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Tracing technology: the material culture of maritime technology in the ancient Mediterranean and contemporary Indian Ocean

Whitewright, Julian, (2009) Tracing technology: the material culture of maritime technology in the ancient Mediterranean and contemporary Indian Ocean Bockius, Ronald (ed.) In Between the Seas: Transfer and Exchange in Nautical Technology. Proceedings of the Eleventh International Symposium on Boat and Ship Archaeology, Mainz 2006. Verlag des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums., pp. 489-497.

Record type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


The study of ancient ships has drawn the attention of scholars for at least 100 years (e.g. Torr 1895).
During this time the study of the rigging and sails of these vessels has generally received less attention
than the hulls upon which they were set. The advent of organised, systematic shipwreck archaeology in
the last 50 years has perhaps exacerbated this trend. Archaeologists have naturally tended to focus on the
classes of evidence which they have found in most abundance; hull remains and the cargoes contained
within them. Although rigging components (blocks, sails, masts, brails, cordage, etc) have survived in the
archaeological record, they have often been overlooked within the context of individual sites (some recent
exceptions include Beltrame & Gaddi 2005; Brusic & Domjan 1985; Fitzgerald 1994; Hesnard et al. 1988;
Mathews 2004; Riccardi 2002; Santamaria 1996; Wild & Wild 2001). Our under standing of ancient hull
construction has developed in conjunction with archaeological discoveries and has been reassessed in the
light of fresh excavation (e.g. Kahanov & Royal 2001; Kahanov et al. 2004; Mor & Kahanov 2006; Steffy
1994). However, an understanding of the rigging of ancient ships and the technological change which
they underwent has been based largely on iconographic and textual evidence (e.g. Basch 1987; Casson

Within the limited body of literature devoted to the discussion of the ancient sailing rig, much of the focus
has been devoted to the study and discussion of technology and technological change. Within this field the
subject of the transition from square-sail to fore and aft sail has witnessed continued, albeit sporadic study,
the principal subject of which has been the development and introduction of the lateen sail into the Mediterranean
(Basch 1989; 1991; 2001; Brindley 1926; Casson 1956; Friedman & Zoroglu 2006; La Roerie 1956; Le Baron-Bowen 1956; 1957; Pomey 2006; Pryor 1994; Sottas 1939). This paper sets out to characterise the square-rig and the lateen rig of the ancient Mediterranean from the perspective of their rigging components. Such an approach aims to elucidate the technological change which occurs to the sail-plans of Mediterranean vessels during late-antiquity by highlighting technical continuity and disparity between the square and lateen sailing rigs.

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Published date: 2009
Venue - Dates: Eleventh International Symposium on Boat and Ship Archaeology (ISBA 11), Germany, 2006-09-24 - 2006-09-28
Organisations: Archaeology


Local EPrints ID: 204981
PURE UUID: 6d5b116d-7877-4d15-a882-27da209f130e

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Date deposited: 06 Dec 2011 10:28
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 11:05

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Editor: Ronald Bockius

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