Pounds 1m appeal launched to save oldest sea boat

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The Independent Online
AN APPEAL for more than pounds 1m has been launched by archaeologists trying to save the world's oldest sea-going boat.

Two thirds of the vessel was excavated from 23ft beneath the streets of Dover, in Kent, two years ago. After 20 months of preliminary conservation work, the 3,300-year- old boat needs to undergo two years of chemical treatment to ensure its preservation.

Examination of the vessel - co- ordinated by Paul Bennett, of the Canterbury Archaeological Trust, and funded by English Heritage - has so far revealed its size, shape, how it was built and what it was used for.

Radio carbon dating tests on the boat's timbers suggest a date of about 1300BC - the Middle Bronze Age.

It is estimated that the vessel was 60ft long, 9ft wide and 3ft deep. Powered by 24 men with wooden paddles, it probably had a top speed of about 5 knots and carried 5 tons of cargo.

The vessel would almost certainly have been used for coastal and cross-channel trade. Indeed, a fragment of pottery found near the boat is thought to have been made in northern France.

Examination of the remains has revealed that it was made of oak planks sewn together with yew 'rope', lubricated with animal fats and caulked with bees' wax, fungi, moss and even a scrap of leather.

The vessel was probably in use for many years. Several repairs had been made and there had been at least one total refit in which the entire vessel had been disassembled and then sewn back together.

The oldest surviving boat remains are of a 9,000-year-old dug- out canoe found in the Netherlands.