Neolithic log boat at Strangford Lough

Neolithic log boat at Strangford Lough - as it is today

One of the most impressive archaeological discoveries in Northern Ireland is the Neolithic log boat at Strangford Lough. Sitting in the sands at Grey Abbey Bay, this amazing archaeological find was uncovered in 2000 by the Centre for Maritime Archaeology as part of a lough wide survey. A sample of the wood was radiocarbon dated to between 3499 and 3032 BC. This makes the Neolithic log boat in Strangford Lough over 5,000 years old and the oldest boat in Ireland found in a marine setting.

Story of the Strangford Lough Neolithic log boat

Over 5,000 years ago, a man trudged up and down the shores of Strangford Lough. He was frustrated, because he was fed up eating shellfish and seaweeds from the foreshore. He knew that there was an abundance of big, tasty fish out in the deep water, but he just couldn’t get to them. However he was ambitious and had an idea.
 
He walked along the forested shore until he found the biggest oak tree in the vicinity. Using only stone tools, he chopped away at the base until this enormous tree came crashing down. He then went about the slow process of hollowing out this massive trunk until he had created a log boat over 30 feet (9m) long. It must have taken him weeks. Rounding up some friends, they hauled and hauled until they had dragged it to the water’s edge. To great relief, it floated.
 
This is an imaginary scenario, but this is what happens as we wonder how the Neolithic log boat can still be seen sitting in the sand of Grey Abbey Bay. The boat is unique because it is one of only a few maritime finds of this nature discovered in Ireland. Made of oak heartwood, the remains measure 9.1m long by at most 0.89m wide.  A sample of the wood was radiocarbon dated to cal.3499-3032 BC.
 

What do we know about one of the oldest boats in Ireland?

Although the sides have mostly rotted away, there is enough of the base remaining for the archaeologists to calculate the shape and size of the vessel. It is thought that this impressive archaeological discovery was 30.67 feet (9.35m) long, with a thick hull and low centre of gravity which gave it stability in a choppy marine environment. The boat could probably carry up to 5 men and could have been used to cover quite long distances at sea.  
 
If the boat is removed from the mud completely, it will probably start to rot away, unless it is stored in expensive facilities and under preservative chemicals. This is why the decision was made to leave it in the exact position it was found. By allowing it to remain in this spot for a few thousand years more, future generations can admire it in the place in which it was found.
 
If you ever visit Grey Abbey Bay, have a look and admire a special piece of history.