8,000-Year-Old Shipyard is Oldest in the World: Here’s What You Need to Know

The site contains a large amount of evidence of technological skills that were not believed to have developed until a couple of thousand years later.

A new sensational underwater discovery has been made, as reported by the Maritime Archaeological Trust.

Researchers have revealed an 8,000-year-old structure they argue is the oldest boat building site anywhere in the world.

The ancient boat-building structure was found on the Isle of Wight.

Speaking about the discovery, Director of the Maritime Archaeological Trust, Garry Momber, explained: “This new discovery is particularly important as the wooden platform is part of a site that doubles the amount of worked wood found in the UK from a period that lasted 5,500 years.”

The site is located east of Yarmouth, and the new platform is the most intact Middle Stone Age wooden structure ever found in the United Kingdom. The site is now 11 meters below sea level and during the period when there was human activity on the site, it was dry land with lush vegetation. Importantly, it was at a time before the North Sea formed completely and the Isle of Wight was still connected to continental Europe.

Although the archeological site was identified for the first time in 2005, containing an arrangement of trimmed timbers that may have been used as platforms, walkways or may even be evidence of collapsed structures, the true purpose of the site was difficult to understand until experts from the Maritime Archaeological Trust used advanced art photogrammetry techniques to document the remains.

Since during late spring, the new structure was spotted eroding, researchers were tasked with creating a 3D digital model of the landscape so the site could be seen and studied by non-divers.

What followed as an excavation by experts from the Maritime Archaeological Trust who during the summer revealed a massive platform made up of split timbers–several layers thick–placed on horizontally laid round-wood foundations.

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It was an amazing experience for experts as it provided unprecedented evidence of the technological advancement of people thousands of years ago.

Preserving an extremely important site

“The site contains a wealth of evidence for technological skills that were not thought to have been developed for a further couple of thousand years, such as advanced woodworking. This site shows the value of marine archaeology for understanding the development of civilization,” Garry explained.

But since it is underwater, Garry revealed there are no regulations that can protect it, so it is up to charities, and the help of donors, to save it before its lost to history.

Accurately preserving the site and its wooden contents are of great importance.

That’s why the Maritime Archaeological Trust is working with colleagues from the National Oceanography Center in order to document, analyze, reconstruct and display the collection of timbers from the site. Many of the wooden artifacts recovered from the site are being safeguarded by the British Ocean Sediment Core Research facility (BOSCORF).

And scientists need to tread carefully. Just as sediment cores, ancient wood will degrade faster if it is not placed within a dark, wet and cold environment. Scientists also aim to rid the wood of salt from within wood cells which will allow it to be analyzed and recorded.

This is of great importance, reveal the researchers, since archeological information, like cut marks or even ancient engravings, are commonly found on the surface of the wood. When the timber degrades, the first thing to become lost is precisely any marks. After the wood is properly desalinated and recorded, it can be conserved and put on display.

“It has been really exciting for us to assist the Trust’s work with such unique and historically important artifacts. This is a great example of how the BOSCORF repository is able to support the delivery of a wide range of marine science,” revealed Dr. Suzanne Maclachlan, the curator at BOSCORF.

In Ancient History

Although this discovery is a wonderful piece of lost-history being put back together, it is argued that anatomically modern humans may have arrived on Borneo some 120,000 years ago, and did so probably by sea, as they migrated from the Asian mainland during the ice age period, when seal levers were lower and distances between the islands where much shorter.

Furthermore, it is believed that the ancestors of Australian Aborigines, Papuans, Melanesians, Negritos, and Onges also went across the Lombok Strait to Sahul by boat more than 50,000 years ago.

Ancient Egypt

There’s ample evidence from the fourth millennium BC that suggests that the ancient Egyptians had already developed early boat-building techniques as early as 3,100 BC, when they managed to assemble wooden planks into a ship hull, therefore creating early boats. In addition to that, there are pottery fragments that depict what clearly are early designs of boats most likely used for navigation.

As explained by the Archeological Institute of America, some of the oldest ships unearthed in history are the so-called Abydos Boars, a group of 14 vessels discovered in Abydos, Egypt, constructed of wooden planks which are believed to have been “sewn” together, producing resistant vessels.

Abydos is considered one of the oldest cities of ancient Egypt.