For the first time in almost 3000 years – a full size Bronze Age style sea-going boat has been launched in Britain. Slipping gracefully down a slipway today into Falmouth Harbour, Cornwall, the 15m-long vessel was then paddled by its 18 person crew for two 500m trial trips.
The launch – part of a long-term experimental archaeology investigation into Bronze Age marine technology – is already providing valuable new insights into prehistoric seafaring.
“I’m so happy with the responsiveness of the boat. We always said you had to build the whole boat to understand what Bronze Age people experienced,” said the project’s leader, University of Exeter archaeologist, Professor Robert Van de Noort, who is working together with the National Maritime Museum Cornwall.
“When I was steering the boat and it got up to speed, I could turn her easily and it was more seaworthy than I expected. We have learnt so much through the whole process and today’s launch has revolutionised everything we knew,” said the professor.
“There have been doubters, professionally, who questioned the feasibility of this vessel crossing the seas. This morning’s experiment strongly suggests that it was capable of doing so,” he said.
Andy Wyke, Boat Collection Manager at the Maritime Museum, said: “It has been incredible to see this whole project take shape in the Museum building over the past 11 months. Volunteers have poured everything into transforming three oak trees into what we have seen and achieved today.”
The vessel – based on ones excavated at Ferriby on the north bank of the Humber estuary in 1963 – will need a crew of 18 to 20 relatively muscular individuals to get her to operate at full power. The replica Bronze Age craft has been built, mainly by volunteers, under the direction of professional shipwright, Brian Cumby, at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall in Falmouth – in collaboration with prehistorian Professor Van de Noort. The project has been funded predominantly by a £177,000 grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.