A boat from the Bronze Age

We peer through the glass case at the boat from the Bronze Age, around 3500 years old. We are in the Dover Museum, where the Bronze Age boat has a whole floor devoted to it. Discovered in 1992 six metres below the streets of Dover while a road was being built, it is remarkably well preserved. Almost 10 m long, its planks, black from the silt in which it laid for so long, are of oak lashed together with yew branches tightened with wedges. However, it may well have been significantly longer than this as not all of the boat could be excavated without making some existing houses unsafe. We are awed to think that this boat could have been longer than Ruby Tuesday and capable of going to sea. It was about this time that tin had been discovered in Cornwall and was being exported all over Bronze Age Europe, so perhaps it had been involved in that? Are we sailing the same routes that it had?

The Bronze Age boat in Dover Museum.

We read that the boat might have been purposely laid to rest in a small tributary in the River Dour, which still exists although today is no more than a small creek. What sort of people had used the boat, we wonder? What was their world like, what did they think about, what did they worship, and did they believe in an afterlife? Why had they laid the boat to rest? It must have had some special significance for them to have done so. Perhaps it was an appeasement to some long-forgotten river-god? Or had the owner of the boat, the chief perhaps, died, and it was thought appropriate to bury his boat at the same time, a little bit like the boat burial at Sutton Hoo that we had seen earlier?

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