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Is Scilly find the earliest record of a UK boat?

By West Briton  |  Posted: September 06, 2012

The sherd on display at the National Maritime Museum.

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THE latest addition to the National Maritime Museum could prove to be the earliest record of a boat in all of British history.

A piece of pottery found during archaeological excavations of a Late Bronze Age roundhouse on St Agnes on the Isles of Scilly in 2009 clearly shows etched lines and some believe the pattern looks like a sailing ship.

The piece of pottery is one of the most intriguing exhibits at the museum's Cornwall and the Sea in the Bronze Age exhibition.

Sean Taylor, an archaeologist with the Cornwall Council Historic Environment Service (CCHES), believed the unusual markings on the sherd – as such fragments are known – resemble a masted ship and if they were, then this was a hugely significant find for British history.

Mr Taylor said: "The sherd is part of a small thick-walled vessel, perhaps a cup or beaker, and it's highly unusual in that it has been inscribed, prior to firing, with a freehand design.

"If this is a ship, and it does look like a masted ship, then this is the earliest representation of a boat ever found in the UK.

"My theory is that a Phoenecian trading vessel was blown off course and was seen passing Scilly.

"This would have been a remarkable sight worth commemorating, hence it being drawn on a pot.

"Masted boats are not known in this country until the 1st century BC but this sherd dates back to 1,000 to 800 BC confirming the importance and rarity of this object."

Jenny Wittamore, assistant curator at the museum, said: "We are so excited to be displaying this previously unseen and barely known about object. To think that this might be the earliest depiction of a boat in the British Isles is incredible and a moment and object from history we are very lucky to have on display."

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