An initial examination by specialist archaeologist Karl Brady suggests the find could be unique because, unlike other dug-outs or log boats found in the Republic, it has a pair of oval-shaped blisters on the upper edge.
Such features “are very rare. I have seen them on some boats found in Northern Ireland and Britain but not in Ireland. They could have been used for holding oars,” said Mr Brady, who is an underwater archaeologist with the Department of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht.
The boat was found by members of the Boyne Fishermen’s Rescue and Recovery Service (BFRRS) as they were doing one of their regular operations to remove shopping trolleys from the Boyne.
“We had our boat just pulled in here and I saw it and said look at that,” said Christy Finglas, who was working with Michael Hodgins as they checked the river for the trolleys, which are regularly thrown into the Boyne where it flows through Drogheda town centre.
Christy remembers being with his father on the river but closer to its mouth, when they came upon a similar boat “45 years ago down near Premier Periclase, that’s about three miles from here”.
Dr Ned Kelly, the keeper of antiquities at the National Museum, said, “this is a very exciting find” and “I would not be surprised if more craft like this were found in the Boyne”.
Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan said: “This is a significant discovery and is one of only a handful of log-boats ever to be found in the river Boyne. It’s discovery will greatly add to our overall understanding of the use of boats and navigation on the Boyne. It is impossible to date the boat at this stage but such craft were in use from prehistoric times right up to the 18th century.”
Mr Brady believes it is made from oak and while the exposed end of it, which appears to be the bow, is jagged in appearance, he said, “it looks to be extremely well preserved”.
“It has curving side walls and the top edge is exposed so there could be between 80cm and 1m of it buried.”
The exposed part appears to be worn and, he said, “the remaining section could be better preserved where it is [embedded] underneath the river bank”.
The boat is being left in situ for the moment and is not accessible to the public. It will be dated later this year.