Technological continuity and change: the lateen sail of the medieval Mediterranean
Al-Masaq Islam and the Medieval Mediterranean, 24, (1), . (doi:10.1080/09503110.2012.655580).
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Maritime connectivity in the medieval Mediterranean, highlighted by a number of scholars, acknowledges the importance of maritime technology. A detailed understanding of the use and development of watercraft permitting trans-Mediterranean trade, exchange and cultural interaction is still often lacking. The lateen sail provided the main form of propulsion to Mediterranean sail-powered ships for the majority of the medieval period. Yet, its origins, development and potential performance has, until recently remained poorly understood. Clear iconographic depictions outline the basic chronology surrounding the adoption of the lateen sail allowing the main rigging components of the Mediterranean lateen rig to be characterised from the late-antiquity onwards. Comparative investigation into the Mediterranean lateen and square-sail allows an appreciation of the relative performance of the two rigs. This allows new theories to be proposed, which explain the invention and adoption of the lateen sail and provide a developed context for its use in the medieval period.
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