The Carpow Logboat
It is quite astonishing how much of our early past is being revealed thanks to the fastidious work of our dedicated archaeologists and associates . In these blogs we have discussed the early Neolithic findings including the Crieff Cursus , the Forteviot burial sites and the timber round houses revealed during the preliminary work on the Beauly to Denny power lines . What should not be ignored is a quite astonishing discovery at Carpow where the River Earn joins up with the mighty Tay .
Carpow Bank is a small tidal shelf lying off the south side of the river . The name Carpow appears on a many ancient maps There is a belief that here the Romans established a boat bridge providing a crossing to the north side of the Tay . This would have been close to their Fort at Carpow . According to David Strachan’s superb book “ Carpow in Context ”( Society of Antiquaries of Scotland . Edinburgh 2010) it is clear from the study of many of the old maps of this area ( National Library of Scotland : http://maps.nls.uk/ ) that the area around this part of the Tay and Earn were criss crossed by numerous ferries allowing good communication in an era where cars , trains and busses did not exist !
Perhaps this is why our ancient relatives in all probability dropped roots in what is now a very quiet back water . Their communication was primarily by water and not land particularly in view of the wild terrain and animal predators including bears , wolves and lynx . The craft they used to cross the rivers and tidal waters was termed a logboat .Again quoting from Strachan : “ The earliest known logboat in Britain is the oak fragment from Catherinefield in Dumfries and Galloway of around 2000 BC . The latest are late medieval in date , but there are 18th century Scottish documentary references to their use . In Fox’s day ( Sir Cyril Fox , Director of the National Museum in Cardiff .1925 ) all British logboats were assumed to be prehistoric , ie pre Roman . Now that a number of logboats from this country have been dated scientifically , we realise that most are of Roman or of medieval date , such as Carpow is both unusual and most welcome .”
The logboat after excavation
Logboats have been discovered in this vicinity on a number of occasions but mostly in the 19th century . The Carpow finding occurred in 2001 when a Dundee metal detecting enthusiast Scott McGuckin and two colleagues were searching the mudflats at low tide primarily for Roman artifacts on account of the proximity of the site of the old Roman Carpow Fort . The three had split up to carry out individual searches when McGuckin espied an object sticking up from the sand . The eagle eyed searcher realised this appeared to be the stern of a logboat . He had recognised it from seeing similar one in the McManus Gallery in his home town . The find was duly reported and as it was located within the geographical boundaries of Perth and Kinross , the onus fell upon them to investigate the find further .
In 2001 ,the archaeological team which was organised by the Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust ( PKHT) developed an evaluation strategy which had four main objectives
- To establish the date of the vessel
- To establish the condition of the buried portion of the vessel
- To establish the full length of the vessel
- Too protect the vessel in situ while long term management options were considered
It was determined that the age of the Carpow logboat was around 1000BC ( late Bronze Age ) and that it was constructed from a single oak trunk . Although the prow of the boat was exposed above the sand the greater portion lay buried .When finally excavated the boat was some 9 metres long .The boat was carefully removed and transported to the National Museum in Edinburgh where it was carefully restored. Such was the complexity of this part of the project , that it took some 5 years to complete .
The logboat at Newburgh on its way to Edinburgh
Careful you go !
What was so interesting about the Carpow log boat that has drawn the attention of so many people ? Only two logboats of the Carpow vintage so far discovered in the UK have had fitted transom boards . What you may ask is a transom board ? This was inserted into the main structure to assist with navigation particularly in tidal and strong flowing waters . From Strachan’ s book we find : “ A notable feature of the Carpow boat is that she appears to have been fitted with a dwarf transom aft of her main transom . This may have been inserted to stem the flow of water that could have swept through the main transom when this boat had, on occasions , to be paddled stern first , for example , when manoeuvring within a narrow river . “
The Carpow logboat was until recently on display in Perth Museum . It has now been sent to Glasgow on loan to the Glasgow Museums’ Resource Centre where it will be on display for the next 5 years .
The location of the find
THANKS TO DAVID STRACHAN AND THE PERTH AND KINROSS HERITAGE TRUST AND THE BOOK " CARPOW IN CONTEXT " FOR MUCH OF THE BACKGROUND INFORMATION AND PICS . CHECK OUT THEIR WEB SITE :http://www.pkht.org.uk/