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Dublin: 11 °C Tuesday 23 December, 2014

Ancient log boat found on banks of River Boyne

The find was made by members of the Boyne Fishermen’s Rescue and Recovery Service as they cleaned up the river.

AN ANCIENT LOG BOAT has been found on the banks of the River Boyne in Drogheda.

The find was made by a member of Boyne Fisherman’s Rescue and Recovery group (BFRR) during a check of the river.

“We routinely take trolleys out of the river,” PRO Sean Cahill explained. Such items are dangerous for divers so the group does regular surveys to ensure objects are removed.

With the Maritime Festival coming up, the divers wanted the place to look good, said Cahill. Two members of the BFRR, Christy Finglas and Michael Hodgins, were on a boat travelling along the River Boyne when Finglas spotted what he thought could be a log boat.

Pic: Sean Cahill/Boyne Fisherman’s Rescue and Recovery Service

He was familiar with its shape as the BFRR had been involved in the retrieval of a similar log-boat a number of years ago.

With the river at low tide, Finglas could make out the shape of the boat and alerted Hodgins to it. They knew “that it wasn’t an ordinary piece of debris”, said Cahill. The boat was embedded under where the water would normally be, and its outline was visible due to the lower tide level.

Pic: Sean Cahill/Boyne Fisherman’s Rescue and Recovery Service

They contacted Cahill and then the National Museum, who sent out an archaeologist specialising in such finds. “I think he was surprised,” said Cahill, who said it is believed this log boat is a different type to the one found a few years ago.

Underwater archaeologist with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Karl Brady, told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that it appears to be an ancient style log boat, and that only a small part is exposed.

Pic: Sean Cahill/Boyne Fisherman’s Rescue and Recovery Service

Such boats have been in use for 7 – 8000 years in Irish waters, but judging by some features on the boat, such as hollows that may have been for oars, it might date from the 15 – 18th century, he added.

Log boats were used for fishing and transporting goods.

The boat is significantly submerged, but Brady said that layers of silt mean it is well preserved. The site will be monitored and the boat will most likely be kept in the river bed, unless it begins to deteriorate and conservation is needed.

Ned Kelly, keeper of antiquities at the National Museum, said that there have been a number of finds of log boats and other objects in the River Boyne, and some of them have probably been swept down the river. He said that log boats were used in Ireland since the earlier times and that the Boyne is a particularly important river.

A previous log boat find included a slave chain, slave collar and skull with cut marks on it. However, it doesn’t appear there are any items to be found as yet in this newly-discovered log boat. Kelly added that a radiocarbon sample will be extracted from the vessel in order to date it.

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