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3 June 2004
Minoan replica sets sail for Olympics

A replica of a 3,500-year-old Bronze Age boat has set sail from Crete for Athens, where it will feature at the port of Piraeus during the Olympic torch relay, two days before the start of the Olympic Games on 13 August. The Minoan craft, based on ancient inscriptions and artwork, is rowed by 22 volunteers who will take in 11 ports of call, sailing by day and sleeping on islands by night, following the pattern of Bronze Age Cretan sailors. 15 meters (49 ft) long, the Minoa is constructed from cypress logs without nails or joints. The craft is rope-lashed, and made watertight by layers of canvas, resin and animal fat. The Minoa will join two other replicas: the Olympia, an ancient warship, and the Kerynia-Liberty, which sailed to Athens from Cyprus earlier this month.
     The Minoan boat precedes the other replicas (and the Olympic Games themselves) by more than a thousand years and posed the most challenges, according to captain Apostolos Kourtis. “This is an experimental journey to prove that the ancient boat was something like this one.” The Minoan civilisation was an important sea and trading power that used the Greek islands as stepping stones to dominate the eastern Mediterranean. No Minoan vessels have so far been found, leaving an eight-man team of archaeologists, engineers and plant experts to search for evidence from ancient tablets and drawings. The Minoa was built from computer simulations using such Bronze Age tools as chisels and bow drills. The cypress wood was bent into shape after being softened in sea water. “There are strict rules for a project like this. Otherwise it’s Disneyland,” says Kourtis. The vessel took two years to build and cost around $320,000, with funds raised by Greece’s culture ministry, local businesses and private donations.
     The Minoa will carry olive branches to make wreaths that will be awarded to maraton runners. Following the Olympic torch relay the vessel will be displayed on a platform outside Athen’s City Hall.

Source: The Star Online (29 May 2004)

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