Tuesday, August 12, 2008

2,500-Year-Old Greek Ship Raised off Sicilian Coast


"An ancient Greek ship recently raised off the coast of southern Sicily, Italy, is the biggest and best maintained vessel of its kind ever found, archaeologists say. At a length of nearly 70 feet (21 meters) and a width of 21 feet (6.5 meters), the 2,500-year-old craft is the largest recovered ship built in a manner first depicted in Homer's Iliad, which is believed to date back several centuries earlier.

The ship's outer shell was built first, and the inner framework was added later. The wooden planks of the hull were sewn together with ropes, with pitch and resin used as sealant to keep out water.

A floating crane lifted the main segment, a 36-foot (11-meter) chunk, and dragged it to land. The remains were then plunged into a tank of fresh water to remove the salt from the wood.

"The vessel was a mercantile sailer, probably used to sail short stretches along the coast, docking frequently to load and unload," said Rosalba Panvini, head of the Cultural Heritage Department of Sicily, who directed the raising operations.

Recovered artifacts—including cups, two-handled jars called amphoras, oil lamps, pottery, and fragments of straw baskets—reveal details of the ship's journey before it sank, Panvini said.

"The vessel stopped in Athens, then in the Peloponnese Peninsula," Panvini said. "It sailed up the western coast of Greece, crossed the Otranto Channel, coasted along Italy, and pointed to Sicily."

The ship was headed for Gela, then a Greek colony. About a half mile (800 meters) off the coast, a storm probably tilted the ship. The ballast broke the hull, and the vessel went down, where it lay on the muddy seabed for 25 centuries." - More

"The earliest example of a sewn boat comes from North Ferriby, where one sample (called F2) carbon dates to 1930-1750 BC. Later finds include some early Greek ships. The oldest Nordic find is the Hjortspring boat in Denmark (c 300 BC). In Finland, Russia, Karelia and Estonia small sewn boats have been constructed more recently, until the 1920s in poor areas of Russia.

While European sewn boats are the best known, sewn boats existed in many areas, often as the next step from a dugout canoe[1]. An example of a non-European sewn boat is the Micronesian proa. Sewn boats are important in the study of Viking Age longships, which use the basic architecture of sewn boats, although they make use of metal fasteners." - Wikipedia