Volume 53 1944 > Volume 53, No. 2 > Constructional parallels in Scandinavian and Oceanic boat construction, by James Hornell, p 43-58
CONSTRUCTIONAL PARALLELS IN SCANDINAVIAN AND OCEANIC BOAT CONSTRUCTION. 1
THE present note is mainly interrogative, for while it describes certain strangely close resemblances in the highly-specialized technique of boat-construction characteristic of two widely separated regions—Scandinavia and Western Oceania—I am unable to furnish conclusive evidence in favour of either of the hypotheses suggested to account for a common origin of these remarkable similarities. The examples to be described will therefore leave open the question as to whether they originated through independent invention or through cultural diffusion referable to a single source. In the hope that further light may be shed on the problem, I shall now state the facts so far as I know them.
The particular parallels in boat construction to which I would direct attention are those seen when we compare the form of the Scandinavian vessels which were the forerunners of those marvels of naval architecture, the longships of the Viking age, with the smaller coastal craft, unprovided with outriggers, still being built by the people of the Moluccas and Kei islands and with the war canoes formerly in common use in the Solomon islands.
The only examples of these early pre-Viking boats, so far as I know, are the primitive planked boat found in 1921 at Hjortspring in the island of Als in Slesvig (now in the Copenhagen Museum) and a few planks dug out of a peat moss in the parish of Halsnoe in Soendhordland in Norway in 1896. The first of these awaits detailed description, whereas the latter have been minutely described and carefully figured by Professor Haakon Schetelig. 2
The most important of the Halsnoe fragments for our present purpose are pieces of the washstrake, identified by the presence of a stout gunwale-moulding, and of two side planks. The former is a broad board originally about a foot in width. Square-cut holes, finished with the aid of a hot metal rod, indicate where a rowlock (seen in situ when the discovery was made) was tied on. Both this wash-strake and a long fragment of a lower strake have paired, cleat-shaped projections placed at regular intervals on what has been the inner side of the planking. These are in one with the plank itself, having been left as right-angled projections at the time of the hewing out of the split tree-trunks from which all planking had to be adzed prior to the invention of the saw. Each cleat is perforated by a single squarish hole at the centre. As we shall see later these cleats are characteristic- 44
Fig. 1. Fragment of an ancient boat from Halsnoe, in Soendhordland, Norway, (a) Outer surface of what had been part of a side plank; along the upper edge is a row of small paired holes through which fibre was passed to sew this edge over that of a lower one, clinker fashion, (b) A cleat from the inner surface of (a). (After H. Schetelig.)
features of early Scandinavian ship construction, but what is novel in the case of this Halsnoe boat is the presence of paired holes along the edge of each plank where it has overlapped another—for there can be no doubt that this boat was clinkerbuilt; in some of these holes there still remained when unearthed some of the fibrous material with which plank was sewn to plank instead of being nailed or riveted together as in later days (Fig. 1). A small portion of a frame was also found.
A more primitive type is that represented by the remains of the Als boat, now in process of reconstruction by Herr G. Rosenberg. This is not the place to give a detailed account of its structure, even were it not the uncompleted task upon which Herr Rosenberg is engaged. Suffice it therefore to say that this ancient boat was round-bottomed, clinker-built and equal ended (Pl 1). It was built up, apart from the ends, of five broad planks; one formed the bottom, with each side made up of two others, the whole curving gently upward to give a deep crescentic form to the transverse section of the hull.
On the inner aspect of each of these five broad planks are numerous series of prominent rib-cleats set at right angles to the surface of the plank. The various series are spaced apart about one metre. Each of these series or sets, instead of being made up of a single pair of cleats, contains five cleats set fore and aft and parallel with one another, in the case of the bottom plank and of each of the lower strakes in the waist-region of the boat. On the upper strake the number of cleats in each set is reduced to three.
The form of the individual cleats is similar to that of those in the Halsnoe boat. Each has a single hole at the centre through which lashing passed in order to attach it to one of the curved transverse frames.
Each of the frames is formed of a stout natural branch curved into a bow-shape, and is strengthened by a system of strong bracing-bars arranged both vertically and horizontally. The ends of each - 45 frame are connected and held in place by a transverse and horizontal stretcher; all these stretchers are pierced by a vertical hole at the ends and through these perforations the extremities of the ribs were passed and then lashed in place. Except the stretchers toward the ends of the boat which are narrow and bar-shaped, the others functioned as paddling-thwarts; each has the outer portion toward each end considerably broadened and carved into the form of a slightly-hollowed seat. This arrangement allowed two men to sit on each thwart and so to ply their paddles abreast or double-banked.
Two vertical posts inserted between the lower side of each thwart and the floor further reinforced the rigidity of the framing. Toward the ends, where the hull begins to close in and the bottom plank to narrow and deepen, only one upright post is present in each frame; it is fitted amidships with the upper end inserted in a slot in the bar-shaped stretcher or thwart, whilst the lower end is notched in order to straddle the lowest part of the bow-shaped frame.
The form of each end of this boat is extremely peculiar and has great morphological significance, being bifid. This unusual construction appears to be due to the fact that these early boat-builders had not yet learned to curve up the ends of the keel into a stem and stern post respectively. Instead, they continued the keel into a long ram-like structure projecting several feet beyond the hull at each end. Similarly they fitted a long projection as a continuation outwards of the conjoined gunwales; the portion preserved runs roughly parallel to the keel-projection; whether the missing terminal portion curved upward into an ornamental figurehead is unknown, but this is probable judging by analogy. To strengthen these two free projections, the ends of two stout, vertical bars are countersunk respectively in both, the inner one forming a primitive stem or stern-post as the case might be, the outer placed a foot or thereabouts distant.
Propulsion was undoubtedly by means of paddles and not by oars as in later Scandinavian boats. The hull has neither oar-holes in the sides as in the Oseberg and Gokstad boats (Pl. 2), nor primitive tied-on rowlocks as in that of Halsnoe. Even without this evidence the short-handled form of the numerous paddles found associated with the remains would of itself be sufficient proof.
As in the later Halsnoe boat, the planks overlap at the edges in clinker-fashion, being sewn together through holes in the opposed edges but in a similar manner than in the Halsnoe example; the method employed was to carry the stitches over the overlapping edge of the upper plank on the outside in the manner still common in the South Sea where, however, the planks are set edge to edge. No iron was used in any part of the structure, though iron artifacts (spear-heads, etc.) were numerous among the associated remains. Evidently iron was too scarce and precious at the time this boat was built to be used for any but the most important purposes whenever other materials could be made to serve.
The structure and method of building up such a boat become clear when we make comparison with the well-preserved remains of undoubted Viking ships found at various places in Norway and Denmark, usually in the centre of a sepulchral mound raised over the body of some great sea-warrior laid to rest in the heart of the vessel in which he had voyaged and fought. The oldest of these, known as the Nydam boat, was disinterred from a moss at Nydam in Denmark. It was found in sufficiently good condition to enable a reconstruction to- 46
be made. Fig. 2, which is a diagrammatic section through the hull, explains some of the peculiarities of construction. The planking, as in the Halsnoe boat, consists of several strakes overlapping at the lower edges, with each frame made out of a single, naturally-bent bough, shaped to the curvature of the hull and strengthened by a horizontal stretcher or thwart placed just below the gunwale. When hewing out the planks, the carpenter had left a number of projecting cleats or lugs, arranged in pairs at intervals equal to the spaces intended to separate the frames when fitted. When this came to be done, the cleats formed vertical series on each side, running upward from keel to gunwale. In each cleat a hole was drilled corresponding to another made opposite but at right angles through the overlying frame. As each strake was fitted, its lower edge was riveted with iron nails to the overlapped upper edge of the next lower one. Then,
Fig. 3. Details of the arrangement and form of the cleats in the Nydam boat, together with a vertical section showing how the ribs were attached to the cleats. (After H. Schetelig and F. Johannessen.)
when all the planking was in position, the frames were placed in their allotted places and the cleats lashed tightly against them by means of bast cords passed through the various sets of opposed holes in cleats and frames.
From Roman coins found in association with the hull, its age is fixed definitely as not before the middle of the third century A.D.
In the larger ships of the eighth to tenth centuries the same principles of construction prevail but refined and strengthened in order to withstand better the heavy weather encountered during the lengthier voyages then undertaken. A definite keel, deep and powerful, was introduced and narrow strakes took the place of broad ones. The system of tying the skin planking to the frames by cords passed through perforated cleats on the inside was retained but it was confined to the region below the water line; above this rivetting alone was employed. The ends of the frames reached only as far as the waterline, where they were strengthened by athwart stretchers to which were fastened stout knees having the upright limb fastened by trenails to the above-water planking. Two other modifications were also introduced; the paired cleats of the older type were reduced to single ones, each perforated, however, by two holes instead of one, and the frames against which the cleats butted were recessed or notched slightly at the points of contact to receive their edges.
On technological grounds the Halsnoe boat should be considerably older than the third-century Nydam boat, for instead of the overlapped edges of the planks being rivetted together with nails they were sewn together with fibre. For these reasons this boat may antedate the Nydam one by several centuries; the use of broad planks with the rib-cleats in pairs is, however, a feature common to both, thereby distinguishing them from the true Viking boats where the cleats on each strake are spaced singly.- 48
As no dating artifacts were found in association with the fragments of the Halsnoe boat its age cannot be definitely ascertained.
Fortunately the period of the Als boat, which is undoubtedly much older, can be fixed within comparatively narrow lines. From the numerous artifacts found with it, 3 its age is well established as dating to a period between the fourth and the fifth centuries before Christ. The origin of this extremely early type of boat construction must, however, be older by several centuries for various reasons; the more important may be summarized as follows:
(a) the specialized features already embodied in the construction of this boat must have required several centuries wherein to attain the stage of development at which we find them;
(b) the peculiarly bifid form of the two ends carries back this design into the Bronze Age, for there can hardly be any doubt that the well-known petroglyphs of boats of Bronze Age, found on many rocks in Norway and Sweden (Fig. 5) represent the same type of boat construction as that of the boat disinterred at Als by Herr Rosenberg.
Fig. 5. Petroglyphs of boats bifid at both ends, dating from the Bronze Age. Tanum, in Bohuslän, Sweden. Compare with Pls. 3 and 8.
The presence of multiple cleats (three to five) in each transverse series on each of the planks must also be recognized as an extremely primitive feature. In the Halsnoe and Nydam boats (circa third century A.D.) each row is reduced to one pair, whilst in the Viking boats of later time, seventh to tenth centuries, the cleats on every plank are arranged singly. This series constitutes a true evolutionary - 49 study in reduction. First we have five cleats in a series transverse across each plank, then two in a series and lastly one only; this one in turn has diappeared in boats of the present day in Norway, which otherwise conform closely in fundamental construction to the later Viking-age type of openboat. (See Fig. 6.)
In Europe the type of boat characterized by frames lashed to cleats on the inner side of the skin is unknown elsewhere than from the Scandinavian region. In the countries bordering the Mediterranean the earliest plank-built boats of which we have any knowledge, those from Ancient Egypt, were actually built without frames; the sides were kept in form mainly by the employment of numerous very stout thwarts having their ends dovetailed into the upper strakes. Further rigidity was obtained by an elaborate system of broad dowels mortised into opposite edges of adjoining planks and also by the use of dovetail tenons on the inner side of the planking to secure a strong joint between the ends of the short lengths of planking which made up each strake.
Fig 6. Inserted framing. A diagrammatic series showing the gradual reduction in number and eventual suppression of ribcleats in clinkerbuilt boats. A. Als boat, circa 400 B.C.; B. Nydam boat, circa A.D. 300; C. Viking ships, eighth and ninth centuries, A.D.; D. Present day.
Neither is there trace nor suggestion of the use of inserted frames among the constructional descriptions of any of the many types of boat-design found in the Indian Ocean.
It is therefore a strange and difficult problem that confronts us on finding an almost identical method of attaching planks to frames in use either now or during the past century in various islands in Oceania—in the Moluccas far to the east in the Malay archipelago, in the Solomon islands, in Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa, and probably in former times in the Society, Austral, and Tuamotu groups of further Polynesia.
In the Moluccas and adjacent islands, notably in the Kei islands off New Guinea, the most characteristic vessel is the orembai; this is a beautifully-modelled, double-ended vessel, with tall stem- and stern-posts, usually capped by a pumpkin-shaped ornament, probably the emasculated convention of the human head that occupied this position after a successful head-hunting raid in the days before prosaic Dutch authority discountenanced such high adventure (Pl 3).- 50
When building an orembai, the carpenter fits the planks together before inserting the frames. Unlike the Scandinavian vessels it is carvel built, the planks fitted together edge to edge; to hold them in position pending the framing, wooden pins half sunk in holes in each opposed edge are employed. In a typical example seen being built at Ternate, in 1918, there were seven strakes on each side of the keel; each had a row of perforated cleats left in a line down the centre and those of each strake were spaced so as to coincide with those upon the planks above and below (Fig. 7). When complete, frames are fitted over the vertical rows of cleats and tied thereto by cord made of black palm-fibre passed over the frame or rib instead of, as in the Viking ships, through a perforation. This and the fact that the build is carvel and not clinker are notable variations from the Scandinavian types.
The orembai is by far the most beautiful vessel to be seen in Eastern seas, clean-lined, trim, symmetric—a striking contrast to the clumsy appearance of the double-outrigger canoes which form a separate and more numerous type in the same waters. Were the tall stem- and stern-posts to be carved into animal figureheads, the likeness to a Viking longship would be extremely close. One of the most charming photographs which I ever took was of an orembai getting under weigh in the narrow sea dividing Ternate from the purple cone of Tidore away in the background.
Far to the south-east the same type of boat is found in the Solomon islands, widely known under the name of mon; it is the warcanoe of the coastal tribes, a canoe baptized in blood and used mainly in head-hunting forays and tribal warfare; it is generally regarded as an introduction by migrant Indonesians.
Retaining the same general hull-plan and the same use of inserted U-shaped frames as are characteristic of the orembai, the form of the
Fig. 7. Diagrams to illustrate the similarity of the method of attaching the frames to the planking in the Orembai to that of Viking ships. (a) Inner surface of portions of four planks, showing two vertical series of cleats. (b) Side view of part of a plank on which are two upstanding cleats (d). (c) Section to show the way a rib is lashed to the cleats.
hidden trenails, the margins of the strake planks in the mon, after method, where the frames are lashed directly to continuous longitudinal ridges on the inner surface of the hull planking, cropping up inserted hull framing, which prevailed until about the close of last century, characterized the construction of the huge double canoes of projections from the inner surface of the strakes in the bottom and sides to which the frames are lashed is slightly modified. Instead of being spaced at regular intervals down the centre of each plank, the cleat projections rise from a prominent and continuous beading, median and longitudinal, on the inner side of each strake.
The frames in the mon are lashed to the cleats spaced upon these ridges by means of rattans passed through holes bored therein (Pl. 4). One difference between the mon and the orembai is seen in the method of joining the strakes together. Instead of being pegged together with hidden trenails, the margins of the strake-planks in the mon, after being first reduced in thickness by being chamfered on both sides, are sewed together by lashings passed through holes bored in the opposed edges. When the planking is all in position and fully sewed together, the grooves which mark the position of each seam, both within and without, are then filled up with a resinous compound thereby completely concealing the stitching.
Another wide geographical gap and we find a modification of this method, where the frames are lashed directly to continuous longitudinal ridges on the inner surface of the hull-planking, cropping up again in Fiji and in the Tongan and Samoan groups in Polynesia, but associated with an entirely different type of vessel. This system of inserted hull-framing, which prevailed until about the close of last century, characterized the construction of the huge double-canoes of which the design appears to have originated in Fiji and which was in course of adoption by the Tongans in replacement of their own more primitive design at the period of Cook's first visit to Tonga (1773). In all except the method of inserting the frames, these vessels differed entirely from the mon and the orembai; their general constructional plan was, on the contrary, based mainly upon that of the “flying proa” of the Micronesian archipelago, first made known to us by Magellan's chronicler and afterwards by Drake, Dampier, and Anson. In all these vessels of Fijian type the planks are stitched together, edge to edge, without chamfering, a method more primitive even than that seen in the mon.
Strangely enough the typical form of the orembai reappears in the Austral and the Society islands far to the eastward, in early drawings and descriptions of the war-canoes of the great chiefs. These notables, it is significant to remember, belonged to a ruling caste of origin different from that of the mass of the people, the manahune, the hewers of wood and the drawers of water. Particularly interesting as throwing light on the former existence of the orembai type of hull in the central Pacific is the description by missionary Ellis 4 of a vessel which he saw arrive at Tahiti bringing a chief from Rurutu in the Australs. It was he says, “somewhat in the shape of a crescent, the stem and stern high and pointed”. The same type of high-ended vessel appears in a sketch of a vessel in Tahitian waters by Webber, 5 who was Cook's artist on his third voyage.
Contact with another culture, and in particular the need to economize in the use of timber of large dimensions in islands where - 52 there is no unlimited supply of forest-trees of great size, caused many radical changes in constructional methods. Of these the principal was that the ribs were sewn directly to the hull-planking instead of to intercalated cleats or ridges. Here also, as in the Fijian vessels, the seams were secured together by lashings passed through holes in the opposed edges of the planks, which were left of the same thickness as the rest of the planking.
From Norway to the farther limit of the Malay archipelago, with extension to the Solomons and western Polynesia, is a very long cry, and at first sight it appears incredible, in the absence of intermediate links, that there can be any possible connection between the naval designs of these areas.
The probability of independent invention having occurred in these localities, difficult though it is to envisage, appears therefore to be the only explanation that will serve. Such a conclusion is, however, weakened and rendered doubtful when we find several other parallel instances, similarly discontinuous, existing between the cultures of Scandinavia and the Far East.
For example, even at the present day one type of water-bailer in use by fishermen in Norway, represented by numerous specimens in the Fisheries Museum at Bergen, has the handle turned forward or above the scoop cavity (Pl. 5), a peculiarity of form so universal throughout the island world of the Pacific that it is called the Oceanic pattern (Fig. 8). Nowhere in Europe save in Scandinavia is a similar design employed.
Similarly we have to go to Indonesia (Fig. 9) to find boats with both ends bified and therefore comparable with the peculiar form of stem and stern seen in the boat of Als.
In the Philippines bifid ends are characteristic both of the smaller varieties of outrigger canoes and of the more specialized vintas used by the Moros of Mindanao. 6 The fishing-boats of Bali and the Northern - 53 Celebes have the same peculiarity (Pl. 6) and in the islands in Geelvink Bay, New Guinea, the prow of a certain type of canoe is again bifid. 7 In Java and Madura the plank-built koleks, coasting vessels of considerable size, have the keel prolonged at either end into a stout ram-shaped projection; this, in combination with the prominent stem-and stern-heads, gives a characteristic bifid form to each end, distinctly reminiscent of what we see in the Als boat.
From these instances, and from many vestigial examples collected by Mueller-Wismar from Oceania, 8 it would appear that the bifid form of stern and stern is a survival of one characteristic of a very primitive type of boat construction.
Among other notable parallels may be mentioned the following: The wooden shafts of arrows found in peat bogs in Denmark, dating from about the first century A.D., are enlarged at the nock and must have been associated with the use of what is known as the primary release. 9 Other arrows of a rather later period having the same peculiarity come from Schleswig bogs, and it is remarkable that the Ainus of Japan and Saghalien and some of the Formosan tribes are the only ones among Eur-Asian peoples to employ the primary release in recent times. 10
Again, the custom of burying a great chief together with the ship which was his pride and most treasured possession was a usual practice among the Vikings. This is paralleled in many island groups in the Pacific, where either the chief's boats were buried or broken up after his death (Fiji) or where one was used as a coffin for the body (Polynesia).
Taken together, these similarities, some of little importance alone, in their cumulative effect are sufficient to suggest the existence in prehistoric times of a diffusion or perhaps a continuity of certain forms of material culture, particularly in boat-design and the fashioning of weapons, between the island peoples of the western Pacific and the people inhabiting the Scandinavian region of northern Europe. Such relationship could only be possible by way of the sea and coast lands along the Arctic shores of Siberia, or that of the river systems of Central Asia. Here may be noted the fact recorded by Burney 11 that the boats seen on the Kolyma river in eastern Siberia had “the planks sewed together with twisted osiers, and fastened to the timbers only by leathern straps in lieu of nails or pegs”. This, taken in conjunction with Snow's record 12 of the construction of the plank-built boats of the Ainus of the Kurile islands as having the timbers lashed to the planking with whale sinews or whalebone, suggest links from the broken chain of culture that may once have stretched between east and west within the Arctic Circle.
The boat-culture of the Pacific is, I believe, far older than is generally believed. There is no inherent improbability in the extension during prehistoric times of the wanderings of a bold and hardy seafaring people from an original centre on the shores or islands of the Pacific, westward to Europe along the coast of Siberia as it then was. - 54 Or the movement may have been in the reverse direction. After the final recession of the ice-cap at the close of the Glacial Age and the end of the succeeding “Continental Phase”, placed approximately at 4000 B.C., a warm and moist “Maritime Phase” occurred when immense lakes were formed covering much of what is now tundra, prairie, and forest; the waters of the Arctic ocean stretched vast arms or gulfs far inland, deep into the Eur-Asian continent. Owing to the presence of these lakes and gulfs there was at this period far greater opportunity for coastal navigation and for cultural drifts than exists to-day.
To the “Maritime Phase” succeeded the “Later Forest Phase”, lasting from about 3000 to 1800 B.C., 13 when neolithic civilisation reached its highest development to merge gradually into the Bronze Age, the period when the Swedish petroglyphs of bifid-ended boats were being carved on rocks in Bohuslaen. The climate was dry, with fine, warm summers, and a relatively small rainfall; there is evidence of considerable sea-borne commerce during this phase between Scandinavia and the British isles; under the favourable climatic conditions then prevailing, this would seem to be the time when conditions were most favourable for the prosecution of coastwise traffic between the Pacific and Scandinavia by way of the shores of Siberia, if such ever existed.
That great climatic variations have continued well into historic times is a fact of common knowledge. Immense tracts of fertile land have become arid and barren wastes of sand since the days when Greek kingdoms were founded in central Asia out of the spoils and by force of the prestige of Alexander's conquests; the process of desiccation still continues.
An alternative hypothesis is that the nomadic ancestors of the Nordic element in the present Scandinavian population took with them the inserted type of boat-framing when they migrated from the steppes of the Euxine-Caspian region to invade and overrun the countries which now constitute the homelands of their descendants. So far as we know, these people, distinguished as the dolichocephalic builders of tumuli (kurgans) in southern Russia, belonged probably to the same stock as other nomads having the same head-form and the same custom of burying their dead in tumuli, who inhabited the plateau to the east of lake Baikal. If so, the river Amur would be available as a waterway of cultural contact with the coastal people of the western Pacific; this would render possible the transmission of the Pacific type of boat characterized by inserted frames and bifid ends by way of the rivers and lakes of Southern Siberia to the rivers draining the plain of Central Europe and thence to the Baltic and to Scandinavia.
This line, be it noted, coincides approximately with the alignment of the Trans-Siberian railway and the belt of Russian settlements stretching by way of Omsk, Tomsk, and Irkutsk to Chita in Trans-Baikalia—from the southern passes of the Urals to the headwaters of the Amur, thereby traversing the most fertile region of Siberia.
Failing acceptance of either of these hypotheses of cultural drift there remains the possibility of independent invention and evolution. This, to me, seems an improbable explanation in view of the facts that the parallelism noted is multiple and not confined to a solitary feature and that the main similarity, the use of inserted frames tied to cleats, - 55 is a peculiarity of a complicated and extremely ingenious character. As we have seen, the Viking type of plank-built craft agrees with the orembai of Indonesia in (a) insertion of frames tied to cleats on the hull and (b) the high upturned ends. The still more ancient type belonging to the Bronze and early Iron Ages similarly agrees in the strangely bifid form of both its ends with several types of Indonesian boats and canoes (Java, Celebes, and Philippines); the Oceanic type of bailer characteristic of the Pacific is to-day found nowhere in Europe except in Norway. Boat-burial and arrow-form have been noted as further notable parallels.
How far the cumulative effect of these resemblances renders belief in independent invention difficult must remain largely a matter of individual opinion or bias until further evidence is available in proof or disproof. 14
When I, in 1935, drew attention to several striking features common to the ancient boats of Scandinavia and certain of those of Indonesia and Oceania, I purposely omitted to make mention of the boats of Botel Tobago, a small island off the southern end of Formosa, although J. W. Davidson 16 had stated that they are “almost an exact counterpart of the craft constructed by the Papuans in the Solomon islands, both as to form, method of construction and ornamentation”. This omission was made because the statement, apparently quite definite, gave no details. It might have been that the author had been concerned with general resemblances and had not taken account of the details of rib-attachment, a point which many observers, without technical knowledge of boat construction, might easily overlook.
Thanks to the kindly intervention of Dr. Georg Friederici, I obtained recently photographs of a fine example of this kind of boat now in the Hamburg Museum für Voelkerkunde (No. A.4579). These were made by permission of the Director, Professor Franz Termer, who very generously permits me to publish and describe them. I must add that Dr. Friederici personally instructed the photographer as to the special points to be brought out in the views; to him, and to Professor Termer I have to express my warm appreciation of their most helpful courtesy.
The photographs show very clearly the main details of construction. They prove that Davidson is fully justified in saying that the Botel Tobago boats are almost identical in construction with the Solomon island’ mon type. There is no longer any possible doubt that the Botel Tobago boat, the mon, and the Moluccan orembai all belong to the same class of naval design. What differences there are in the first mentioned suggest that it belongs to a more advanced stage of boat-building; it is probable that the greater simplicity or crudity of the design of the orembai and the mon is due to degradation.
As may be seen from an examination of the photographs (Pl. 7, Figs. 1 and 2) the boat is equal-ended. Each end is sharp and rises in a gracefully abrupt fashion, terminating in an acuminate point. The lines are handsome and clean, with the greatest beam amidships, - 56 gradually decreasing toward each end, so that in plan the gunwale lines assumes a broadly lanceolate outline.
The ends rise to a height of 1.26 metres measured from the ground, whereas amidships it is only 0.75 metre. The beam is 0.37 metre.
The base of the hull consists of a narrow salient keel, spliced by means of a lock-joint at each end to a narrow and curved stem-post. On each side of the keel are three wide strakes (Pl. 7, Fig. 2). The two lower run horizontally and are shorter than the third, which we may term the washstrake. The terminal sections of the washstrakes form the up-curved end-pieces. Each half end-piece is cut from the solid; its distal margin butts against one side of one of the narrow stem-posts.
The planks are held together initially by means of wooden dowel-pins inserted into opposed edges as in the orernbai type; no sign of their presence is shown outwardly. As each strake is made up of three lengths or sections butted end to end, care is taken to break the joints; this is clearly seen in Plate 7, Fig 2.
As in the orernbai the dowel attachment of the planking is reinforced by a system of indirect lashings. When dubbing out the planks, lug-shaped perforated cleats (comb-cleats) are shaped out and left upstanding at predetermined places. In the present boat they consist of three sets. The first of these give attachment to a U-shaped transverse frame, located amidships (Pl. 8, Fig. 1). The second serve to hold in place a triangular bulkhead board near one end (Pl 8, Fig. 2); the third are used to tie together the converging sides at each end. In addition, a short board, triangular in shape, evidently a seat, rests upon and is lashed to a ledge which projects horizontally from the lower edge of the washstrake in the bows at each end; this lashing is reinforced by a number of wooden pins transfixing board and ledge, clearly seen in Pl 8, Fig. 2. The ledge referred to extends for about three-quarters of the length of the hull on each side from one end; at the other it is quite short. Several large holes perforate the longer ledge at intervals; these probably were for the attachment of paddling-thwarts though none is present in the boat as it is.
The sides of the hull are handsomely ornamented (Pl 7, Fig. 1 and text Fig. 10). Toward each end panels of double chevrons alternate with others on which highly stylized human figures are painted in sets of three. Prominent in the enlarged panel on each bow at each end, is a large circular rose-like disc, formed of three concentric circles of small semi-lunes, white on a black ground. In Fischer's figure given by Heine-Geldern, 17 a large round disc is shown at each end in similar position.
The peculiar construction of this boat of Botel Tobago thus briefly described, proves that the range of the orembai and mon type of hull-construction extends far to the north of the Moluccas and thus helps materially toward bridging the gap in the distribution of rib-cleat attachment signalized in ancient Scandinavian and in present-day Indonesia.
It is a noteworthy detail that the method of lashing the ribs to the hull planking is more nearly related to the Scandinavian type than to that in use either in the orembai or the mon. Instead of the rattan- 57
lashing passing over the rib as in these two types, it is passed through a transverse perforation in the rib itself. The presence of a keel and stem-posts is another approximation to the Scandinavian design as seen in the later Viking ships (Gokstad, etc.), and thereby differs from the round-bottomed design of the orembai and the mon.
The occurence of large circular discs painted on each side of both ends is a most unusual instance of multiple oculi. It is significant that the only other known instances are found in central Indonesia and on the east coast of Africa where Indonesian maritime influence was powerful in the distant past. The first of these instances is that seen at Boro Budur in eastern Java, where two of the eighth or ninth century ships sculptured on the walls of the temple show round oculi at each end of the hull—on the bows and the quarters. The other is the presence of oculi in the same duplicated positions on the mtepe, one of the two primitive east African vessels which show distinct evidence of Indonesian influence in their design—the other being the double outrigger canoe, the distinctive fishing-craft along the whole coast from Lamu in the north to Mozambique in the south.
In conclusion, it is clear that in constructional details, the Botel Tobago boat possesses important and characteristic features which it shares in common with certain ancient Scandinavian vessels. Either this is an extraordinary instance of convergent development multiple major in features of constructional design, or there has been in the - 58 distant past cultural connection or cultural diffusion between northern Europe and the western Pacific whereby these features have been carried half round the world. The time limit in hand is ample for the purpose, for we know that the comb-cleat attachment type of boat-design was already in use in Scandinavia at the end of the Bronze Age. We may safely reckon that inserted frames attached to comb-cleats on the hull planking were in use in Scandinavia twenty-five centuries ago.
If a climate milder than the present prevailed then or subsequently along the northern coast of Asia, cultural diffusion by means of coastal (or river?) communication, possibly in short stages, between the Atlantic and the Pacific would encounter no insuperable obstacle to the success of its operation, slow though this would probably be. The three peoples who were distinguished in the past as the most fearless navigators the world has ever seen—the Indonesians, Polynesians and ancient Scandinavians—all agree in the possession of the comb-cleat constructional feature of design. So far as I am aware no other people have ever employed this peculiar device except the Solomon islanders who borrowed it directly from an Indonesian source at a comparatively recent date. It is a feature foreign to the boat-designs of all the great cultures of antiquity, whether of the Nile, Euphrates, Indus, or Mediterranean.- i
PLATE 1. RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ALS BOAT.- ii
Note the bifid form of the ends and the peculiar strut strengthening each of these extremities. (After G. Rosenberg.)
PLATE 2. GOKTSAD SHIP.- iii - iv
View of the interior, looking forward. (By courtesy of the Universitetets Oldsaksamling, Oslo.)
PLATE 4. SOLOMON ISLANDS' MON.- v - vi - vii
View of the interior at one end, showing inserted U-frames lashed to cleats on the planking by split rattans. (The pole across the gunwales and the two longitudinally placed poles within the hull, have been placed there for the purpose of safe transport.) (By courtesy of the British Museum.)
PLATE 7. BOAT OF BOTEL TOBAGO.- viii
Fig. 1. Side view., Fig. 2. Interior view. (By courtesy of Museum fur Voelkerkunde, Hamburg.)
1 The above article first appeared in The Mariner's Mirror (Quarterly Journal of the Society for Nautical Research), vol. 21, no. 4, Oct., 1935, and due acknowledgement is here made with thanks to the editor for permission to republish in this Journal, where several of J. Hornell's able articles have already appeared.—Ed.
2 Bergens Museums Aarbog, Bergen, 1903.
3 Broendsted, J., “Oldtidsbaaden fra Als” in the Nationalmuseets Bog, Copenhagen, 1925.
4 Ellis, W.. Polynesian Researches, vol. 1, p. 182, London, 1829.
5 British Museum, Add. MS. No. 15513.
6 Hornell, J., “The Outrigger Canoes of Indonesia”, Madras Fisheries Bulletin, No. 12, 1920.
7 Hornell, loc. cit.
8 Baessler-Archiv, Beitrage zur Volkerkunde, Band 2, pp. 235-49, Leipzig, 1912.
9 Morse, Ed S., Additional Notes on Arrow Release, p. 12. Peabody Museum, Salem (Mass.), 1922.
10 Morse, Ed. S., op. cit., p. 11.
11 A Chronological History of North-eastern Voyages of Discovery, p. 569, London. 1819.
12 In Forbidden Seas, p. 31, 1910.
13 Brooks. C. E. P., “Variations of Climate since the Ice Age”, Quart. Journ. of the Roy. Meteorological Society, July. 1921, pp. 173-194.
14 See Johannes C. Andersen, “Independent Evolution of Ideas”, N.Z. Journal of Science and Technology, vol. 7 (1924), 35-38.
15 Reprinted from Man, no. 200, 1936, with acknowledgement and thanks to the editor of that publication, to complete the 1935 article by J. Hornell.
16 The Inland of Formosa, past and present, p. 568, London, 1903.
17 ‘Urheimat u. früheste Wanderungen der Austronesier’, Anthropos, vol. 27, pl. 19, fig. 90, 1932.