|30 July 2006
Bronze Age log boat under excavation in Scotland
Archaeologists in Perthshire (Scotland) will attempt to raise a Bronze Age boat from below the River Tay next month after undertaking excavation work. The 3,000-year-old log boat was found by a man with a metal detector on the mudflats near Abernethy, six years ago. The find was reported to Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust, which has since carried out a series of studies of the vessel, which is visible at low tides.
Identifying it as a log boat, used for fishing and wildfowling, Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust radiocarbon dated it to 1000 BCE - the late Bronze Age. The 9.25 metres (30ft) boat, which was carved from a single piece of oak, is the second oldest dated log boat from Scotland. The boat's stern has been well-preserved by the mudflats but it was sandbagged to prevent further deterioration caused by the rise and fall of the water. Archaeologists are now keen to raise the vessel to allow conservation work to be carried out.
A team from the Heritage Trust carried out excavation work, digging a hole beneath the vessel and uncovering its full length for the first time. They hope to be able to raise the vessel next month using a special cradle when tidal conditions are suitable. The team are working against the clock to raise the boat, having only a four-hour inter-tidal window each day. It will have to be cut into three sections and will be lifted in two stages, with completion expected to be around mid-August. The boat will then be transported to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh for conservation work, to make the boat stable enough to go on display at the museum.
The painstaking project is expected to take around three years. Archaeologist David Strachan said: "The exposed parts of the boat are eroding quite rapidly and in order to tell us more about her, we want to raise her. It can be difficult because we have to work in tidal windows."
"People often like to leave these things where they are," said Andrew Driver of the Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust. "However, the boat is being damaged by abrasion from gravel and peat so we had to sandbag it ready for excavation. Most of these log boats were raised in the 19th century and dried out, so we haven't learned a great deal about them," said Mr Driver. "However, preservation techniques for water-logged timber have been around for a while now. This will go under the microscope and we should be able to learn about the tools used, how many people it took to build it, and what was growing around that time."
Sources: Caroline Lewis for 24 Hour Museum (27 July 2006), Practical Boat Owner (28 July 2006), The Courier, This is North Scotland, The Press and Journal (29 July 2006)
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