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Sailing rock art boats: a reassessment of seafaring abilities in bronze age Scandinavia and the introduction of the sail in the north

Sailing rock art boats: a reassessment of seafaring abilities in bronze age Scandinavia and the introduction of the sail in the north
Sailing rock art boats: a reassessment of seafaring abilities in bronze age Scandinavia and the introduction of the sail in the north
This thesis examines the basis for the current belief that the introduction of the sail in the North occurred between the 7th or 8th and the 10th centuries AD, almost a thousand years later than on the British Islands and almost 3000 years later than in the Mediterranean. The foundations for this reassessment of the potential timing and development in the use of the sail derives mainly from an examination of the Bronze Age rock art (1800–500 BC) in southern Scandinavia containing imagery of boats with attributes that can be interpreted as masts and sails. In combination with experimental sail trials in Bronze Age type boats and by comparing this material to available research on the transition from paddling to sailing in ancient Egypt and Oceania, the author argues that the use of sail as a complement to paddling would have formed an integral part of the formation of centres of power in Scandinavia in the early Bronze Age. This in turn would have permitted more frequent communication, helping to expand, maintain and control power. The transitions from downwind sailing abilities to abilities to sail within a wider range might have occurred relatively swiftly between c. 1550–1300 BC, and might be directly linked to the expansion of Scandinavian centres of power during the same period, allowing for increased flexibility, both in terms of manpower, range and choice of routes with the use of a wider range of weather conditions. The emergence of the sail would primarily have been driven by increased needs for the movement of people and goods across short medium- and long distances – a process where competition by rivalling chiefs might also have played part. Furthermore, it is here suggested that the developments in sail and boat technology in the North were the result of incremental and gradual changes that eventually resulted in the boats and sails as used in the Viking Era.
Bengtsson, Boel
c9310de8-00a9-468d-b28e-6f2956d4d8e7
Bengtsson, Boel
c9310de8-00a9-468d-b28e-6f2956d4d8e7
Adams, Jonathan
184a058c-d4b1-44fc-9bff-cadee3882bc8
Champion, Timothy
42a175cf-70ac-40fd-9a84-f544296f15df

Bengtsson, Boel (2015) Sailing rock art boats: a reassessment of seafaring abilities in bronze age Scandinavia and the introduction of the sail in the north. University of Southampton, Faculty of Humanities, Doctoral Thesis, 300pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

This thesis examines the basis for the current belief that the introduction of the sail in the North occurred between the 7th or 8th and the 10th centuries AD, almost a thousand years later than on the British Islands and almost 3000 years later than in the Mediterranean. The foundations for this reassessment of the potential timing and development in the use of the sail derives mainly from an examination of the Bronze Age rock art (1800–500 BC) in southern Scandinavia containing imagery of boats with attributes that can be interpreted as masts and sails. In combination with experimental sail trials in Bronze Age type boats and by comparing this material to available research on the transition from paddling to sailing in ancient Egypt and Oceania, the author argues that the use of sail as a complement to paddling would have formed an integral part of the formation of centres of power in Scandinavia in the early Bronze Age. This in turn would have permitted more frequent communication, helping to expand, maintain and control power. The transitions from downwind sailing abilities to abilities to sail within a wider range might have occurred relatively swiftly between c. 1550–1300 BC, and might be directly linked to the expansion of Scandinavian centres of power during the same period, allowing for increased flexibility, both in terms of manpower, range and choice of routes with the use of a wider range of weather conditions. The emergence of the sail would primarily have been driven by increased needs for the movement of people and goods across short medium- and long distances – a process where competition by rivalling chiefs might also have played part. Furthermore, it is here suggested that the developments in sail and boat technology in the North were the result of incremental and gradual changes that eventually resulted in the boats and sails as used in the Viking Era.

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Published date: March 2015
Organisations: University of Southampton, Archaeology

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 386800
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/386800
PURE UUID: a0510f26-6c48-457f-a93b-1e63f169203a

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Date deposited: 17 Feb 2016 13:26
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 19:47

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Contributors

Author: Boel Bengtsson
Thesis advisor: Jonathan Adams
Thesis advisor: Timothy Champion

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