3000-year-old hand-sewn boat wreck resurfacing off Croatia

The ship was built of many pieces of wood that had been intricately sewn together.
Loukia Papadopoulos
The shipwreck.jpg
The shipwreck.


The oldest-ever hand-sewn boat is about to resurface from the depths of Croatia's waters in the Mediterranean.

This is according to a press release published this month by CNRS.

“The Zambratija boat in Croatia has stood the test of time, with 7 of its 12-meters still being remarkably well preserved. Dated to between the end of the 12th and the end of the 10th century BC, it is the oldest entirely hand-sewn boat in the Mediterranean. This wreck – a rare example of the ancient shipbuilding tradition of Istria and Dalmatia – will be studied in detail by a Franco-Croatian team from the Centre Camille Jullian (CNRS/AMU) and the Archaeological Museum of Istria (Pula, Croatia). From the 2nd July 2023, a team of divers will remove sections of the boat in the bay of Zambratija,” noted the statement

“Once the pieces have been removed and placed in a bespoke support, the scientists will reconstruct the boat in 3D and precise its construction date, will identify the fibers used for sewing and study the techniques used to shape the wood. Handling relics of this caliber is a delicate affair; therefore, every stage of the process will require the utmost care. Once the analyses have been completed, this exceptional vessel and its components will be desalted in Croatia before heading to Grenoble in 2024, where they will pass through the capable hands of the Arc-Nucléart restoration workshop. It is hoped that the fully-restored boat will one day be exhibited in a new museum dedicated to Istria's naval maritime heritage in Pula, Croatia.”

The vessel measures about 39 feet, about 23 feet of which are still very well preserved. The ship is built of many pieces of wood intricately sewn together using strong and flexible fibers.

Through this ambitious mission, CNRS scientists hope to reveal the boat's construction date, identify the fibers employed for sewing, and surface the secrets of wood shaping techniques used by our ancestors.

CNRS is the French National Centre for Scientific Research. The center is "among the world's leading research institutions. Its scientists explore the living world, matter, the Universe, and the functioning of human societies in order to meet the major challenges of today and tomorrow. Internationally recognised for the excellence of its scientific research, the CNRS is a reference in the world of research and development, as well as for the general public."

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