Monday, June 20, 2011

Replica of 3500-year-old Minoan Ship Launched

"Under the aegis of the culture ministry and the expert supervision of Vice-Admiral Apostolos Kourtis, the vessel has been constructed to be as exact a replica as possible of a Bronze Age Aegean vessel of about 1500BC. Ancient building methods have been observed and materials identical to those of antiquity have been used.

Advising Kourtis in the design have been seven other members of the Ancient Shipping and Technology Research Institute and the Naval Museum of Crete. Of particular help, says Kourtis, has been a precious wall-painting of a Bronze Age vessel at sea miraculously preserved for over 3,000 years under volcanic ash and pumice in the town of Akrotiri on Thera (Santorini), buried in the great Late Bronze Age eruption. Invaluable practical boatbuilding input to the project has come from Hania's last living master boatbuilder, Haralambos Kokkinakis.

Cypress trees were felled in the village of Anoskeli, about 25km from Hania, using a Bronze Age type of serrated, two-handled saw. The central beam (tropida) is from a single 22m cypress tree given a gentle curve by the warmth of a suitably distant fire. Overlapping timbers were put together using bronze tools: a bow-drill (toxotrypano), hammers and chisels.

To make the vessel watertight, a mixture of lard (from cows) and resin (from pine trees) was applied to the timbers like varnish, then covered with linen canvas, the whole plastered with lime. The timbers are expected to swell as the vessel lies moored in the harbour over the winter, awaiting spring weather next year to embark on her maiden voyage via Kythira and Monemvasia to the Saronic Gulf. The Minoa will skim over the sea powered by a crew of two dozen rowers clad in the dark-blue and white Greek Olympic Games uniform. Helmsmen will stand on either side of the skipper seated in the stern in an enclosure protected up to shoulder level by animal hides. As in antiquity, the vessel will stick as much as possible in sight of land and confine sailing to daylight hours.

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