Archive for August 15th, 2008

All of Scotland’s historical sites online

Friday, August 15th, 2008

The Highland Council has created an incredibly nifty searchable, interactive online database of over 50,000 historical sites in Scotland. It’s called the Highland Historic Environment Record (HER) and is an invaluable tool for anyone planning to skip through the heather or even just for history nerds like me to spend hours clicking through.

The site, which went live yesterday, provides a database of more than 50,000 historic buildings, archaeological sites and finds dating from prehistory to the present day.

Developed by Highland Council’s planning department, the resource not only catalogues a diverse range of historical sites but also one or two more quirky attractions and items.

Take for example the 1950s petrol station at Brora, Sutherland. Users who stumble upon this “monument” are welcomed with a page of information including pictures, exact location and a blurb on the site which boasts two pumps. A group of World War II accommodation blocks can be found at Portmaculter and the miniature castle at Achmelvich is another curiosity.

WANT! I want a miniature castle!1

See, it’s already working on me. That’s how you promote local tourism right there. Forget the lame slogans and soft-focus commercials. Here’s the site: Highland Historic Environment Record.

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Ancient Greek “sewn” boat raised

Friday, August 15th, 2008

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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