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Last modified: Wednesday, February 6, 2008

IU lecture: Captain Kidd, Columbus, Taino and the golden age of piracy

Feb. 6, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The public is invited to explore pirate lore on Feb. 12 as Indiana University archeologists Charles Beeker and Geoffrey Conrad discuss their ongoing research in the Dominican Republic, including their work to study and protect what they believe is the 1699 shipwreck of Captain Kidd's Quedagh Merchant.

Their lecture, titled "Columbus and the Taino to Captain Kidd and the Golden Age of Piracy," will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 12, at 5 p.m. in the Whittenberger Auditorium of the Indiana Memorial Union, 900 E. Seventh St., Bloomington.

Charles Beeker

Underwater archeologist Charles Beeker at the site of the Dominican Republic shipwreck thought to be Captain Kidd's Quedagh Merchant.

Print-Quality Photo

The free, hour-long lecture will include a question-answer period. The audience also will be shown some artifacts -- from a collection that includes olive jars, rum bottles and cannon balls -- recovered from other Caribbean shipwrecks from the "golden age of piracy." Some of the artifacts soon will be on display in the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, which Conrad directs, and others will be restored in Beeker's conservation laboratory in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.

During Tuesday's lecture, Francis Soto, technical director of the Dominican Republic's Oficina Nacional De Patrimonio Cultural Subacuático (ONPCS), will speak briefly. Soto is visiting the Bloomington campus to learn more about the university, to see Beeker's conservation laboratory and to discuss plans to investigate and protect the Captain Kidd shipwreck site.

Beeker, director of the Academic Diving and Underwater Science Program in the School of HPER's Department of Kinesiology, said a multidisciplinary team involving faculty, undergraduates and graduate students will travel to the site over spring break to begin establishing a preserve and to look at the cultural and biological features within the preserve as they prepare for excavations that will begin in May.

Since the mid-1990s, Beeker and Conrad have conducted underwater and land-based archaeological research in the Dominican Republic related to the era when the Old World and New World first met.

During a recent research trip, they were asked by ONPCS officials to examine a shipwreck recently discovered by a local resident. The IU research team's subsequent belief that the shipwreck, resting in less than 10 feet of pristine Caribbean seawater, is Captain Kidd's Quedagh Merchant made international news headlines.

During the lecture, Beeker and Conrad will discuss the Quedagh Merchant as well as their other research projects involving possible Christopher Columbus ships that sank during a hurricane and findings involving the relationship between Europeans and the Taino, the first Native American people to encounter European culture.

For more information about some of these projects, please read, and

For more information about the lecture, contact Debra Kent at 812-855-3686 and