Sunday, January 1, 2012

Six Logboats discovered in Cambridgshire, UK.

"One canoe would be great. Two, exceptional. Six almost feels greedy"
David Gibson, head of Cambridge University's archaeological unit, is not exaggerating. A single site with several canoes can illustrate the importance of water in early man's life (see previous post on logboats in the Southeastern United States). Sites like this one change how we think about our ancestors. The site dates between 1300 and 1000 BCE, and is located in Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom.

Photo by Dave Webb, Cambridge Archaeological Unit for the Observer
In addition to the logboats, numerous other artifacts have been discovered in pristine condition. Tableware-some with contents still intact, fabric, spear hafts, ropes, wicker baskets, fish weirs and fish traps have all survived. These fish weirs and traps were large baskets constructed of thin willow branches and organic material like branches or reeds rarely survive burial and deterioration processes. The eel traps were designed and used in a similar fashion to those used in the area today.

Photo by Cambs Times
The peat and silt of the riverbed preserved the most delicate of materials. Also the depth is pretty incredible, the site starts 12 feet below surface level. The site was discovered during excavation of the banks for clay bricks by the Hanson Heidelberg Cement Group.

Photo by BBC
The logboats range in size from 13 feet to just over 27 feet. This quotation captures the size and sheds a little perspective on these vessels:
"It feels as if you could get the whole family – granny, grandad, a couple of goats and everything – in there" -Mark Knight. 
Conservators have been involved with the process of excavating these artifacts and will continue treatments at York Archaeological Trust. There are concerns that some of the boats will crack as they are lifted out of the ground, but as you can see below, the boats are properly supported as they are excavated.

Photo by University of Cambridge

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Archaeology, Conservation and Curation by Whitney Rose Petrey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License