Wednesday 25 September 2013

Old Boat

So  go on then, how long do you think your current boat will last? 

There are plenty of old working narrowboats around that are around a hundred years old and a smaller number that are almost half as much again. But a six hundred year old boat has been found in Norfolk, and its in remarkably good condition. Considering it's been buried in peaty soil alongside the River Chet, near Loddon, for much of that time. It was found earlier this summer when an alert driver of an excavator spotted the timbers and called a halt to flood defence works being carried out as part of the Broadland Flood Alleviation Project.

Archaeologists who were called in spent three weeks working on the site. They found the small boat (six metres long) was very skilfully made, using thin planking fixed by copper and iron nails as well as wooden pegs. Waterproofing was achieved with tar and animal hair. There would appear to have been provision for a sail but experts think that it might have been rowed or quanted as well (a quant is a punting pole with a prong at the bottom which allows it to be pushed against the river bed).

Site, archaeologist Heather Wallis said that it was "very well preserved and an extremely rare and important find. No boats of this date have previously been found in Norfolk, so this has been a unique opportunity to record and recover a vessel of this date and type. This area has had a strong reliance on water transport and related industries, particularly since the creation of the Broads by peat digging in the medieval period."

Plans for the boat's preservation are well underway. Loose timbers and then the main part of the hull have been lifted and placed in wet storage; they will eventually be freeze-dried. A better idea of the age of the boat will be known after tree-ring dating has been carried out. That will give the date that the trees were felled and it's likely that the boat was constructed within a year or two. In the long term is is hoped that a place will be found for the boat in a Norfolk museum so that people can find out more about the way boats were used as day-to-day transport in medieval times.

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