Neolithic log boat

Neolithic log boat at Strangford Lough - as it is today

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. But 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.  
 
Of course, this is an imaginary scenario. But we can be sure that this did indeed happen because, unbelievably, the log boat can still be seen sitting in the sand of Greyabbey Bay. It has been carbon dated to between 3499 and 3032 BC which makes it over 5,000 years old. In fact, it is the oldest boat in Ireland found in a marine setting.
 
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 it 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. It 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. So the decision was made to leave it in the exact position it was found. Hopefully it will remain in this spot for a few thousand years more, for future generations to admire. So next time your near Greyabbey Bay have a look and picture the history for yourself.