Rope or Cordage
Eight rope fragments ranging in length from 21 to over 70 cm were found in test pits near the bow and midships. Examination with a light microscope revealed two distinct fiber types: hemp (Cannabis sativa) and grass.
The larger rope fragments are composed of hemp fibers worked into several threads 15 cm in diameter. These threads are right-hand laid and form three yarns, each 1.5 cm to 2.0 cm in diameter. By lying the yarns left-handed, ropes approximately 3.5 cm to 4 cm in diameter were fashioned. Two other lengths of rope (07,850.1 and 07,850.2) are each approximately 21 cm long and composed of three interwoven strands of relatively stiff, linear fibers forming a 2.6 cm diameter rope. "In contrast with the hemp fiber, the 07,850 fibers are incompletely retted, with epidermal and other tissues largely intact. These plant tissues derive from a grass (Poaceae, grass family), and may consist of stems, leaves, or both" (Newsom 1995:2).
The finding of hemp rope fragments in the shipwreck was not unexpected; the European manufacture of hemp rope is well documented. Spanish shipyards used hemp (cáñamo) that was exported from France, Flanders, and sometimes Germany; however, the Iberian region of Navarre also supplied hemp for the rigging of ships (Barkham 1981:47). The excellent preservation of the rope fragments is due in part to the presence of iron corrosion products that allowed individuals fibers of the rope to remain in place. Sometimes Spanish shipyards used the grass fiber esparto instead of hemp (Smith 1993: 4, 98). Discovery of a second type of cordage fashioned from grass is therefore also not unexpected.