts from the Storm Wreck.


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