Theme 4: Ships and Vessels

Given the vast number of ships and vessels lying as wrecks around Scotland’s coasts, it is useful to attempt to categorise them, define them and identify gaps in their research and future approaches to these vital archaeological resources.

The Fuday wreck located on a beach in the Sound of Barra. This potentially significant wreck provides all sections of the research community with the opportunity to study ship remains in a more accessible context than more traditional submerged wreck sites. Such remains provide often well-preserved subject material for multi-disciplinary investigation, ©Headland Archaeology.

This chapter outlines the range of archaeological potential of extant vessels, discusses the range and potential of early watercraft, such as log-boats, and defines the archaeological. historical and wider potential of shipwreck archaeology. The main recommendations of this theme include:

  • To develop a dating programme for the early vessels of Scotland in partnership with national and local strategies. Early watercraft provide a window into prehistoric settlement, exchange, communication, and belief and archaeological data should be integrated within this wider context.
  • To match multi-disciplinary techniques of interpretation and synthesis, with recent technological advances, particularly in the field of non-intrusive survey techniques. The application of such techniques to shipwrecks and extant vessels offers a remarkable opportunity to provide information on the economy of maritime communities.
  • To promote and pursue, creative approaches to capture the public imagination and offer the opportunity to provide a context for involving wider communities in educational outreach.   Extant vessels and shipwrecks as well as ship and boat-building sites can be seminal for raising awareness of the maritime historic environment generally and can be employed for engaging wider communities and disseminating research as well as providing a rich potential research resource for all periods.
  • To promote collaboration between different individuals and institutions in order to ensure that the skills and relevant infrastructure are available to meet all future needs. Realising the potential of, what is almost always fortuitous, discovery requires enhanced archaeological capacity in survey, excavation, post-excavation and subsequent analysis and publication.
  • To treat research and analysis into watercraft of any period holistically, integrated within the wider maritime environment. This can be undertaken by applying the methodology, exemplified in the ‘Source to Sea’ approach.

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