Ancient History

8,000-Year-Old Structure Turns Out to Be Oldest Ship Building Site on Earth

A diver inspecting the site. Image Credit: National Oceanography Center.

More than 8,000 years ago, ancient people inhabiting what is now England built intricate ships, revolutionizing our understanding of shipbuilding and human exploration.

A recently uncovered 8,000-year-old structure has been recognized as the oldest boat building site in the world on the Isle of Wight, in England. As revealed in a statement, the archeological site is located east of Yarmouth.

The site, now submerged, is recognized by experts as the most intact Middle Stone Age wooden structure ever found in the United Kingdom.

Rewriting shipbuilding history

Director of the Maritime Archaeological Trust, Garry Momber, explained: “This new discovery is particularly important as the wooden platform is part of a site that doubles the amount of worked wood found in the UK from a period that lasted 5,500 years.”

Scientists revealed that the site is now submerged at around 11 meters below sea level. However, during the period when there was human activity on the site, it was dry land with lush vegetation.

Importantly, it was at a time before the North Sea formed completely and the Isle of Wight was still connected to continental Europe, reveal researchers.

Diver inspecting underwater archaeological site. Image Credit: Maritime Archaeological Trust.

Diver inspecting an underwater archaeological site. Image Credit: Maritime Archaeological Trust.

The site, which was first discovered in 2005, contains a provision of cut wood that researchers have identified as platforms, walkways or collapsed structures.

However, these were difficult to interpret until state-of-the-art photogrammetry techniques were used to analyze the remains.

Worryingly, during the end of spring, the structure was observed eroding into the drowned forest.

Therefore, scientists were tasked to create a 3D digital landscape model which then allowed non-divers to study and analyze it.

Unprecedented details

It was then excavated during the summer and has revealed since then, a cohesive platform consisting of split woods, several layers thick, resting on foundations of rolled wood laid out horizontally.

Most importantly, the researchers have revealed that the site is home to a large amount of previously unseen evidence, suggesting people had extremely well-developed technical skills more than 8,000 years ago.

This has led experts to somewhat rewrite their understanding about the capabilities and skills of people inhabiting what is now the Isle of Wight, more than 8 millennia ago.

The site is evidence that advanced woodworking techniques and skills developed much sooner than previously thought.

“The site contains a wealth of evidence for technological skills that were not thought to have been developed for a further couple of thousand years, such as advanced woodworking. This site shows the value of marine archaeology for understanding the development of civilization,” explained Garry.

“Yet, being underwater, there are no regulations that can protect it. Therefore, it is down to our charity, with the help of our donors, to save it before it is lost forever,” he concluded.

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