Wooden Bowl
I remember only too well the day that I found this particular wooden bowl with markings to set the imagination going. On 19th July 1981, just three of us went out to the wreck site in Arthur Mack's 18ft fishing boat Wishbone. As usual, Arthur stayed up top while John Bingeman and I worked on the seabed. In the area designated as trench 'D', we came across many objects heavily coated in tar, spilt from a broken tar barrel close by. One of these objects was a superb wooden bowl. We carefully brought it to the surface where we washed it and emptied the thick mixture of sea bed clay and tar. Within the bowl was a pigment barrel but more exciting we found a complete and immaculate condition wooden spoon.

The bowl was unlike the ones already recovered, in as much it was extremely heavy construction, the top edge being around 12mm thick. So thick in fact, that around the top rim was carved eight 'broad arrows' and probably more significantly, one very large arrow inside and right in the bottom.

When recovered, inside the bowl firmly stuck in the tar, was a wooden spoon. This spoon was clearly 'hand carved' and had 11 crosses also hand carved into the handle.

There was a long split running from the top edge right down to, and half way across the base. At the top of this, someone had drilled a hole either side of the split and tried to effect a repair! The remains of hemp string can be seen in each hole as you can see from the image left. Because the bowl was repaired for further use, it indicates quite clearly that it could not have been used for liquid of any sort (soup, porridge etc.). BUT, there was a spoon still inside the bowl! This then asks another question - what then was the bowls original use?
Underneath on the flat base of the bowl, someone in antiquity has carved a picture (image below left) of what is considered by many to represent the iron cage part of a GIBBET.

GIBBET

A gibbet was a structure erected at the entrance to major Naval harbours (Portsmouth certainly had one) part of which was an iron cage hanging from an arm at the top. If a sailor had committed a serious offence punishable by death, after the execution his body would be placed in the iron cage and left there to rot. Every time a Kings ship entered or left harbour the ships company would have line the decks to witness this gruesome reminder of what might happen to any disobedient sailor!!

What a deterrent? The notorious Captain Kidd suffered this very fate! We know that on occasion Invincible was used as guard ship and that capital punishment (often hanging from the yardarm) was carried out on board. Could this bowl therefore, have been used for the 'ceremonial last meal' of the condemned sailor? Imagine yourself as that hapless sailor! There you are eating your last meal and all you can see are 8 broad arrows (King's property) as a reminder that you have committed a crime against the Crown. Having then finished your meal you are left staring at the very large broad arrow in the bottom of the now empty bowl suggesting that your time on this earth is at an end by order of the King!.
Q. Were the elevan crosses on the spoon just decoration or was there some other significance? We know that Invincible was in British service for eleven years - is that significant? We are trying to find out is how many executions were carried out during Her time in British service. Just suppose we find out there were eleven! Is it possible that these crosses have been put there, one each by the unlucky condemned men?
 
Your comments please.
 

Continuing research

You will all have read and seen comic strips and films, which show convicts wearing uniforms covered in arrows! These again, indicate property of the crown.

Q. A question to readers - we are trying to find out when this custom finished? Does anyone have any idea