Dover Bronze Age Boat
Dover Bronze Age boat is one of the few Bronze Age boats to be found in Britain (in 2011 nine boats were found in Whittlesey, Cambs). It dates to 1575-1520 BCE. The boat was made using oak planks sewn together with yew lashings. This technique has a long tradition of use in British prehistory; the oldest known examples are from Ferriby in east Yorkshire. It is currently on display at Dover Museum.
Discovery and excavation
On 28 September 1992, construction workers from Norwest Holst (who were building the new A20 road link between Folkestone and Dover), working alongside archaeologists from the Canterbury Archaeological Trust, uncovered what remained of a large prehistoric boat thought to be 3,500 years old. This would place its origin around 1500 BC, in the Middle Bronze Age in England.
The boat was buried under a road and the burial site stretched out towards buildings. It was decided that it would be too dangerous to dig too near the buildings, so an unknown length of the boat has had to be left under the ground.
Previous attempts to remove such boats whole have been unsuccessful, so it was decided to cut the boat into sections and remove it and reassemble it afterwards.
After nearly a month of excavation 9.5 metres of the boat was eventually recovered. Depending on different views of the true size of the complete boat this 9.5 metres could be up to two thirds of the full size of the boat.
As part of the boat remains underground and there is no proof of the boat's overall shape and size, much speculation as to its total length and its shape has been made. The museum shows suggestions, but the boat could easily be little more than has been removed from the ground, or perhaps many metres longer.
The width of the boat is significant, being around 2 Metres wide it is much wider than dugout canoes of the time and can easily seat two people next to each other.
Conservation and re-assembly
Whilst in the ground the boat was significantly protected from being destroyed by waterlogging and a cover of silt which protected it from bacteria. After being removed from the ground the boat was kept in a waterlogged state at the Mary Rose Trust at Portsmouth. After a long process of preservation the boat returned to Dover Museum to be re-assembled in 1998.
The boat is displayed in a glass case as the centrepiece of a whole floor in the museum devoted to archeology. With the boat itself is a modern reconstruction of a section of the boat, to assist in the visitors interpretation of the boat itself. The display won an award in 2000 for archeological display.
- Clark, P. 2004. The Dover Bronze Age Boat. Swindon: English Heritage
- Dover Museum's website about the discovery, excavation, preservation and display of the boat
- Article describing story of discovery and extraction of boat in Archaeology magazine
- Ferriby Boats Comparable Bronze Age boats from Northern England