Place in boat building history
Boats of Ferriby type have no known ancestors or descendants but are obviously
of a long lineage. The earliest known boats are log-boats or dugouts, with examples
from Holland and Denmark going back to the Middle Stone Age or Mesolithic at about
7000 BC. Logboats survived in Europe until modern times and are still made in
In Europe planked boats are thought to have been derived from extended log-boats
or from rafts. In the case of ancient Egypt their form suggests that reed-bundle
boats have a place in their ancestry. After a period of stitching or sewing of
planks, the Egyptians developed edge-fastening by mortises and tenons which became
the standard method throughout the Mediterranean and lasted through Greek and
Roman times. Frames developed there too, eventually into the rigid frame-skeleton,
covered in planking, of the familiar carvel-build. In the north, hulls were built
up of thin planking overlapping at the edges which were 'clenched' by dowels or
by iron rivets, hence the common term 'clinker-construction'. Ribs were inserted
afterwards to keep the hull in shape. These two methods are termed 'skeleton first'
and 'shell first' respectively.
The earliest plank-built boats are from Ancient Egypt and include the royal barge
of Pharaoh Cheops, found dismantled in a rock-crypt in front of the great Pyramid
and dated to about 2600 BC. Sea-going vessels followed and are depicted in bas-reliefs
and wall paintings. In the Aegean a positive regatta of boats was depicted in
fresco on the walls of a building destroyed by the great volcanic eruption of
the island of Thera (Santorini) in c.1400 BC.
Our British Bronze Age boats, ranging in age from the Ferriby boats (c.1800 BC)
to the Brigg 'raft' (c.800 BC), in their several ways resemble none of these and
are unknown elsewhere. The nearest in age from Northern Europe is the unique Hjortspring
canoe from Denmark of c.400 BC.
For fifty years the Ferriby boats and the accounts of them stood as a benchmark
for the study of ancient boats in this country. They had no equals in Europe and
for that matter anywhere. It is only in the last five years, first by the Severn
Estuary and in 1992 at Dover, that their like has been found.