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Bronze Age Boat Replica

Reconstruction of Bronze Age boat changes archaeologists’ views

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It is not often that you hear of archaeologists attempting to reconstruct the accomplishments of the past in order to explore and understand the lives of our ancient ancestors, but that is exactly what a team of researchers have done to investigate the construction of Bronze Age boats

"Until you build a boat like this, you cannot know the difficulties people in prehistory overcame," said lead archaeologist Robert Van de Noort. "And until you take a vessel out on the water you cannot see how efficient they were."

Professor Van de Noort, along with shipwright Brian Cumby, led a team in building the first full-size replica of a 4,000 year-old Ferriby boat, which they crafted from solid oak, using yew withies to ‘sew together’ the huge oak trunks and sealed with moss and tallow. They referred to drawings made in the 1930s by Ted Wright to aid them in the process, which took 50 volunteers 11 months to construct.

Once built, the boat was put to the test when 19 men and women were guided in the art of powering seven tons of wood through the water.  One of the many things learnt from the process is that because the boat sits high in the water, it could have carried a much greater load than first believed.

The reconstruction of the Bronze Age boat is a great step forward in experimental archaeology. ""A lot of people have preconceived ideas of what life was like in prehistory and there is an assumption that technology was very limited. So they were surprised to realise technology several thousand years ago was so complex” said a former student of Prof Van de Noort. "For me it is wonderful to change people's perspectives about what life was like in prehistory."

By April Holloway

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