| 4 September 2005
Reed-boat sailors to follow wake of ancient mariners
A team of archaeologists will set sail from Oman for India in a small boat made of reeds, steering by the stars and sun with nothing but the wind to propel them. The voyage is an attempt to prove that an ancient trade route linked India, Mesopotamia and the Arabian peninsula 4000 years ago.
The eight-man mission hopes to recreate the voyages of the ancient mariners of the region's Magan civilisations, proving it is possible to travel 500 nautical miles across the sea in a boat made with Bronze Age technology.
Their vessel, the Magan Boat, is 12m long, constructed with reeds bound together with rope made from date-palm fibre. The sails are hand-woven from sheep's wool, and the ropes that hold them are made of goat hair. Bitumen, imported from Iraq, the site of ancient Mesopotamia, has been used for water-proofing. The craft's few wooden parts are made from teak. Every feature of the vessel has been built with materials and skills that were available to man 4000 years ago.
The eight men hope to land at Mandvi in the Kutch region of Gujarat Sep 22 on the boat laden with a cargo of dates, lime, dried fish, salt and copper vessels that will be handed to officials at a ceremony in Dwarka. The crew expect the journey from Sur, on the coast of Oman, to Dwarka in the Indian state of Gujarat, to take 15 days. They will sail on the monsoon trade winds that were the only means of crossing the sea available to their ancient predecessors. The boat has been designed by Dr Tom Vosner, an Australian nautical archaeologist, who has enough faith in his design to be one of the crew.
The project began after an Omani-French-Italian team of archaeologists found fragments of bitumen, with the imprints of ropes on one side and barnacles on the other, in Oman in the early 1990s.
Sources: New Kerala.com, New Zealand Herald (2 September 2005)
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