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Sugar Coated - Iron Age Boat

Source: The Times: 11 June 2005

Sweet return for Iron Age boat with a heart of oak
By Simon de Bruxelles

AN ANCIENT dugout canoe is to be seen in public for the first time in 2,300 years after spending the past decade being preserved in sugar.

The same principles used to preserve fruit were used to save the Iron Age craft from crumbling after it was found buried in sediment at the bottom of Poole Harbour in Dorset.

The sugar treatment was crucial to prevent the 32ft canoe crumbling on exposure to air. It was found during dredging in the early 1960s and spent the next 30 years submerged in a tank of water while experts debated how best to keep it intact.

The boat is now being kept in a warm room while the last of the water evaporates and after that it will go on display at the Poole museum.

The canoe is thought to have been built by the Durotriges tribe in about 300BC specifically for use in the harbour where it was found. The draft is too shallow for it to be used in the open sea and its length would have made it awkward to manoeuvre on local rivers.

The canoe was made by splitting an oak trunk measuring 32ft (9.75m) by 6ft (1.8m) that weighed up to 12 tonnes. The trunk was hollowed out and the bow and stern were then carved into it. It would probably have propelled by paddle and is likely to have been used to ferry goods and passengers from sea-going vessels to the shore. Experts estimate that it could carry two to three tonnes of goods and up to a dozen people.

The Durotriges are known to have traded with tribes on the Continent and also imported goods such as wine, table wares, olives and spices from as far afield as Greece and Rome. Exports from Britain included pottery, jewellery and salt.

The trading ships are believed to have moored alongside a recently rediscovered causeway that linked Green Island and the mainland.

Keith Jarvis, of Poole Museum, said: "The sugar replaces the water in the wood so that it does not disintegrate when it hits the air. It is a gradual process and we've had it buried for ten years, constantly seeing how much water is left.

"The boat is now in a tent being warmed to extract the last of the water. After that we can put it on display in the museum, which is having a room added," he said.

"It is an important and unique boat and it is wonderful that after 40 years it will soon be on display for the public to see."

Source: The Times: 11 June 2005
Ike Posted by Ike
12th June 2005ce
Edited 10th February 2006ce

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