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Artifact of the Month: Cheap Shot

Saturday, February 1, 2020
Artifact of the Month
Elise Carroll, QAR Lab Manager

Knowing the history of Queen Anne’s Revenge, it is unsurprising that archaeologists have found examples of one of the most “piratey” objects there is – langrage. Langrage is a type of cannon shot that is not associated with “royal ships” but frequently would have been found on “privateers and merchantmen.” Defined in a naval dictionary from 1769 by William Falconer, langrage is comprised of many objects, such as “bolts, nails, bars, and other pieces of iron tied together forming a sort of cylinder, which corresponds with the bore of the cannon, from which it is intended to be discharged.” Meaning, langrage was not standard and made to inflict a massive amount of damage on any adversary. The purpose was mainly anti-personnel as well as inflicting damage to rigging. Incapacitating an adversary through this means would allow pirates and privateers to be able to profit from a battle. Using the more common cannon ball would increase the risk of potentially sinking their opponent’s ship and loss of profits.

One confirmed instance of langrage has been found on QAR: C19 is a Swedish 1-pounder cannon that was found loaded with a cannon ball and three bundled bolts. You can see these on display at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort. Other potential langrage includes two sets of bolts wrapped in organic material that roughly correspond with the diameter of a cannon bore. Both sets were also found with other shot, specifically cannon balls. Appearing to be similar to Falconer’s description and knowing that langrage has already been recovered and confirmed, it is highly likely these are two more examples.

We have also discovered sprues wrapped in cloth that are believed to be langrage. Sprues are excess material cut away from iron objects following casting and are frequently found near other ammunition on the QAR site. One set of sprues was removed from QAR3347.000, along with several cannon balls (including two very large 12 and 18 pounders). These were found tightly clustered and had textile nearby, suggesting that they may have been inside a canvas bag. Another bundle of sprues is visible in an x-ray of concretion QAR842.000. These are found again in conjunction with a cannon ball and clustered in a cylindrical shape, as described by Falconer. QAR842.000 is on display at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum!

Queen Anne’s Revenge started its voyage with only 16 cannon after having left Nantes, France as La Concorde, the French slave ship. After Blackbeard's capture of La Concorde, more cannon were added making it unsurprising that the lab is finding a large amount of ammunition from the site. To date, archaeologists have discovered 30 cannon and it is rumored Blackbeard might have had up to 40. We frequently find different types of cannon shot in many different calibers, but langrage is far less common, making positive identification that much more exciting!

-Ducoin, Jacques. Barbe-Noire et le négrier La Concorde. Grenoble, France: Éditions Glénat, 2010.
-William Falconer. An Universal Dictionary of the Marine or, a Copious Explanation of the Technical Terms and Phrases Employed in the Construction, Equipment, Furniture, Machinery, Movements, and Military Operations of a Ship. London, 1769.

-Langrage from the QAR site. Image by NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
-Cannon C19 from the QAR site. Image by NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
-Sprues in concretion from the QAR site. Image by NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
-X-ray of QAR842.000 from the QAR site. Image by NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.