Nottingham scientists are co-leading a team investigating an ancient ship buried under a pub car park to find out where it came from and exactly how old it is.
The ship is buried beneath the Railway Inn on Wirral and an archaeological investigation is due to take place later this month. Professor Steve Harding, director of the National Center for Macromolecular Hydrodynamics at the University of Nottingham, will analyze environmental and wooden samples from the ship to help reveal precise details about its origins.
Professor Harding, who is from Wirral and is also an expert on Viking history in the area, will be working with professional archaeologist Chas Jones and the Wirral Archeology Community Interest Company, of which Steve is also a director, who are co-leading the research.
Professor Harding explains: “The craft was originally discovered in 1938 by workmen who partially exposed the craft, but were told by their foreman to cover it up immediately. Fortunately, one of the men took detailed notes and a sketch of it, showing a preserved. clinker design ship (overlapping planks), a ship-building design originating in Scandinavia.”
“It is about 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 m) in length and, based on the sketch, possibly an old shipping ship or fishing boat. It is also buried in water-soaked blue clay, which is an ideal preservative , since insects cannot grow and degrade wood: there are very few archaeological vessels that have been found in said material”.
“It is not impossible that the vessel was derived from a time when the area was heavily populated by Scandinavians, or else the descendants of these people: research we did in conjunction with the University of Leicester showed a high proportion of DNA chromosome Y. of Scandinavian origin in the mix of people from old families (with surnames from before 1600) in the area. But in all honesty, we just don’t know and keep an open mind.”
Radar scans have shown that the ship appears to still be there. The rig will now systematically descend and make approximately 100 narrow boreholes in a wide area in front of the pub where the boat is located, buried approximately 9ft (3m) below the surface. Through these holes, small samples of wood and the surrounding environment will be extracted for complete analysis. These techniques will minimize damage to the boat compared to what would happen if the boat were exposed.
Chemical analysis of the samples will be carried out between laboratories on the University’s Sutton Bonington campus, together with the British Geological Survey at Keyworth, the University of Oslo and the NTH in Trondheim.
Wirral Archeology Community Interest Company (CIC) Wirral President Dominga Devitt said: “There has been intense local interest in this buried object for many years. The ship has been thought to date to the Viking Age but has not been realized. no professional investigation. It has never been carried out to establish the truth, so everyone is really delighted at the prospect of what we might find out.”
Professor Harding is also a lead scientist on the Saving Oseberg project with colleagues at the Museum of Cultural History, Oslo, developing new biopolymer consolidants for the consolidation and preservation of archaeological wood. And he adds: “If the Meols ship is ever fully excavated, it is expected to benefit from these new materials.”