Bronze Age (1800-1900 BC)



The Ferriby Boats

     
Boat
North Ferriby, E.Yorks.
(reconstruction)

In September 1937 Ted & Willy Wright first noticed the planks of a boat (Ferriby Boat 1) exposed in the tidal muds on the north bank of the Humber at Ferriby. Further excavation by Philip Corder followed in 1938, and parts of the boat were retrieved during 1939-40. In November 1940 the keel plank of a second boat (Ferriby Boat 2) was discovered by the Wright brothers. However, the events of World War 2 effectively halted work until 1946, when the remaining parts of both boats were lifted and transported to the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. Both boats were subsequently dated to the Middle Bronze Age. In March 1963 Ted Wright discovered the remains of a third boat (Ferriby Boat 3) which was removed to Hull Museum. Small parts from two more boats (Ferriby Boats 4 and 5) were unearthed in 1984 and 1989. Previous boat finds in the region include one from Brigg in North Lincolnshire and more recently from Hasholme in East Yorkshire.

In 1958, Carbon-14 gave a date of 750±150 BC for the Ferriby Boats, confirming their Bronze Age origin. In the 1980s this was refined to circa 1300 BC for Ferriby Boats 1-3 but Ferriby Boats 4 and 5 were assigned a much later date of 400 BC. Yet later dating gave 1900 BC for Ferriby Boat 3, and 1800 BC for Ferriby Boats 1 and 2 as a result of which the Ferriby Boats were rightly acclaimed in March 2001 as Europe’s earliest known examples of seacraft. Similar craft have now also been recognised from Kilnsea, East Yorkshire (1870-1670 BC) and from Dover, Kent (1300-1200 BC).

North Ferriby lies at the foot of the Yorkshire Wolds. The Wolds are noted for an increasing intensity of prehistoric activity from the Neolithic onwards. The Ferriby site was an ideal point of departure for east/west travel along the Humber or as a crossing-point to the south bank. The Ferriby boats were a means by which ideas, such as the decorative design of pottery, and goods such as Baltic amber and metals could arrive on the Humber shore.

Presentation of the Ferriby boats is currently modest. Small parts of Ferriby Boat 2 are displayed at Hulls’ Maritime Museum, while a paddle and 1:20 scale replica may be seen at the Hull and East Riding Museum. To address this situation, the Hull and East Riding Museum intends to display Ferriby Boat 3 and the Kilnsea Boat, complementing its current presentation of the massive Hasholme Logboat. It is hoped the half-size replica of a Ferriby boat will find a home alongside the conserved timbers of the real thing.

The Hull and East Riding Museum is open 10am-5pm Monday to Saturday and 1.30-4.30 pm on Sunday. Entrance free. (www.hullcc.gov.uk/museums)

(Foreman, M. 2004, ‘Europe’s First Seacraft: Bronze Age Boats from North Ferriby’, Minerva: The International Review of Ancient Art & Archaeology, 15 (2), 20-1)

 

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