The first step to covering the boat was to get the basket out of the ground and tidy up its edges!
Pulling the boat slowly out of the graoun
Turning the boat over for the first time
Adding supporting beams and edges to the boat to give it strength
Adding a few seats for the rowers
Lifting the boat back onto stilts to be covered
Traditional boats were covered in animal skins that were applied white they were still wet, fresh from the body! they would then shrink during the drying process to create a hard water tight covering for the boat. The cow skins that we used were washed and cleaned prior to handing. How many cow skins does it take to cover a Neolithic boat?
The larger skins had to be sown together using traditional methods, but first the smaller skins had to be cut into strips so that the skins could be tied onto the boat.
Katie Marley cutting strips of cow hide
Katie Marley modeling some lovely cow hide strips
The next step was to stitch the large cow hides together to make enough to cover the whole boat.
Two cow hides being stitched together
Blanked stitch was the method of choice
And in some cases the hides were quite touch to get through! I can imagine Neolithic people needing some quite strong needled to get through it.
Now it wasn’t easy getting those cow hides to come together! We had at least one needle go through a finger! and a had to take turns getting the stitching done. At first the cow hides were also quite smelly (not in a bad way but smelt a bit like a butchers!). Luckily the smell clung to everything so you soon got used to it!
Now to cover the boat!
Skins going on the boat
Sewing up the last bits and pieces
Master coracle maker, Peter Falkner, myself, the lovely Katie and Ellen
Part three? what we did when it was finished!
It was approaching the 2006 Easter break and me and my fellow undergraduate friend, Katie Marley were about to set off on an epic adventure into the Scottish wilderness. Well to an archaeological prehistoric park at Oyne, Archaeolink! Our mission, to build a replica Neolithic boat to find out what it would have taken to make a boat that could have brought Neolithic farmers into Scotland.
Meet the team! Ellen, David, Peter Faulkner (master Coracle maker), Katie and me
The idea behind the project was to make a willow and hide boat that would have been big enough to carry cargo over to Scotland during the Neolithic. Although there is no direct evidence that Neolithic people would have used this type of boat, as it would only have survived in areas where there is exceptional organic preservation, we wanted to see if it could have been a possibility. Now apart from the wonderful Peter, the rest of us had no experience in making coracles! so it was a great learning experience for us! The first task was to trim the willow that would be used to make the boat.
Katie Marly getting to grips with trimming the willow
Helen Williams getting the hang of it!
Next job – making it pointy!
A coracle (which is what our boat was based on) is basically a very large basket covered in hide and sealed with tree sap and tar to make it water tight. The next step was then to weave the structure of the boat, basically into a very large basket!
The boat begins!
Pointy sticks in the ground!
Master Coracle maker who guided us through the whole process!
One to work….five to watch!
Masters at work!
The rest of us get stuck in!
Making the shape of the boat
Bending the stems over!
Looking a bit more boat like now
Making the bow
All hands to the pump to get those last thick willow stems to stay in place!
Ready for the skins!
View from inside the boat at dusk
Part two….covering the boat!
Well I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while! I really want to share with everyone the wonderful efforts of my friend and colleague Emily Hellewell in educating children about the Mesolithic. This was a project that came to fruition with a free activity day for children to learn about the Mesolithic in our own home institution at Kings Manor York University. The small part I played was the creation of the feedback tree.To find out more about Emily’s Mesolithic click here
As part of my continuing work with the ‘Life in the Mesolithic project’ I was really happy when Emily Hellewell asked me to do some drawing for the kids worksheets. I was commissioned to draw the inside of a hut or dwelling so the kids could colour it in! and camp site for the kids to find flints in. I knew it was going to be a bit of a challenge with lots of interpretive traps that I desperately didn’t want to get caught in! So I stuck to what I thought were the ‘safe’ bits of the Mesolithic! I really like the end result and I hope the kids do too! These drawings will now form part of an activity pack, developed by Emily Hellewell and a team of students from York University, that will teach 8-16year olds all about the Mesolithic. The resource pack will be freely available to download, and links to this resource will be posted once it has been fully published. Can you spot all 15 flints around the camp site???
Who lives in a hut like this?
Can you find the 15 flints scattered around the camp?