Dover boat

The southern part of a Middle Bronze Age plank-built boat, dated by C. 14 roughly to 1300 BC, was found in 1992 during roadworks near the present seafront of the English Channel at Dover, southern England. The Canterbury Archaeological Trust excavated it, and cut it into sections which were subsequently raised, recorded and conserved in PEG. It is to go on permanent exhibition at Dover Museum during 1999, and a major publication is being prepared. The illustrations here are shown by kind permission of the Canterbury Archaeological Trust.

The boat was buried in silt 6m below ground level, and formerly lay in a fresh-water river, judging from diatom evidence. It had been partly dismantled when abandoned, and although the sides and south end were found, the north end remains unexcavated.

The surviving remains show a boat 2.32m wide, over 9.35m long and built with oak planks. It was shaped like a modern punt, and had a flat bottom, vertical sides and a flat sloping south end. Each side curved upward from the bottom by a specially shaped 'ile' plank resembling half a split dugout. The two broad bottom planks were held together by wedges and transverse timbers slotted through holes in rails and cleats left standing inboard. The lowest side plank, the 'ile' plank, was stitched by withies of yew to the outer edge of each bottom plank, and curved upwards in section. Two upper side planks,each originally stitched to the upper edge of the lower side planks, were missing. The south end of the boat had a sloping end board, also missing, and this was held to the bottom planks by wedges in a a yoke-shaped scarf of great complexity. The plank seams were made watertight with a caulking of moss laid on the inboard face of each seam, and this was held down by laths of wood (mostly oak, but one is of hazel) laid under the wedges, transverse timbers and stitches. A 'stopping' material, yet to be identified, lay in the stitch holes. Tool-marks show that the boat was fashioned by axes with curved blades.

The boat has much evidence of use and wear, and splits in both curving lower planks had been repaired by stitches and laths. Wear marks exist on the outboard face. There is no evidence of the method of propulsion or steering, and although found in a fresh-water environment the vessel is thought to have been too small for the river and may have been used at sea.

Main Publication:

The forthcoming report by a team of specialists for the Canterbury Archaeological Trust is due to be published by English Heritage in 1999.

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