The Ancient Britons

The Channel tunnel now links Britain to the mainland of Europe, as it was six thousand years ago, until the North Sea divided the landmasses and broke through the Ice fields to make Britain an island. As result of which those ancient mariners used rafts and primitive dugout boats to cross the enormous ditch to reach our Island. Such was the beginnings of Britain's long and famous maritime past, we now can travel by train under the channel, while overhead 500 ships every day use the Channel as they travel to and from all corners of the world, which they had done for centuries. Off the coasts of Folkestone and Dover have been numerous ships losses that have occurred throughout history. An extensive maritime trading with the continent has been established for thousands of years, these trade routes were already well-established before the Romans invaded Britain.

An example of a coastal trading vessel is the Bronze Age boat found on 28th September 1992 during some roadworks at Dover as a planning requirement there had to be a watching brief when digging an underpass. During the work the digger driver hit some strange wooden remains, and brought these to the attention of the Archaeologist on site, doing the watching-brief, Keith Parfitt from the Canterbury Archaeological Trust, the first thought was that it was something to do with part of the Roman harbour wall, from wooden door handle looking item perhaps the remains of an ancient door. This "door" turned out to be part of a boat, some days later, Nautical archaeologists were officially advised of the anomaly, and knew the significance of the find. As there has been other Bronze Age boats finds, and the nautical archaeologist knows how the find should be handled, recorded, preserved and conserved.

Samples of the Bronze Age find were taken for analysis, and the vessel underwent investigations by Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS). The date of the craft was found to be probably dating to around 1575-1520BC. The earliest form of a sewn plank boat found so far is the “Cheops boat” of Kuufu (King Cheops) a full intact vessel of a "solar barge" from Ancient Egypt that was sealed in the Giza pyramid complex at the foot of the Geat Pyramid if Giza, dated to around 2,600BC. Of the nine sewn-plank boats found in Britain, only five might be older than the Dover boat,

Although there was no cargo found, there was a large amount of ‘quartz sand’ as well as glauconite grains from the Lower Cretaceous Greensands which are found in the Folkestone area, possibly suggesting the boat had been used in the transportation of quern-stones.

In 1974 members of the Dover sub-aqua club began to find bronze objects just outside Dover harbour. These were identified as a range of tools, weapons and ornaments made in France during the Middle Bronze Age, including some types rarely found in Britain. More than 350 objects have been recorded and raised from the site and these were acquired by the British Museum but some are currently on display at Dover Museum. This collection of bronze is thought to be part of a cargo of scrap being transported from mainland Europe to Britain in about 1100BC.

These bronze finds suggest that during the Bronze Age maritime trading across, and along the Channel was widespread amongst the coastal community, and vessels of all shapes and sizes would have been involved. Due to the shallow waters small craft that could be easy manoeuvred and beached or used in the river estuaries, would have been used to ferry goods to and from larger vessels at anchor in deeper water. Perhaps during one day in the Bronze Age during the transfer of delivering a cargo of scrap Bronze tools between such vessels some of the cargo was lost. Perhaps there was a cargo of quern stones which was being ferried out to the cargo ships was lost in the same manner. There were a number of quern production foreshore sites in the Folkestone area so there was an indication that possibly the Dover boat had at sometime been engaged in such transportation trade.

In a few years’ time, a report may be published by the Canterbury Archaeological Trust of a shore settlement of 4,000 years ago, (late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age). in the "Beaker tradition” found at Holywell Coombe, Folketsone, during the construction of the Channel tunnel. The Trust have still to list and identify and declare their finds from the excavations in 1985, which still awaits publication, so untill then we are not able to find out about those Ancient times at Holywell.
Besides the Dover Bronze Age boat, another Bronze Age boat was found in the Channel in May 2009, the craft was estimated at being around 40ft long and 6ft wide, and dated to around 900 BC. It would appear that the craft had been trading with the continent and had sunk only 300 yard off Salcombe, south Devon, with her cargo of 86 kilograms comprising of 27 tin ingots and 259 copper ingots. Other items found included a bronze leaf sword 950-850Bc and three gold wrist torcs or bracelets. - Click here for more details.
Asnapio Archaeology Park, is located in the heart of the natural area of Villeneuve d'Ascq, near Lille, the archaeological park Asnapio allows you to go rediscover the past and to understand it.
Houses from the Palaeolithic era to Carolingian times were built thanks to archaeological resources using ancient techniques in order to give a more concrete picture of the places our ancestors lived in. All the year long, special events give you an alternative vision of archaeology. The archaeology park covers 6 hectares in the countryside setting of the Parc du Héron and traces changes in living accommodation in northern France from Neolithic times to the late Middle Ages. Click here for details

There are reconstructions of two Bronze Age roundhouses and one from the Iron Age at Flag Fen near Peterborough, England is a Bronze Age site, probably religious. It comprises over 60,000 timbers arranged in five very long rows (around 1 km) connecting Whittlesey Island with Peterborough across the wet fenland. Part way across the structure, a small island was formed which is where it is presumed that the religious ceremonies occurred.

The picture shows the reconstruction of a Bronze Age round house. Click for link.

The Palaeolithic period gave way to the Mesolithic, then the Early and Late Neolithic. The hunter-gathers begin to give up their nomadic existence and settle down, establishing Bronze Age settlements and those of the Early and Late Iron Age. The Ancient Britons had well established maritime connections with the continental settlements, such as those brought about the Belgic tribe conquest of South England by 75 BC. Riches were to be made from trading, stories of which reached the ears of Rome, where expeditions were planned to the Island which Julius Caesar undertook in 55-54 BC.
The Ancient Britons Trail >.

Can a full size version of the Dover Bronze Age boat be built, in the 'old ways' and a crew found to paddle it cross the Channel?

In February 2008 it was announced that a replica of the Dover Bronze Age boat, 10 metres long and two and a half metres wide, made by lashing oak timbers held together with cords of yew wood. Moss and beeswax would then stuffed between the joints to make them watertight would be built and would sail from Folkestone to Wissant in France in 2010, crewed by volunteers from the British Dragon Boat Association. (Click here for details). After arriving in France, it was to become part of a travelling exhibition about the Golden Age of Europe 3,500 years ago. The venture, was to be overseen by the Dover Bronze Age Boat Trust, costing about £900,000, including the exhibition.

A half-size reconstruction was attempted costing around £1.7 million of European project funding. In February 2012 work started on building a half-scale model of a ‘sewn-plank boat’ at Dover which finished on 11th May 2012, only to find on the launch day that boat would sink when it was put in to the water!

At the other end of the Channel, there is another Bronze Age boat build which started in April 2012 to recreate another sewn-plank boat dating to around 1500 BC., using ancient tools including bronze axes at the in Falmouth, as part of a project devised by the University of Exeter. Click here for more details.

On Wednesday 6 March 2013, the Western channel replica Bronze Age Boat boat "Morgawr" was launched at the slipway between Falmouth Watersports Centre and the National Maritime Museum Cornwall in Falmouth, this one floated and took to the water.

If and when both these full size Bronze Age Sewn-Boat reconstructions are complete, could we see a new type of university boat race not down the Thames but across the Channel? - In Bronze Age style!