Wednesday, February 13, 2008

 

Replica of ancient boat will float again

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Kent News
February 13, 2008


THE OLDEST cross-Channel ferry in the world will set sail again in 2010, giving archaeologists a glimpse into the lives of Bronze Age seafarers.

Based on the 3,550-year-old vessel discovered beneath Dover town centre 16 years ago, the replica boat, lashed together from planks of wood, waterproofed with beeswax and moss, will carry up to ten men to France.

It is being built by the Canterbury Archaeological Trust, and researchers hope the voyage will help them glean invaluable information about how our ancestors conquered the sea.

The venture will also help archaeologists understand how people in Dover lived more than three millennia ago.

Peter Clark, from the Canterbury Archaeology Trust, who is masterminding the project, said: “The boat was made and used by people living three and a half thousand years ago.

“It was to better understand these people, their society and the world they lived in that was as much a focus of the analysis team’s work as the study of the vessel itself.”

The ancient vessel was discovered by accident in 1992 when Keith Parfitt, from the trust, noticed an unusual piece of wood in the trench dug as part of road works in Dover.

It became clear that this was a small part of a much larger boat which had been preserved under the busy port town for thousands of years.

It was hailed by Dr FH Panton, chairman of the Dover Bronze Age Boat Trust, as “one of the most important post-war archaeological finds in Britain”.

The remains of the vessel – buried six metres below ground level – were incomplete, yet the team hope building a reconstruction will help show how the
original looked and how it was propelled.

The boat is almost 10 metres long and two and a half metres wide, made by lashing oak timbers together with cords of yew wood. Moss and beeswax were then stuffed between the joints to make them watertight.

Archaeologists studying the find suspect the ancient boat could have been used to trade across the Channel. Only an experiment can show whether this was possible.

The replica will sail from Folkestone to Wissant in France in 2010, crewed by volunteers from the British Dragon Boat Association.

After arriving in France, it is to become part of a travelling exhibition about the Golden Age of Europe 3,500 years ago.

The venture, overseen by the Dover Bronze Age Boat Trust, will cost about £900,000 including the exhibition. The trust is applying for funding from the European Union, but private donations are also welcomed.


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