9th Experimental Archaeology Conference poster – Gregory

Dugout Boat Reconstruction: Methods, Use and Applications of Naval Architecture

Niall Gregory

Available evidence shows that Ireland has one of the largest catalogue of dugout boats in Europe. The pedigree of their use in Ireland extends continuously from the Neolithic Period to documented accounts at the end of the 18th Century AD. Their prolific use, differing hull forms or shapes and circumstances of discovery reflect other boat types contemporaneously in use, which do not survive in the archaeological record due to their composite nature. Within the
general scope of travel and communication, these large artefacts served multiple functions evidenced by their size and distinguishing hull forms.

Methods of construction followed standard techniques as evidenced by experiments in reconstruction. This conversely demonstrates that hull form and hull size, determined the intended environment of use and purpose for which each boat was designed.

Experimental use of dugout boats demonstrates their abilities as well as their limitations. This has proven successful in determining the validity of previous theoretical interpretations and whether theory stands up to the scrutiny of actual practise. For example, dugout boats were not sea-going as they were easily swamped in comparison to other boat types. Equally, sailed dugout boats – an apparently unique design of dugout boat in Europe – could be successfully used without the aid of keels, keelsons, outriggers or any stabilising element.

Applications of naval architecture to dugout boats, while remaining in its infancy demonstrates the complexity of dugout boat design and thus a complex knowledge of the interaction of hull and water to differing environments of water bodies, whether they are rivers, lakes, estuarine conditions, etc. Furthermore application of naval architecture enables assessment and determination of dugout boat performance capabilities through hull measurements. In the
absence of reconstruction and experimental work, performance capabilities would solely have remained as unsubstantiated theories. Experimental work enabled verification and eligibility of applied naval architecture.

 

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