In addition to the wealth of shipwrecks around the Solent and the Isle of Wight there is also evidence of the mooring of ships in this favoured area for anchoring. Weather, tidal conditions and associated shore side settlement or facilities often mean ships seek suitable areas to moor up and/or drop anchor. With the shelter provided by the Isle of Wight and suitable seabed conditions the Solent has been used for this from the Roman period onwards.
While at anchor a surprising amount of material is either lost over board or deliberately jettisoned. This has left a legacy of anchorage related material on the seabed. To date there have been few detailed studies of these sites, meaning their full archaeological importance is not always recognised.
The MAT is researching these sites through field investigations and associated research. The Dive onto Victory project, in particular, has been important in demonstrating the density and diversity of an anchorage collection. This is just one of many anchorage sites in the Solent. The long history of the naval use of Spithead has left a range of seabed traces as has the use of many of the smaller anchorages such as Yarmouth and Ryde Roads. Some of these known historic anchorages were investigated in the 1990s in a pioneering project to use controlled trawls to recover material.
In addition to the archaeological evidence there are a variety of historical sources, which can add to our understanding of these sites. The use of historic charts, sailing directions and paintings can add a new dimension to research.
The development of historic anchorages is linked to particular geographical, environmental and cultural factors, which have all had an impact on the archaeological material on the seabed. The international nature of ships and shipping means a range of social, political and economic factors are reflected in the collections the ships leave behind. To investigate these aspects work is ongoing to identify comparative collections from around the globe.
See also Spithead and Other Solent Anchorages.