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Transition from Shell to Skeleton in Ancient Mediterranean Ship-Construction: analysis, problems, and future research


  • Patrice Pomey,

    1. Centre Camille Jullian, Aix-Marseille Université and CNRS, Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l'Homme, 5 rue du Château de l'Horloge, 13094 Aix-en-Provence, France
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  • Yaacov Kahanov,

    1. Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, Haifa 31905, Israel
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  • Eric Rieth

    1. Laboratoire de médiévistique occidentale de Paris, Université de Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, and CNRS, Musée national de la Marine, Palais de Chaillot, 75116, Paris, France
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During the 1st millennium AD ship-construction changed. Previously, ships were built ‘shell-first’—strakes were installed before frames, giving the hull its shape and integrity. About the mid-1st millennium AD the concept and construction of hulls changed to being shaped by transverse frames fixed to the keel, reinforced by longitudinal members. During the transition varying combinations of the two technologies were used. It has been widely accepted that the transition was completed by the beginning of the 2nd millennium. Recent discoveries, mainly in Dor/Tantura lagoon and lately in Yenikapı, analyses of other hulls, and reassessment of evidence, indicate an earlier completion of the transition. Since this process was the result of many factors, including economic and social, and occurred in different areas of the Mediterranean at different times, no simple linear development is suggested, but a more complex process, which raises questions for future research.

© 2012 The Authors