Arquebus Barrel Physical Object

Accession Number
Creation Date
circa 1620
See also wood stock (1982.002.0009a).


5.6 cm H x 2 cm W x 105 cm L , Item (Overall)

105.0 x 5.6 x 2.0 cm

Exhibition Label
Case Caption (2023):

Defending The Ship

Spain’s fleets were always in danger. English, French, and Dutch privateers, as well as pirates of all nations, lurked in the Atlantic. If they could not capture the whole fleet, they might well seize a straggler. Both the Nuestra Señora de Atocha and the Santa Margarita were guard galleons—heavily-armed ships ready to defend the flotilla against all comers.

The galleons’ cannons, capable of delivering powerful broadsides, were the first line of defense. Gunners were highly skilled. They would have started out as common sailors, but they received additional pay when they gained expertise.

Aboard the Atocha, Captain Garcia de Nodal was in charge of the ship’s company of soldiers. They were experienced infantrymen, seasoned in Spain’s endless wars, and they considered themselves superior to the sailors as a result. Despite this attitude, some of them decided to learn seamanship. While they would refuse to help with menial tasks, such as scrubbing the deck, they were often knowledgeable enough to help raise the sails. In times of battle, they might assist with the cannon before hand-to-hand fighting broke out.
Object Caption (2023):

Firearms: arquebuses and muskets
Iron (c.1610)
Gift of Jamestown Inc.
1982.002.0009b, 1984.006.0001, 1986.001.0001, 1986.008.1113, 1986.008.1126-32, 34-35, 1986.008.1579, 1986.008.1583-85, 1986.008.1591a, 1986.008.1761a, 1986.008.1800-02, 1986.008.1806, 1997.018.0004

Muskets were larger and more powerful than arquebuses, but arquebuses were faster to reload, mount, and fire. Both had an effective range of around 150 yards, making them useful only when the ships were engaged in close combat. They could be fired as fast as forty times an hour, giving the user an average time of 90 seconds to load, aim, and fire.