When a replica of an Iron Age log boat is launched for the first time in Lough Corrib today, there may not be too much disappointment if it doesn’t actually float writes Lorna Siggins.
Archaeologists suspect that such “dug out” vessels could have been made for ritual purposes – designed perhaps to sink seamlessly to the bottom as part of a river or lake burial.
The original 2,400-year-old craft on which this replica is designed is already sitting on Lough Corrib’s bed, having been carved from a single oak timber.
The 7.5m long craft found close to Lee’s island was discovered by marine surveyor Capt. Trevor Northage and surveyed by Karl Brady of the Underwater Archaeology Unit of the National Monuments Service.
Capt Northage has identified a number of early Bronze Age, Iron Age and medieval craft and “Viking-style” battle axes and other weapons while mapping the Corrib to update British Admiralty charts.
During an assessment dive on the Lee’s island logboat by Mr Brady’s team, an axe dating back 2,400 years was found, along with a long oar for steering and an iron spearhead.
The craft, which was radiocarbon dated to around 75 to 409 BC, may have been designed to have a short lifespan, and was “not for sustained use”, according to archaeologist Niall Gregory.
“The fact that the axe was deliberately and permanently secured beneath the thwart... suggests ritualistic connotations,” Mr Gregory has observed on the Pallasboy project’s blog.
Dr Benjamin Gearey, archaeology lecturer at University College, Cork (UCC), worked with Mr Brady and a team including Dr Paul Naessens of NUI Galway to create a replica at the Meitheal Mara boatyard in Cork. It will be launched at Knockferry pier in Moycullen, Co Galway today (sat).
Woodworker Mark Griffiths crafted the replica from a single piece of oak, using age-equivalent tools and contemporary equivalents – for comparison purposes.
It was documented by photographer Brian MacDomhnaill as part of the Pallasboy project - an experimental archaeology initiative established five years ago to design a replica of an Iron Age wooden vessel discovered in Toar Bog, Co Westmeath in the year 2000.
The Lee’s island logboat is not the oldest craft lying in lough Corrib. The 4,500-year-old Annaghkeen log boat had been sitting on lake bed for 3,500 years when the Vikings arrived, Capt Northage has pointed out. It is one of three craft located within a 30 mile radius.
The 12m-long Annaghkeen vessel is almost identical to the Lurgan log boat found in 1902; and the Carrowneden boat found near Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo, in 1996.
The Lee’s island logboat project was supported by the World Wood Day Fund. The replica will be test launched at Knockferry pier in Moycullen, Co Galway, at 3pm today (sat) before being given to the Moycullen Heritage Society for display.
Dr Gearey, Mr Brady and Mr Griffiths will talk about the project in the Boat Inn, Oughterard, Co Galway at 6pm this evening (sat).