Sunday 21 January 2018

Fishbones reveal our ancient transport secrets

Old fish bones and dead insects could be the key to the story of Ireland's transport system, 500 years before gridlock.

The fish bones, insect carcasses and dead plant material are wedged in the timbers of a medieval boat recovered from the river Boyne, near Drogheda.

The boat has now been lifted from the river-bed and the Department of Environment is looking for experts who will be able to unravel the story from minute remains left in the vessel.

The "Drogheda Boat" was discovered during dredging operations in the river and carbon dating of some of the timbers suggest it is at least 500 years old.

The Department wants a proper analysis, which should be able to pinpoint the age of the boat to within a couple of decades.

The wreck of the medieval coastal boat is the first discovery of its kind in Ireland and, unusually, much of the boat is intact. It was excavated and lifted from the river bed by the Department's Underwater Archaeology Unit in cooperation with the National Museum of Ireland and Drogheda Port company.


It is hoped that analysis of organic residue in the vessel will tell what it was carrying in its barrels and give vital information on trade and transport in Ireland during that era.

A team of experts is needed to examine everything from fish and insect remains along with plant species from the organic hoop binding used in the boat.

An archeological interpretation of the findings compared with other material from the same period is also required.

The Department has put a contract for the study out to tender and replies must be received by September 26.

When all the analysis is complete, it is hoped to put the vessel on public display.

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