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• The ship During the next few weeks, the full extent of the find became clear. The ship extended for 23m in length across the coffer dam, although the bow and stern lay just outside the excavation area. Almost all of the hull was intact, surviving in places up to deck level. The maximum width of the ship as found was 8m, tapering towards the ends. The vessel lay with the bow inland and the stern towards the river, apparently within an old channel, perhaps a minor pill. The port side was roughly in its original position, but the starboard side had collapsed outwards. Marks on the upstanding timbers showed that after this collapse, the uppermost parts of both sides had been chopped off, possibly to allow re-use of the site. The starboard side had already collapsed outwards by this time, and as a result almost twice as much of this side of the ship survives.

The ship was constructed in the northern European 'clinker-built'tradition (i.e. with overlapping side planks or strakes), current from the Viking period into the 16th century. Almost all of the structural timbers are oak, although the keel is beech, and some softwood species were used for internal features. The overlapping strakes were fastened with iron nails, with sixty-three closely spaced transverse frames placed internally and fastened to the hull with wooden pegs (treenails). Many of the frames were made up of several individual timbers held together by scarf joints.

Above the frames, a keelson ran along the centre line of the ship, with a swelling (known as the mast step) at amidships, where the main mast would have been positioned. The mast (which had been removed) would have been around 20m high, with a single, square sail. It is not yet clear whether additional masts would have been present at the bow and stern. Internal planks on the frames (ceiling planks) partially lined the inside of the ship.

Within the clay filling of the vessel were numerous ship timbers, likely to have come from the vessel itself, but discarded during its subsequent break-up. Many of these were internal structures that rarely survive in ancient shipwrecks, including fragments of decking and rigging. A sample from a dislocated timber - a large structural member known as a 'knee' - underwent tree-ring analysis by Nigel Nayling, of the University of Wales, Lampeter. The parent tree had been felled between September 1465 and April 1466. As medieval shipwrights worked with unseasoned green oak, this suggests that the vessel was built in the mid 15th-century, a period known as 'TheAge of Discovery'.

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AIDOLOGY 184

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