Transferts Technologiques en Architecture Navale Méditerranéenne de l'Antiquité aux Temps Modernes: identité technique et identité culturelle edited by Patrice Pomey (Ed.) with 20 Contributors 174 pp., 51 b&w and 21 colour illustrations Institut Français d'Études Anatoliennes George Dumézil, Istanbul., via De Boccard, Paris, 2010, £34.44, ISBN 978-2906053977
Article first published online: 10 FEB 2014
© 2014 The Authors. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology © 2014 The Nautical Archaeology Society
International Journal of Nautical Archaeology
Volume 43, Issue 1, pages 215–217, March 2014
How to Cite
Pulak, C. (2014), Transferts Technologiques en Architecture Navale Méditerranéenne de l'Antiquité aux Temps Modernes: identité technique et identité culturelle edited by Patrice Pomey (Ed.) with 20 Contributors 174 pp., 51 b&w and 21 colour illustrations Institut Français d'Études Anatoliennes George Dumézil, Istanbul., via De Boccard, Paris, 2010, £34.44, ISBN 978-2906053977 . International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 43: 215–217. doi: 10.1111/1095-9270.12050_10
- Issue published online: 10 FEB 2014
- Article first published online: 10 FEB 2014
This small but important volume comprises the proceedings of the papers presented at a roundtable workshop held under the same title, and organized by Patrice Pomey in Istanbul at the French Institute of Anatolian Studies ‘George Dumézil’, 19–21 May, 2007. The title is ambitious in that it suggests that the contents cover the full range of technological developments in Mediterranean shipbuilding from Antiquity to modern times. That, however, is not the case, as an undertaking of that magnitude would have required significantly more pages than the space allotted for the proceedings of this workshop. An introduction preceding each of the three unconnected thematic sections weaves the contributions into a structured synthesis on the specific and long-standing issues involving the evolution (the term preferred here instead of ‘development’) of shipbuilding technology in the Mediterranean. However, those expecting a more balanced coverage and an in-depth analysis of the issues at hand may be a little disappointed, as some of the contributions are descriptive without much interpretation of the transfer of shipbuilding technologies. Nevertheless, this is understandable as the wrecks included in the book have been carefully selected from some of the most recent excavations. The contributions are largely in English, with one in French, two in Spanish, and two of the three introductory sections in French as well.
Archaeological evidence of shipwrecks excavated in the Mediterranean over the past five decades indicate that shipbuilding was a complex and gradually changing process involving distinct practices used in different regions of the Mediterranean during different periods. The wealth and variety of archaeological data presented in this volume also point to distinctive and peculiar conceptual approaches in ship construction that can be identified as technological and cultural traditions. However, the evolutionary model applied throughout this volume to explain the technological changes in shipbuilding seems somewhat simplified. The mechanisms of discovery, invention (the application of the discovery), and innovation (the diffusion of the invention) of a new feature of ship construction have never been a linear process. Any new shipbuilding practice is the result of different stages through which a discovery must pass before being recognized, adopted, implemented, and spread. Thus, innovation in shipbuilding practice—when documented for the first time in the archaeological record—is ‘the tip of the iceberg’ culminating in—rather than appearing as—an abrupt change.
The reader cannot help but notice that there are chronological gaps in the book's coverage. Without bickering over the exclusion of the evidence for Bronze Age ships, which, granted, is rather scanty to begin with, and Classical Greek and Roman ships, the first section of the volume opens with Archaic Greek shipbuilding traditions. Pomey's introduction provides a detailed historical and archaeological overview of the evidence. Archaic Greek ships, such as those excavated at Giglio (580 BC), Bon-Porté (540–510 BC), and Jules-Verne 9 (525–510 BC), are characterized by the fastening of hull planking to one another with ligatures passing through diagonally drilled holes having tetrahedral notches that are cut along the edges of the planks, and locked in place with pegs. Wadding laid over the seams and kept in place by ligatures, dowels or coaks inserted between plank edges for alignment, and assembled frames lashed to the planks are also distinctive features of this shipbuilding tradition. By the second half of the 6th century BC, tenons began replacing dowels in aligning planks, thus suggesting a developmental shift within the Archaic Greek shipbuilding tradition. The practice of fastening planks together by means of pegged mortise-and-tenon joinery—known to the Romans as punica coagementa—is archaeologically documented in Mediterranean seagoing ships by the Late Bronze Age on the shipwrecks excavated in Turkey at Uluburun (1320±15 BC) and Cape Gelidonya (c.1200 BC). However, unlike Bronze Age shipwrecks, Archaic Greek ships were assembled with unpegged tenons. The earliest evidence for the use of freestanding rectangular tenons, rather than dowels or coaks for plank alignment purposes in early Greek shipbuilding tradition, is seen on the wreck excavated at Pabuç Burnu, Turkey, dated to 570–560 BC (M. Polzer). The Cala Sant Vincenç shipwreck, Spain (530–500 BC) exhibits the same construction features of the Pabuç Burnu wreck; that is, tenons for plank alignment and pegged lacing for fastening the planking together (X. Nieto and M. Santos). The earliest evidence for the use of pegged mortise-and-tenon joints on Archaic Greek ships is provided by the Jules-Verne 7 wreck (525–510 BC) excavated at Marseilles, France. In addition, other shipwrecks dating to the late 6th or early 5th century BC, such as César 1 (510–500 BC), Grand Ribaud F (510–490 BC), and Gela 2 (450–425 BC), document the use of this type of joinery in the transition from Archaic to Classical Greek archaeological contexts. However, the use of unpegged mortise-and-tenon joints at Pabuç Burnu and at Cala Sant Vincenç—to which we can add the Gela 1 wreck (500–480 BC)—suggests that mortise-and-tenon joinery could have evolved within the Greek tradition of laced construction, rather than being transmitted by Phoenician shipbuilding tradition, which used pegged mortise-and-tenon joints since at least the Late Bronze Age, as demonstrated by the Uluburun and Cape Gelidonya ships. The wreck found at Binissafúller, Menorca, Spain (6th–5th century BC) further documents the use of pegged mortise-and-tenon joinery for fastening the planks to one another, whereas its frames were lashed to the planking (C. de Juan, X. Aguelo, A. Palomo, and O. Pons); this last wreck, likely built in the Punic tradition and recalling the spectacular mid-8th-century-BC shipwrecks at Mazarrón, Spain, contrasts nicely with the Archaic Greek tradition of boatbuilding. What one gains from a long list of dated shipwrecks and their peculiar construction features is, therefore, an appreciation of how different factors and cultures may have influenced the trajectory of this evolution, and that the innovation or diffusion phase of an invention is almost always more subtle and more complicated than is suggested.
The second section, with an introduction by Y. Kahanov, discusses one of the most important changes that occurred in the history of wooden shipbuilding technology: the transition from shell- or plank-first to skeleton- or frame-first construction, which was a complex, long-term process likely resulting from several concurrent factors such as economic crises and changes in social strata and cultural interaction. According to Kahanov, the necessary archaeological parameters for identifying skeleton-first construction in a shipwreck include the absence of edge joining between hull planking, the presence of frames nailed to the keel, planking butt joints placed over the frames, and caulking material found between plank seams. The Dor 2001/1 (AD 420–540) shipwreck excavated in Tantura Lagoon, Israel—although only a section of it was raised—presents these distinctive features of frame-based construction (H. Mor). The hull of the Tantura F wreck from Israel (7th–8th centuries AD), was also built ‘frame-first’, both in concept and in construction (O. Barkai). Some of the shipwrecks recently excavated at the ancient Theodosian harbour at Yenikapı in Istanbul, Turkey, represent the last phase of the transition from shell-first to skeleton-first construction (U. Kocabaş and I. Özsait Kocabaş). This second section, however, is limited to shipwrecks excavated in the Eastern Mediterranean and may be seen as a prelude to a recent article published by Pomey, Kahanov, and Rieth discussing the 27 most relevant shipwrecks concerning the transition from shell-first to skeleton-first construction in the ancient Mediterranean (IJNA 41.2: 235–314).
The introduction of the third and final section, by Pomey, explores four unrelated case studies in an effort to explain how instances of specific technological transfer in different geographical regions can be the result of cultural influences. The caudicariae naves Fiumicino 1, 2, and 3 wrecks (4th–5th century AD), discovered in 1958 and 1961 within the maritime port of Rome represent an interesting case-study (G. Boetto). These ships, used for transporting cargo from the port of Ostia up the Tiber river to Rome, present distinctive design features peculiar to riverine and fluvial traditions, such as flat-floored bottoms and boxy hull shapes. Similar features are observed also in the Zwammerdam-2 barge from the Netherlands, built in the ‘Gallo-Roman’ or ‘Romano-Celtic’ shipbuilding tradition. The Çamaltı Burnu I shipwreck (N. Günsenin), a Byzantine merchantman carrying a cargo of wine amphoras (beginning of the 13th century AD) and excavated in the Sea of Marmara, Turkey, on the other hand, has minimal and extremely fragmentary remains to be of any use in offering reliable insight on construction or cultural identity. Since its construction in 1293 by King Philippe IV and until its destruction in 1418 by English troops during the Hundred Years’ War, the Rouen galley shipyard has played a pivotal role in the transfer of technological change in shipbuilding practices in Normandy (E. Reith), but the extent of these changes seems to have been limited only to the shipyard. During the 124 years that this shipyard was in existence, two different naval architectural traditions co-existed in the region: one a regional, clinker ‘shell-first’ tradition used in local shipbuilding and in the Rouen shipyard, and the other a Mediterranean, carvel ‘frame-first’ tradition used for galleys built only in the shipyard; yet carvel construction seems not to have diffused to local shipyards until the second half of the 15th century, long after the shipyard ceased to exist. Transfer of technology and changes in shipbuilding practices also occurred from the 17th century onward, as the result of the migration of ethnic Greek shipwrights from the Ottoman Empire, in particular from the Aegean, the Sea of Marmara, and the Black Sea regions (K. A. Damianidis). The technical similarities that characterize the types of boats built in these regions can be recognized as features of cultural identity that are documented in the traditional, local terminology. The theoretical framework adopted in this final section of the book might seem over-simplified. Investigating material culture exclusively through cognitive archaeology limits the scope of the big-picture issues discussed in this section, inasmuch as the diffusion of a peculiar shipbuilding practice involves multiple factors and agents not exclusively related to the social system (that is economic and geographical and climatic/environmental conditions, available resources, time and cost, etc.).
Although some of the shipwrecks presented in this volume have been published elsewhere, the examples chosen to illustrate specific technological developments and document their transference, is excellent. One could have included more mile-stone shipwrecks in the ensemble, both in terms of technological firsts and also to span the chronological gaps in the overall picture so that the transitions in ship construction, as demonstrated by this publication, appear less discontinuous and spontaneous. However, in its limited capacity, the volume reaches its goal in the most general sense, but the reader should keep in mind that these technological developments and their transferences are far less straight-forward than seem to be presented here. Moreover, the fine line between what constitutes a shell-first over a skeleton-first construction and where and when exactly this development took place is far from settled. I would argue, for example, that some of the shipwrecks presented as displaying frame-first features and those interpreted as having been built with most frames installed before planking, are not necessarily so in concept and design, especially in cases where the ships show significant evidence of repairs, which would have profoundly altered the minute details and clues that point to shell-first construction. The volume is well illustrated and is a must-read for students of ancient shipbuilding, but could have benefited from somewhat tighter editing, and the prose sometimes can be difficult, especially for the non-specialist.