Annie Esposito was making lunch for her kids last summer when a fence company crew working in her back yard found an old cannonball. Her husband, Mike Esposito, a Niagara Fall High School history teacher, was elated over the find.
The ball was found near the construction site where, more than 400 years ago, many believe a European ship, the Griffon, was built on Cayuga Island. Esposito believes the ball came from that ship.
“I read somewhere that the Griffon fired five shots before leaving the area,” said Esposito.
If you read enough news about historical finds – historical shipwreck finds in particular – you’ll start to see the “Mad Libs” articles popping up over and over. These articles typically read something like this:
“ARTIFACT” may be from “FAMOUS SHIPWRECK, ATLANTIS, ETC.”
But let’s apply a little logic first. Are there other plausible potential sources for the cannonball? (Yes.) Are cannonballs distinctive to a single ship? (No.) Are there typically metallurgical indicators we can use to trace one to a specific time period or source within a reasonable degree of accuracy? (No.) Is there any evidence to suggest that this one may have come from the Le Griffon? (Yes, but this evidence is highly circumstantial and does not necessarily tie to this specific cannonball.) In fact, we can apply these same providence metrics to many other similar finds and come up with the same result–that is, not impossible, but improbable or unhelpful.
I think it’s fantastic that a cannonball was found in somebody’s yard. I’d be thrilled to find one in mine. But let’s put the brakes on before we collectively decide it came from a famous source.