Cannon Round Shot Physical Object

Accession Number
Alternate object names
Shot;Round Shot;Cannon Shot;Ammunition;Munition
Creation Date
circa 1620
A cast iron sphere, 9.8 centimeters in diameter, was recovered from the wreck of the Spanish galleon Santa Margarita, sunk in 1622. It was meant to be fired from one of the ship’s bronze cannons.

3,572.04 g Weight

9.9 x 9.8 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):

Cannon Shot
Iron, quartz (c.1620)
Gift of Jamestown Inc.
1986.008.0827b-c, 1986.008.0997, 1986.008.2180k-l, 1986.008.2314, 1986.008.3033

At sea, cannon balls were intended to blow a hole in the enemy’s hull. When a ship fired towards an enemy on land, the balls could penetrate the wall of a fort, or be directed over the walls to destroy buildings within.

Quartz balls could be used in the same way but would start to break apart on impact, causing glass-like fragments to fly through the air, devastating the crew and soldiers.