5,000-year-old logboat found in river Boyne near Newgrange

Scientific dating has confirmed that the remains of a logboat found in the River Boyne close to the Brú na Bóinne World Heritage Site dates to the Neolithic period, over 5,000 years ago.

The prehistoric logboat was found in June 2016 by four local anglers while fishing on the river at Oldbridge, County Meath. Stephen Murphy, Kieran Mahar, William Gregory and David Johnston immediately reported it to the heritage authorities.

William Gregory and Stephen Murphy (two of the finders) examining the logboat prior to it being lifted onto the riverbank (Mary McAleese Boyne Valley Suspension Bridge in the background).

The remains of the vessel consist of a 3m length of wood which would have formed the base of the boat. It is estimated that the logboat was originally more than 4m long, shaped out of the trunk of an oak tree using stone axes.

This discovery is one of 11 logboats found in the River Boyne, though this is the first boat found to date to the Neolithic period – a sample of the wood has very recently been radiocarbon dated to between 3,300-2,900BC. This is the period of the construction of the great passage tomb complexes of Knowth, Dowth and Newgrange.

The National Monuments Service Underwater Archaeology Unit and the National Museum of Ireland collaborated in recording the boat and carefully removing it from the river bed to the museum facilities, where it is currently undergoing conservation.

Minister Madigan said: “I want to sincerely thank all involved for reporting this discovery so quickly, which has allowed for its care and ongoing conservation and for this exciting new scientific date to be obtained. This new knowledge adds to the wonderful archaeological discoveries made this summer across Brú na Bóinne and enhances our understanding of the people within this special landscape, so dominated by the great River Boyne which would have played such a central part in their lives. 

The section of river at Oldbridge where the boat was discovered.

“The importance of this discovery and the scientific date which has now been obtained for it lies in its contemporaneity with the building of the Great Passage tomb of Newgrange and the other wonderful passage tombs that dominate our World Heritage Site of Brú na Bóinne. It is tempting to ponder the part such a vessel might have played in the construction of these burial monuments and the lives of those who built them, in ferrying people along the river, and transporting materials and stones used to build the great tombs.”

Details will be added to the Department’s online Wreck Viewer which launched earlier this year and which helps promote a wider appreciation of Ireland’s maritime and riverine archaeology and the important role boats and ships played in the development of our island society over millennia.

Discoveries

This latest discovery follows a year of incredible finds in the Boyne Valley. Anthony Murphy of Mythical Ireland found (with Ken Williams) a late Neolithic henge or pit circle in a wheat field near Newgrange during the summer drought in early July. Matthew and Geraldine Stout unearthed part of a Neolithic cursus monument at Newgrange Farm, and archaeologists found a passage-tomb complex under Dowth Hall, a georgian mansion not far from the great megalithic passage-mound of Dowth.

Below is footage of the biggest discovery from the summer - a late Neolithic henge or post circle found in a field close to Newgrange:

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This page was last updated on 23rd November 2018 @ 12:15 PM