Ship Building project utilises ancient building technologies


A project in underway to recreate a sunken shipwreck using the techniques that would have been used by the original builders.

The project, called ShipWrEx, hopes to provide understanding of the development of ancient ship-building techniques through hands on discovery, with the team reconstructing part of the ship’s hull using different methods.

The hull’s design is based on a shipwreck found of the coast of Sicily, which dates back to around 500 B.C.

Paola Palma, Programme Leader for the MSc Maritime Archaeology course, and Project Leader, said, “This boat is extremely important as it shows two different shipbuilding technologies, the ‘laced hull’ technology and the ‘mortise and tenons’ technology. Usually, boats of this period only showed the laced hull technology and boats of a later period showed the mortise and tenons technology. This boat is very important as it shows both techniques used on the same ship. There is no manual so we are going to learn by doing!”

To understand why shipbuilders used both techniques to create the ship, the team from Bournemouth University set to work to recreate part of the ship, to better understand why both techniques were used, and which one is better.

Paola continued, “It’s extremely difficult to do it [build the ship] properly, in a fast way. Back then, shipbuilders were doing this every day so would have done it in a very fast fashion. We are experimenting so that we can further appreciate the archaeological remains that we find, and how these ships were built.”

The project is taking place at The Ancient Technology Centre (ATC) in Cranborne – with members of the ATC also taking part in the project. Other participants in the project include current BU students and staff members, keen to improve their knowledge by taking part.

Bertram Beanland, a student at BU studying BA Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology, is working as part of the team recreating the hull.  He said, “Bournemouth University is known for its hands on courses. We get a lot more hands on experience. [With this project] already we have found that there are three different techniques we could use to drill a hole in wood using traditional techniques, and all three methods look the same at the end. We have found that the quickest way to drill the hole is by going in through the edge, and we think it is definitely the technique they would have used. But it has taken us three tries to get it right. We wouldn’t have realised that through reading a book, we had to be hands on. You get real respect for ancient ship builders because everything has taken so long to do.”

Bertram is just one of a number of students taking part in the project – with undergraduate and postgraduate students from a variety of courses involved.

It is hoped that the project will continue so that the team can recreate the entire ship – and eventually sail it in water. Paola concludes, “For the moment we are building a portion of the boat, but one day we hope to take a completed boat out sailing.”

Lecturer awarded £7,000 grant to further marine research

Paola Palma, lecturer in Marine Archaeology at Bournemouth University has recently been awarded an English Heritage grant worth £7,000 to study shipworms around the UK.

The study will last six months and should map the presence of two types of shipworms, Teredo Navalis and Lyrodus Pedicellatus, in English waters.

Shipworms are most commonly known for causing the rapid degradation of wooden objects as they often tunnel through wood internally causing it to weaken.

Paola Palma said “Teredo Navalis is probably the shipworm best-known to archaeologists”. The study hopes to build on existing knowledge using publicly available knowledge.

BU students will also get involved with the study as part of a training exercise, details to be confirmed at a later date.

Maritime Archaeology comes to Guys Marsh Prison


A maritime archaeology day, designed to make archaeology more accessible, took place at Guys Marsh Prison.

Experts from Bournemouth University visited the prison to share findings from their excavation of the Swash Channel Wreck, a 17th Century ship that lies on the bed of Poole Harbour.

Prison inmates were shown slides of artefacts found and were told about the history of the wreckage. After the presentations, inmates were invited to attend group sessions to talk about maritime archaeology and give their views on the project.

The activity day took place as a part of the MAD About the Wreck project, created by Paola Palma, Lecturer in Marine Archaeology at Bournemouth University, which invites people to join the adventure of maritime archaeology through a series of Maritime Archaeology Days (MAD). The project was also created in collaboration with Poole Museum.

Paola said, “It has always been a passion of mine to make sure that whatever my colleagues and I find underwater becomes enjoyable to all. I would like archaeology to be inclusive of all, with no limits to gender, age, skills, geographical location etc. I love to create a partnership with those who are learning and those who wish to learn or just listen to something new. The participation of prisons, care homes and groups of minorities in this is fundamental, challenging and mutually rewarding.”

One prisoner, Richard, said, “I found it very informative and I was looking forward to [the day] because I am very interested in the topic. I’d love to encourage other people to come along and enjoy what we have enjoyed today.”

Another of the prisoners, Chris, wrote a piece of Baroque–style music and played it to the audience as a tribute to the music of the time. Chris said of the day, “Today was fantastic, it was heart–warming to see people passionate about a subject talk about it.”

The prisoners taking part in the day were part of the RECOOP group at Guys Marsh. RECOOP are a charity that look after resettlement and care of older prisoners and works with prisoners for rehabilitation.

Bournemouth University is collaborating with Borough of Poole’s Museum Service for the project, using Poole’s Swash Channel Wreck as the source of inspiration.

There are a number of Maritime Archaeology Days planned and you can find more information on the MAD About the Wreck Facebook page.

BU in budget day coverage

Dermot McCarthy, a lecturer in Economics at Bournemouth University, spoke to BBC Radio Solent on Budget Day to talk about the budget’s key points and the impact this will have on the general public.

Speaking to presenter Steve Harris, Dermot said, “I think there are some good points in what we see in the budget today, it does show some movement in the right direction from George Osborne, particularly with things such as the reduction in corporate tax and increased support for housing. But it does not go far enough at addressing the underlying problem in the economy, which is that we are pursuing austerity at a time when economic growth is below expectations.”

Dermot also gave a nice analogy for how Britain should be looking at digging itself out of debt. Dermot continued, “We are sinking into debt one way or another so it is a case of saying ‘what are we going to use that debt for?’ It could be seen as similar to me or you and our household. If we have to go into debt to be able to meet our gas bills then we are in trouble, but if we are sinking into debt in order to invest in a little workshop at the end of the garden to be able to work on repairing your neighbours car for a little extra income then that is a good investment. So perhaps there is a problem when the UK government is getting into debt in order to meet welfare payments but it might be better to invest it in infrastructure and other things that will generate income in the future to meet that debt payment.”

Paola Palma, Programme Co–ordinator in Maritime Archaeology at BU, also spoke about the budget, giving her view to The Times newspaper. She spoke about the budget from the perspective of an Italian working in the UK and said, “The education in this country is so far ahead of the rest of Europe. The Universities and schools mean that I need not worry about the future of my family.”

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