Post-medieval shipwrecks are rich repositories of archaeological evidence w
ith closed and closely integrated contexts. Their value is often enhanced b
y extensive documentary material. Viewed on its own terms, such evidence, t
hough often of great interest, can lead to an over-particularist approach.
Set into wider contexts, however, shipwrecks can be regarded as wide-rangin
g paradigms of the societies to which they belong, and approaches to their
study directed accordingly. This paper seeks to demonstrate the benefits of
combining particularist and generalist methodologies to the investigation
of shipwrecks, with reference to the study of artillery, measuring techniqu
es, and pottery from wrecks of the 1588 Spanish Armada, and of structural e
vidence from the wreck of a small seventeenth-century AD English warship.