Artifacts

La Belle artifacts tell quite a story

Please note: A portion of the Bullock Museum’s first floor galleries, including the ship La Belle, is temporarily closed and undergoing a major transformation that will open on December 10, with an exclusive Museum Member opening on December 9. (Read more.)

Sometimes mud is a very good thing. When archaeologists began to excavate the wreckage of La Belle, they found that the ship's cargo, sunk beneath Matagorda Bay mud for three centuries, had been extraordinarily well preserved.

When La Belle began its journey in 1684, the ship's hold was packed with crates and barrels of  items intended to both support a new colony and supply a military expedition into Mexico. These artifacts–including tools, cooking pots, trade goods, and weapons–give unprecedented insight into the strategies and supplies needed to establish new colonies in 17th-century North America. 

What to See

The preserved hull of La Belle and more than 30 artifacts are on display in the exhibition. Highlights include a bronze cannon, muskets, trade goods such as axe heads and glass beads, pieces of the ship’s rigging, and tools for farming and carpentry.

All La Belle artifacts are the property of France from the collection of the Musée National de la Marine. Courtesy of the Texas Historical Commission, Austin.

La Belle Artifact Facts