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An experimental archaeology project to make a replica of the Dover Bronze Age boat watertight and take it to sea.
An experimental archaeology project to make a replica of the Dover Bronze Age boat watertight and take it to sea.
124 backers pledged £6,681 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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£6,681

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UPDATE: Stretch goals added.....

We are now well past the £5000 mark and heading towards our first stretch goal which is:

£6000 If we hit this amount, we will add a 'goody bag' of boat and Canterbury Archaeological Trust-related items to the rewards of all those backers who want one. At least one item will bear a personalised message from one of the project team.

Our second stretch goal is:

£7500 If we are able to reach this figure by the close of funding, then we will lay on an exclusive evening reception, with refreshments, for backers of the project only, in Dover Museum, probably in late August. Members of the project team, including Keith Parfitt, who discovered the boat, will be on hand to provide an insider's view of the discovery of the boat, its conservation and display, the 'Beyond the Horizon' exhibition and the ongoing work to make the replica seaworthy. And of course you will be able to see the replica itself and view the progress in readying it for sea. I really hope we can achieve this as it would be great to see as many of you as were able to make it to this and say 'thank you' in person.

Best wishes, Andrew

A remarkable discovery....

At midday, September 28th 1992, roadbuilders uncovered some fragments of wood 6m below the modern streets of Dover. Archaeologists from Canterbury Archaeological Trust identified them as pieces of a 'sewn plank' boat dating to 1550 BC, making it one of the oldest sea-going vessels ever recovered.

This was the start of over two decades of conservation, analysis and interpretation of the Dover Boat. Today, it is housed in a purpose-built gallery in Dover Museum.

Experimental archaeology....

This project is the latest stage in the ongoing story of this remarkable boat. In 2012, as part of the European Union-funded project, BOAT 1550 BC, an exact half-scale replica of the boat was constructed in Dover, using oak timbers and traditional bronze tools and techniques. Although half-scale, the replica boat is 8m long and weighs about 1 ton. It is an impressive and beautiful vessel.

The finished replica on display in Ename, Belgium
The finished replica on display in Ename, Belgium

It had always been intended to take the replica to sea, thus completing this piece of experimental archaeology. But the boat took longer than anticipated to complete. An attempt was made to launch the boat in Dover harbour, but there had not been enough time to make the boat watertight and the attempt had to be abandoned. The boat was then moved to France to take its place as the centrepiece of a major exhibition celebrating the cross Channel communities of 3,500 years ago.

Having also been displayed in Belgium, the replica is now back in Dover. The associated exhibition opens in Dover Museum on 1st July 2013 and is well worth a visit. But the plan now is to strip the replica down, re-assemble it and finally take her to sea.

That is why we need your help...

We are seeking a minimum of £5,000, towards an overall funding target of £20,000, to enable us to carry out the work to make the boat seaworthy. Having learnt the lessons of our previous attempt, and now with sufficient time, our team of experts, led by ancient technology specialist Richard Darrah, are confident that this time they can succeed in making the boat watertight.

Working on the replica with bronze tools
Working on the replica with bronze tools

Once that is done, the boat will be launched and taken to sea, initially in Dover Harbour, but ultimately into the Channel and along the coast to Folkestone. The funds are needed to pay for the specialists’ time and expenses, plus the expenses associated with harbour launch fees and the hire of safety boats. Those backers who pledge £300 or more will be given the opportunity of having a place in the crew of the boat, either in the initial sea trials or in subsequent launches.

The replica can be made seaworthy, and if this is done, then it will have many years of useful life ahead of it. It will be used as often as possible at local and national events to publicise the Dover Boat gallery in Dover Museum, and to help draw attention and visitors to the town of Dover itself. In addition, the construction of the replica was filmed by Time Team. If we launch it they will film that and broadcast a special episode on the project, bringing the boat, the boat gallery and Dover to a very wide audience.

Tony Robinson inspects the replica boat
Tony Robinson inspects the replica boat

So please back this project and help us take a sewn-plank boat onto the waters of the Dover Straits for the first time in over 3000 years. The replica is a splendid and stunning piece of craftsmanship; it was designed to go to sea. By backing this project you can play a part in transforming the boat from a static exhibit to a living, working vessel, which can be used to promote archaeology and Dover, and educate people on both sides of the Channel about their shared past, for many years to come.

The Project Team that will be carrying out the work and overseeing the whole project includes the following people:

Richard Darrah is an archaeologist who specialises in ancient timber. His main interests lie in studying excavated timber, doing reconstructions using ancient techniques and working with cleft oak. He started in archaeology in 1962 and has been deeply involved in experimental archaeology for many years. Richard was a key member of the analysis team who studied the Dover Bronze Age boat in the 1990's, developing new techniques for studying and recording ancient timbers and building a full scale replica of a 3m section of the boat in 1996. In recent years Richard worked with the world-famous nautical archaeologist, the late ole Crumlin-Pedersen, re-assessing the ancient timbers of the Dover Boat so that the 2012 boat reconstruction, which he led, could be built using the most up-to-date and sophisticated understanding of the original Bronze Age vessel.

Robin Wood is an internationally respected wood worker specialising in use of local timbers and traditional techniques. His decades of practical experience are complemented by extensive scholarly research, culminating in the publication of the definitive book on the history of the wooden bowl. Robin was a key member of the team who created the half-scale reconstruction of the Dover boat in 2012.

Rachel Head works at the East Sussex Archaeology and Museums specialising in traditional construction methods and sustainable building techniques.Rachel was also a part of the team who built the half-scale reconstruction of the Dover boat in 2012.

Peter Clark is Deputy Director of the Canterbury Archaeological Trust. He was the Scientific Director of the multidisciplinary analysis team that studied the original Dover boat and published the definitive academic study of the vessel in 2004. He was also responsible for re-assembling the original boat in Dover Museum for public display, and for setting up the international ‘BOAT 1550 BC’ project for which he is the UK Co-ordinator.

Paul Bennett is Director of the Canterbury Archaeological Trust, a post he has held since 1984 and is the current Chair of the Dover Bronze Age Boat Trust. Paul has played a leading role in overseeing all aspects of the boat’s story, from its discovery in 1992, through its conservation and display, to the construction of the half-scale replica in 2012. He is one of the most experienced archaeological directors in the UK, and has also worked extensively overseas, most notably in Libya. Paul is also an experienced mariner; he is a member of the crew of the Thames barge Mirosa and he also owns and sails his own estuary cruiser Venture.

Andrew Richardson is Outreach Manager of the Canterbury Archaeological Trust and is also a Trustee of the Dover Bronze Age Boat Trust. He is experienced in the development and delivery of community archaeology projects, at working with volunteers and with the presentation of archaeological results to the public.

The replica near completion
The replica near completion

Risks and challenges

Experimental archaeology is not an exact science; hence the replica boat took longer than expected to build, which didn't allow the necessary time to make the boat seaworthy before it was removed to the exhibition in France. Lots of lessons were learned along the way, and we are now confident that we can make the boat sea worthy. But putting a boat built using 3,500 year old technology to sea is not a risk-free exercise. The main risks and challenges for this project are, therefore, whether the boat can be made sufficiently seaworthy to be launched and handled under modern safety standards. We believe the answer is 'yes' and our team of experts includes leading specialists in ancient boats and technology. When the re-caulked boat is put to sea it will be with a safety boat in attendance, having been tested first in the calm waters of Wellington Dock. From there it will be tested within Dover Harbour. Only then will we take the boat onto the open waters of the Channel and along the coast to Folkestone.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge £5 or more About $8

    TRIBE MEMBER: Everyone who backs the project with £5 or more will receive a special "I helped Float the Boat!" badge.

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    Pledge £20 or more About $30

    SEA TRADER: Backers pledging £20 or more will a badge and a signed certificate of thanks from the Chairman of the Dover Bronze Age Boat Trust, Dr Paul Bennett. The certificate will include a picture of the replica boat.

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    Pledge £50 or more About $76

    BOAT BUILDER: Backers pledging £50 or more will receive a badge, certificate of thanks and a DVD of a short film about the discovery of the Dover Boat.

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    Pledge £100 or more About $152

    BRONZESMITH: People backing the project at this level will receive all the above benefits, plus a framed and signed photograph of the replica boat.

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    Pledge £200 or more About $304

    WARRIOR: Backers pledging £200 or more will receive the benefits of the Bronzesmith level (reward #4) plus the opportunity of a VIP guided tour around the boat gallery and 'Beyond the Horizon' exhibition in Dover Museum. Dates for this can be arranged between August and December 2013. The tour will be by a member of the 'BOAT 1550 BC' project team.

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    Pledge £300 or more About $456

    CHIEFTAIN: Those backers pledging £300 or more, in addition to being eligible for all the rewards associated with lower levels of backing, will be given a place in the crew of the boat on one of its sea trials. You, or another nominated in your place if you wish to make a gift of this rare opportunity, will get a 30 minute voyage in the boat (subject to considerations of health and safety), at a date to be arranged in August to September 2013.

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Funding period

- (30 days)