Bronze Age Boat – Dover, England - Atlas Obscura

Bronze Age Boat

One of the oldest seagoing boats in the world can be found at the Dover Museum. 


In September 1992, construction workers made an intriguing discovery while building a road: a sizable, well-preserved prehistoric boat, which was determined to be about 3,500 years old. Archaeologists estimated that the boat would have been in use around 1500 BC. Today, the boat lives in a special gallery in the Dover Museum.

When the Canterbury Archaeological Trust helped excavate the vessel, they knew they needed to take special care. When similar pieces had been found previously, attempts to remove them in a single piece were unsuccessful. So instead, they cut the boat into sections with a plan to reassemble it once it had all been unearthed. It took nearly a month to remove the boat—most of it, at least. One piece was left buried, as removing it would have damaged surrounding buildings.

The remains of this Bronze Age boat measure about 9.5 meters (31 feet), built from oak planks held together with wedges and yew branches. Its discovery was notable for nautical archaeology: the boat appears to be a seagoing vessel, which likely made trips across the Dover Straits to and from the European continent. 

Dover is a port town, and its proximity to continental Europe has made it a target for invasion and a frontline of defense in ancient and modern times. Other artifacts on display in the Dover Museum include swords and axes, elaborate brooches, and even a pair of Saxon skeletons unearthed in the early 20th century. 

Another of the more famous and beloved artifacts in the museum is the taxidermied remains of a gigantic polar bear, which is posed as if swatting at visitors with a massive clawed paw. The bear was “collected” by the Victorian polar explorer and doctor Reginald Koettlitz in 1897, and then became an heirloom to the Koettlitz family who lived locally until they donated it to the museum in 1960.

Know Before You Go

The museum is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. Entrance is free. 

All floors of the museum are fully accessible. Both the boat and the polar bear can be seen on the top floor.

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