Ancient Greek “sewn” boat raised

The 2500-year-old shipwreck was discovered off the coast of Gela, Sicily, by divers 20 years ago, and the local archaeological authorities have been trying to recover it ever since.

Thanks to the Italian Coast Guard, they’ve now succeeded in raising the entire wreck which will be restored in Portsmouth before going back on display in a new maritime museum in Gela.

What makes this ship particularly remarkable is that it’s the largest, most intact vessel ever found to be constructed with a ancient technique known as “sewing”. Homer mentions this ship-building method in the Illiad.

The ship’s outer shell was built first, and the inner framework was added later. The wooden planks of the hull were sewn together with ropes, with pitch and resin used as sealant to keep out water. [...]

Beltrame, of the Università Ca’ Foscari, said the ship—”part of a family of archaic Greek vessels”—is something of a missing link in the evolution of naval engineering.

“It shows a mix of sewing and mortise-and-tenon joints—a different technique that later prevailed in shipbuilding,” Beltrame said, referring to joints in which a protrusion in one piece of wood inserts into a cavity in another.

Sewn-together planks isn’t so far from the first vessels people made to cross the water. It’s a transitional form where you can still see the Robin Crusoe raft inside the oil tanker. Very cool.

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Comment by Anonymous
2008-09-02 05:05:19

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