The Magor Pill Boat
Below. A medieval boat, laden with iron ore, has failed to reach the harbour. Here it is being excavated at low tide behind a barrier of sandbags.
Photos by permission of The National Museum of Wales
In August 1994, Derek Upton, discovered a wooden post projecting up from the mud on the Severn foreshore. On brief examination, it appeared to be part of an ancient boat. Derek Upton is an electrical engineer who spends most of his free time walking the mud flats and salt marshes around Newport in South Wales, and he had already discovered numerous archaeological sites, including Mesolithic footprints and tools, drowned prehistoric buildings, and Roman and medieval finds. His keen observation had located another find of international importance.
The new discovery was lying in an ancient river channel, now drowned by the encroaching Severn Estuary, where pottery is found dating from the Iron Age onwards. Was there a small settlement at the mouth of this creek in the Middle Ages? Documents mention an ancient port in the area, lost to the sea in the fourteenth century: possibly the boat was associated with this harbour.
At this point Nigel Nayling of the Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust was called in. He took a sample from one of the strakes, and being a dendrochronologist he dated the outer ring to AD 1164; since there was no bark or sapwood present on the sample, the construction date for the boat would have been somewhat laterprobably in the 13th century.
CURRENT ARCHAEOLOGY 149