12th Century Slavic Boats Used to Compete with Vikings in Baltic Sea Undergo Reconstruction in Poland

12th Century Slavic Boats Used to Compete with Vikings in Baltic Sea Undergo Reconstruction in Poland

The 12th century Slavic boat undergoing reconstruction in Poland. Photo: Science in Poland

Experts from Poland’s National Maritime Museum in Tczew have begun the reconstruction of a boat from the 12th-century that Slavs in what later became Poland used to compete with the Vikings   in the Baltic Sea.

The medieval Slavic boat in question dubbed P-3 by the museum has been salvaged from the bottom of the Bay of Puck, and is dated back to 1158, Science in Poland reports.

The Slavic boat’s reconstruction has begun at the Shipwreck Conservation Centre in Tczew, a facility of the Polish National Maritime Museum in Gdansk.

“This is a pioneering project,” Jerzy Litwin, Director of the National Maritime Museum in the Baltic Sea city of Gdansk is quoted as saying.

“We have created a special metal basket that allows for precise positioning of individual structural elements,” he explains, adding that the method in question will allow the experts to recreate the shape and the actual dimensions of the boat.

It is pointed out that Viking boats are exhibited in a similar way in museums throughout Scandinavia.

Nobody has attempted such a reconstruction in Poland until now, and reconstructions of Slavic boats are also rare, with only two such exhibits kept in Polish museums, one of which was reconstructed before World War II.

According to specialists, the use of said metal basket will allow to try to match the keel, plating elements and the frame.

Medieval Slavic boat builders followed a different order of work stages. They would build the shell first and then they would embed the frames.

The characteristic features of Slavic boats include thin sheathing, wooden pegs, and moss sealing.

Similar Scandinavian boats were built using iron rivets and animal hair. Unlike the Scandinavian boats, the Slavic boats were flat-bottomed and made exclusively of oak.

The basic propulsion of Slavic boats were paddles. The rowers’ seats were placed at the floor level, at a distance of about one meter from each other.

The reconstructed P-3 boat also has a mast slot, which allows to insert one mast and set a quadrangular sail. Rudder-shaped steering device was mounted to the aft part of the starboard.

The boat crew of the 12th century Slavic boat consisted of 10-12 people, and it could carry 2 metric tons of goods.

The oak used to build the P-3 comes from the Zaodrze forests, which has led to hypotheses that the boat appeared in the waters of the Bay of Puck as a result of the retreat of Slavic tribes from the territories of present-day Germany.

According to Museum Director Jerzy Litwin, the P-3 boat reminds of an important period in the Slavic history.

“In the early Middle Ages, between the 10th and the 12th century on the Baltic Sea, the Slavs were partners and rivals of the Scandinavians, popularly known as the Vikings,” he says.

“Our ancestors were dealing primarily with the Danes, with whom they were neighbors, with whom they were fighting, but cooperation and trade also took place. Those were very violent times, because the Slavs were known for raiding the Scandinavian territories. Scandinavian sources show that the Slavic fleets of hundreds of boats would sail to the Scandinavian shores and make dangerous assaults. The Slavs destroyed the competitive port in Hedeby, near Schleswig, which never recovered after the Slavic raid in the 11th century,” Litwin elaborates.

Poland’s National Maritime Museum has acquired a total of three wrecks of early medieval Slavic boats.

The exhibition of Slavic boats from the Viking times will to be one of the first exhibitions at the Museum of Marine Archaeology in Leba.

The construction of the said museum is scheduled to start in 2019, and it could be welcoming visitors in 2021.



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