Bronze Age replica boats ready to launch

A male volunteer on the left and James Dilley on the right fitting a transom board to the end of one of the log boats
Experimental archaeologist James Dilley (right) helped guide the volunteers through the project [Rockingham Forest Trust]

Two Bronze Age-style log boats are ready to float after a team of volunteers completed their build using replica tools and fire.

The project is part of a £250,000 Heritage Lottery project to connect Stanwick Lakes, Northamptonshire, with its ancient past.

Heritage co-ordinator Nadia Norman said: "Everything has been done true to the Bronze Age era, from the tools they used to how the boats would have been piloted."

The prehistoric vessels are due to be launched at an event on 21 July.

A Bronze Age replica tool with a wooden handle resting on the log
Before they began, they cast their own replica tools using existing axes as templates, taking the heads home to whittle the wooden handles [Rockingham Forest Trust]
Three men using hand tools while carving a log into a boat
The only methods used on the boat build were those known to be available in the Bronze Age [Rockingham Forest Trust]

"Everything’s been done the hard way, so this is a huge celebration of these efforts," Ms Norman added.

The team of 10 spent more than 700 hours creating the boats from a fallen lime tree donated by Boughton House, near Kettering.

But before they could start, they created their own Bronze Age tools guided by experimental archaeologist James Dilley from AncientCraft.

The team experimented with different carving and chiselling techniques and discovered fire was also an effective way to carve out the inside of the boat.

Nadia Norman looking at the camera with the nature reserve behind her
Nadia Norman said she is looking forward to "showcasing the Herculean efforts of our volunteers and putting their creations to the test" [Rockingham Forest Trust]
A log with a hollow depression and flames and ash as it is being given a controlled burn
Fire was used to begin start hollowing out one of the logs, which was then finished off with tools [Rockingham Forest Trust]

Dr Dilley said the heritage of the Stanwick Lakes site is important due to its links to other well-known Bronze Age sites such as Flag Fen and the Must Farm settlement - which was dubbed Britain's Pompeii due to the preservation of its artefacts.

"It’s quite likely that people would have been moving up and down this area over 3,000 years ago, using the same crafts and tools," he said.

Neolithic tools, Bronze Age barrows, an Iron Age settlement, a Roman villa and Saxon hamlet have all been discovered at Stanwick Lakes, making it one of the largest archaeological sites ever excavated in the UK.

The three-year National Lottery Heritage funded project hopes to introduce visitors to that past.

Its next event is a living history day on 1 June, to mark the opening of a replica Iron Age settlement.

A view of a log from its far end up its chiselled middle towards a man working on carving it out
The boats' maiden voyage will take place at an event at Stanwick Lakes on 21 July [Rockingham Forest Trust]

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