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Home > Big Bronze Age Boat Build » Heritage  >  Big Bronze Age Boat Build: Experiences of an Archaeologist

Big Bronze Age Boat Build: Experiences of an Archaeologist

by | Apr 25, 2024

As the exciting Big Bronze Age Boat Build continues into 2024, it is exciting to see the shape of the boats develop and start to look more and more like actual vessels.

So far, it has taken over 600 hours of physical work to turn the lime trees into what are very soon going to be complete replica Bronze Age log boats. There have been many lessons along the way, and the team of volunteers have worked exceptionally hard to get the boats to where they are today.

Our volunteers come from many different backgrounds and bring with them many different skills.
In this blog, volunteer Lizzie Middleton, an archaeologist, shares her thoughts on the
Big Bronze Age Boat Build project so far and how it has linked to her time excavating at the nationally significant archaeological site of Must Farm.

“On the 14th April 2024 I was lucky to be part of the team of volunteers helping out with the Bronze Age Boat Build!

As an archaeologist, my experience has been predominantly within prehistoric Fenland landscapes and much of my career has been spent at the site of Must Farm, Whittlesey, just outside of Peterborough. During one of the seasons of excavation, we were investigating a Bronze Age paleochannel (an ancient waterway or body of water) where we discovered nine logboats, ranging in date from Middle Bronze Age through to Iron Age (1,500BC – 400BC). Each one was different and had a distinctive style and presumably function. The boats were made from a range of wood species, oak, alder and lime.

Since that excavation I have always wondered how long it took to produce a log boat, and how easy it would be to do with bronze axes and adzes.
I have always been interested in ancient craft and experimental archaeology, as I feel as an archaeologist it really helps understand the artefacts and objects we find and how technologies have changed (or not) over time. It gives me a greater understanding of the archaeology I’m seeing and really brings it to life!

It was a great day boat building with the team, I was surprised how effective and quick the tools (socketed and palstave style axes) were at cutting through the lime!

It was a special moment to see the boat which will have the transom board and handle at the front as this was almost an exact replica of one of the best-preserved boats from Must Farm.

 

The memory of being on site at Must Farm and excavating the boats is such a vivid one, and the experience so unique, it had to be one of the best excavations I have been involved in. During my time on the Boat Build, I found that it didn’t feel that different to when I was excavating them. For example, testing the thickness of the base of the boat while chopping with the bronze adze felt very similar to when we were reaching underneath the boats cleaning off the river silts during the excavations.

It was great to chat to the other members of the team to as they all bring their own skills and expertise and was a great way of learning by working alongside them. It was good to chat about some of our archaeological theories and to see how they compared with the practical experience of working and carving wood and the method of burning the inside surface of the boats.

I’m looking forward to the next day I can help out and to see how they’ve progressed.. and eventually see them floating!”

 


Our next Big Bronze Age Boat Build weekend is the 4th and 5th May 2024. Come along to see the build in progress and speak to the team about this exciting project.

A date for your diaries too – we launch the boats on 21st July 2024 – keep an eye on our website and social media for more information.

 

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