When a replica of an Iron Age logboat is launched for the first time on Lough Corrib today, there may not be too much disappointment if it doesn’t actually float.
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 Captain 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, “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 409BC to 75BC, 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 observed on the Pallasboy project’s blog.
UCC archaeology lecturer Benjamin Gearey worked with Mr Brady and a team including Paul Naessens of NUI Galway to create a replica at the Meitheal Mara boatyard in Cork. It will be launched at Knockferry pier, Moycullen, Co Galway, today.
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 MacDómhnaill 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 in Co Westmeath, in 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 the lake bed for 3,500 years when the Vikings arrived, Capt Northage has pointed out. It is one of three craft located within a 50km radius.
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 at 3pm today, 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.