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Caulking Techniques in Northern and Central European Ships and Boats: 1500 BC - AD 1940

Carol Franklin
Thesis: December 1985
Chair: Steffy
Nautical Archaeology Program


Caulking, the essential process of stopping up the seams of wooden ships and boats to prevent leakage, is a severely neglected aspect of ship and boat archaeology.

This study of caulking techniques attempts to rectify this situation through an examination of caulking methods and materials throughout Northern and Central Europe from about 1500 B.C. a to A.D. 1940, being the period from the earliest known boat finds in this area to the advent of the Second World War.

The study includes an examination of caulking techniques employed in all types of ships and boats, from the smallest riverine craft tot he massive oceangoing vessels of the 18th century.

The examination is divided into three main sections. The caulking techniques of early watercraft are studied first, evidence for which is largely based on limited archaeological information. The study then moves onto an examination of larger seagoing and oceangoing vessels and the subsequent regularization of caulking techniques. The final section concerns the caulking techniques of smaller native craft confined to riverine, estuarine and coastal areas until their virtual obsolescence in the early 20th century.

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