Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Magan Boat Project

One of the more interesting presentations from last week's Seminar for Arabian Studies was Tom Vosmer's report on the latest efforts of the Magan Boat Project. This group works under the idea that they can learn more about the unknown elements of Bronze Age sailing from southeastern Arabia to Gujarat by building duplicates of the Bronze Age boats and trying to sail them, seeing what sort of construction materials and techniques best conform to the surviving evidence.

The most recent version, Magan III, launched last September, and sank after a few hours. Regrettably, I can't capture the humor with which Vosmer told the story of the boat's construction and brief voyage. However, I do remember much of what they learned. One was the efficacy of wool sails in the Gulf of Oman, which they had never before tried. Another was that bitumen from southern Iraq worked much better than the non-Gulf products they had used earlier. Furthermore, although holes began to appear between the reed bundles as the bitumen curles around them soon after setting sail, the patching they did with bits of rope and wood en route closely resembled the remains of Bronze Age ships, suggesting this was a problem sailors then encountered and solved the same way.

We can expect to learn more, as they're already planning Magan IV.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home