Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Ancient boat just won't float


The Daily Pennsylvanian
By Zoe Tillman
September 27, 2005

The Magan III was Anthropology
professor Gregory Possehl's attempt
to recreate a Bronze Age boat.
It sank after several hours.

After first failure, Penn Museum curator to set out again on Bronze Age boat
Anthropology professor Gregory Possehl's boat currently rests 6,000 feet beneath the Arabian Sea.

After only hours on the water, the Magan III, a 40-foot boat made of reeds and bitumen -- a tar-like substance -- began sinking as heavy winds rocked the craft and water spilled over the sides.

"At 8:30, I heard the boat was in trouble, and at about 10 to nine I heard the boat had sunk," said Possehl, curator of the University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology's Asian section.

Possehl was quick to add that no one on board was harmed, since the Magan III, although meant to be a replica of an ancient vessel, was equipped with a life boat and life jackets.

The Magan III's journey began earlier that day -- Sept. 7 -- at a harbor in Sur, Oman.

After boarding a ship belonging to the sultan of Oman, Possehl and his colleagues -- Maurizio Tosi, Serge Cleuziou and Tom Vosmer -- watched as "the boat was towed out of Sur harbor into the open sea with eight people on board."

For the first few hours, Possehl recalled, the sea was calm. By 5 p.m., though, the wind picked up and the boat began to quickly take on water.

Sensing the boat's imminent fate, the crew abandoned the ship and its contents -- which included a traditional complement of dates, dried fish, honey and water.

The abrupt end of the Magan III's journey brought Possehl back to Penn.

In retrospect, Possehl blamed the boat's demise on "a design flaw that further sea trials may have discovered."

The idea of building a boat to replicate the journey of ancient mariners from Oman to India first began in 1995. An excavation in Oman that was part of the Joint Hadd Project -- an archaeological project which studies the easternmost tip of Saudi Arabia-- found 200 pieces of bitumen covered with sea barnacles.

Indus civilization pottery carbon-dated to 2400 B.C. was found with the bitumen, suggesting that sea trade been conducted throughout the Arabian Sea at that date.

To prove this theory, Possehl, Vosmer and Joint Hadd Project co-directors Tosi and Cleuziou -- curator of maritime history at Australia's Perth Museum -- took a hands-on approach and began building boat models based on existing archaeological data.

Possehl stressed the authenticity of the boats.

"We made our own rope, gathered our own reed, made our own sail from woven wool, and we imported the bitumen from Iraq."

After they successfully built and and tested two earlier versions of the craft, the Magans I and II, the government of Oman approached Possehl and his colleagues in February 2005 with an offer to fund the construction of a full-sized model, the since-lost Magan III.

Despite the Magan III's unsuccessful voyage, Possehl was confident that this was not the last time such a project would be attempted. Plans are already under way, he said, for the construction of the Magan IV and V.


Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?