Friday, April 27, 2012


OK, so maybe I should have gone in order and started with Beads but I've been working on the Boat side of things today so decided to mix things up a little.
Boat progress on 10th April 2012. Image courtesy of Canterbury Archaeological Trust. Yes that's me in the purple top.
The Boat, as mentioned in the previous post, is the half scale reconstruction of the Dover Boat currently  residing in Dover Museum ( The original was found in 1992 (20 years this September) and has been dated to around 1550BC. It is a sewn boat which means some of the planks were sewn together using yew withies, amongst other things, to keep it together. The image above just shows the base and there will be more planks added to make it taller (should be about 1 meter in height) otherwise the swell would sink it if you put it on the sea. As already mentioned the project 'Boat 1550BC' is run in conjunction with partners in Europe and is funded, in part, by the EU with other local organisations (such as the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust ( and Kent Archaeological Society ( The boat is being constructed in Dover (on the lawn behind the library if you are local; open days are Wednesday and Saturday) and will be launched on the seafront on 12th May; pictures (and maybe even a video) to follow. At the end of May the boat will be going to Boulogne Sur Mer, France, for a 6 month exhibition and then on to Velzeke, Belgium, for another 6 months before returning to Dover where it will hopefully have a permanent home.

Selection of replica bronze tools used on the boat. (Image CAT)

The reconstruction is using the traditional tools and techniques employed on the original. The wood is a combination of English and French Oak. Time and budget constraints have meant that some jobs (like the steaming of the wood [this is an ancient method of bending wood. You cover the bit you want to bend and heat it up with steam until the natural glue in the wood softens enough to move; how long depends on the size and thickness of the wood but with this boat it's been about 3-4 hours per plank.You then have 3-5 minutes to manhandle it into position before the glue starts to re-set. Once happy you leave it overnight to completely cool. Job done!]) have had a modern twist to them, but essentially the boat has been crafted with replica bronze tools (as you can see in the image to the above left) and using technology that would have been available at the time. The purpose of this project was to answer some questions about the construction and how it performs in the water, especially with regards to the sewing of the planks together (I will put pictures up when they start doing this because it is quite hard to explain). There is a crack team made up of archaeologists, historical wood specialists, and boat builders all working hard to get this completed and with much debate over it!  

So what is my role in this project? Well I've been going up on some of the open days to help give talks to the public. That in itself has been a bit of a learning curve as, if you haven't already guessed, I am a bit of a landlubber and come from a landlocked county (Herefordshire), and what I know about boats could be written on the head of a pin. But I am learning, and learning fast because one of my other duties is to organise the launch into Dover Harbour. Apparently it's not as simple as 'just chucking it in the water' and all sorts of permissions, risk assessments, insurance, and safety measures have to be established before hand. And the astute amongst you will notice the launch date is 2 weeks tomorrow! It'll be fine though. Everything is coming together nicely and I am learning the all important skill of delegating. The boat builders have been kind enough to let me help in some small ways but as yet they haven't let me have a go at wielding the axes(!). They have let me clean the moss (picking all the grubs and twigs out of the moss which is used to pack the bottom planks of the boat and keep it water tight) and paint linseed oil on the ends (to stop it drying out and cracking) so hopefully that will continue and I can contribute more to this fantastic boat.

I hope this makes sense. As the posts go on there will be more about this project but for now I'll leave you to digest this. If you want more information the leave a comment or follow the links. be continued....

1 comment:

  1. Keep it coming! Great blog! And what a busy first month you've had ...