CULTURE

Ancient ship in the making may head for the high seas

The construction of an oared ship based on a model dating back to the 15th century BC is now the subject of a research program, and its maiden voyage, along a course common in the Minoan age – Crete, the Peloponnese, Salamis and Piraeus – is scheduled for 2004, in time for the Athens Olympic Games. The ship is of a type that was widespread in the eastern Mediterranean basin, and is regarded as a predecessor to the «hollow ships» of Homeric times and the trading vessels of antiquity. For a year, the Nautical Museum of Crete mulled over the idea of reproducing a version of a Minoan ship. Currently, it is the subject of an interesting research program and is already floating in a cyberspace sea. The digital reproduction of the Minoan ship was presented by the scientific research team in cooperation with the Nautical Museum of Crete in an exhibition which took place last month at the National War Museum in Athens. There, shipbuilding tools, carefully reconstructed, were put on show, along with Linear B references to ships in Minoan times. President of the Nautical Museum Constantinos Manioudakis said that the reconstruction of such a ship would be «a precious acquisition for the whole of Crete. As a fixed exhibition area and mooring place, the goal is to use one of the Venetian dockyards in the old harbor of Hania,» where all related material – shipbuilding tools as well as digital reproductions – will be exhibited. «The completed digital ship is a realistic and viable vessel, with sufficient strong points, nautically speaking, to withstand the Aegean Sea during its trial voyage,» said program director Captain Apostolos Kourtis. Yet to come is a reconstruction of the ship on a 1:5 scale in strict accordance with shipbuilding methods, «So that we can bring the final conclusions of the research program before a special scientific conference in the middle of spring,» said Kourtis. The 24-oared ship is likely to be 16 meters long and four meters wide, with a hull 1.5 meters high. It has been described as «the vessel that conveyed the natural curiosity, ambitions, power and the whole of Cretan civilization to the ends of the known earth at the time.»