This picture is not from a film. It is something you would see back in the 17th century: a burning real tall ship. At the DjurÃ¶ bridge, not far from Djurhamn where I have done fieldwork, is Point BrÃ¤nnskeppet, “the burnt ship”, which commemorates the wreck of the Rikswasa (“Sheaf of the Realm”) that burned and sank there in 1623 and was clumsily salvaged in the 1960s. But the image shows the death of the Prins Willem, a 1980 replica of a 1649 trading ship of the Dutch East India Company. It burned the night before last in Den Helder harbour.
Burning is a common and often intentional end for archaeological replicas of buildings. We find a lot of burnt-down houses, so one way to learn more about how to interpret such sites is to build a replica and burn it to the ground. It improves our understanding of the sites and it allows us to evaluate whether the replica was close to the originals or not. (See Iron Age houses in flames. Testing house reconstructions at Lejre, Lejre 2007).
But the Prins Willem wasn’t set on fire by its owners, as far as known. I hope it was an accident and not an act of vandalism. (Nobody seems to have been hurt.) The original sank off Madagascar after 13 years. The replica survived for 29 years.
Photograph by Peter van Aalst.