Piece of nautical pre-history on show at Maritime Museum
A piece of pottery now on display at Falmouth’s National Maritime Museum could show the earliest depiction of a boat in all of British history.
The new addition to the “2012BC: Cornwall and the Sea in the Bronze Age” exhibition was found during excavations of a roundhouse on St Agnes in the Isles of Scilly.
Sean Taylor, archaeologist with the Cornwall Council Historic Environment Service (CCHES), thinks the unusual markings on the “sherd” (the archaeological term for a historic or prehistoric fragment of pottery), resembles a masted ship, and if they are, then this is a hugely significant find for British history.
He said: “The sherd is part of a small thick-walled vessel, perhaps a cup or beaker, and it’s highly unusual in that it has been inscribed, prior to firing, with a freehand design. If this is a ship, and it does look like a masted ship, then this is the earliest representation of a boat ever found in the UK.
“My theory is that a Phoenician trading vessel was blown off course and was seen passing the Scillies. This would have been a remarkable sight worth commemorating, hence it being drawn on a pot. However, masted boats are not known in this country until the first century BC, this sherd dates back to 1000-800BC confirming the importance and rarity of this object. ”
Jenny Wittamore, assistant curator at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall said: “We are so excited to be displaying this previously unseen and barely known about object. “To think that this might be the earliest depiction of a boat in the British Isles is incredible and a moment and object from history we are very lucky to have on display.”
The pottery sherd will go on display in the St Agnes Museum on the Isles of Scilly after the close of the Maritime Museum’s exhibition later this year.