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The Lyon Creek Boat Remains

Robert Stephen Neyland
Thesis: December 1990
Chair: Hamilton

Fragments of a small clinker-built boat and artifacts dating to the colonial era were discovered during a dredging operation at Lyons Creek, a tributary of the Patuxent River, Calvert county, Maryland.  Also recovered from the spoil area were ceramics, wine bottles, and kaolin tobacco pipes, which have dates of manufacture that span a period from 1680 to 1750.  All of these artifacts were salvaged from the spoil area, and have lost their original archaeological provenience.  Therefore, the deposition of the boat fragments could predate or postdate this interval.

The study of the Lyons Creek boat remains consists of three areas of investigation: the cultural implications of the boat, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century archival evidence for small craft in Maryland, and description and analysis of the construction of the boat remains.

These fragments reveal a boatbuilding heritage descended from the North European shell-first form of construction.  The predominant characteristic of the Lyons Creek boat is the traditional clinker construction having riveted overlapping strakes, a form of construction emphasizing the hull planking as the primary assembly.  The framing system utilized in this boat is unlike that found in most modern boats; instead of having a rigid skeleton of frames, the frames in the Lyons Creek boat were unconnected and perhaps somewhat loosely fastened.  This was probably the builder's design - allowing him to erect the hull by eye, prior to setting the frames, and to intentionally build resilience in to the hull.

Clinker-built boats, characterized by these boat remains, are the type of small craft that one would expect to find from the early colonial era.  In addition, archival evidence sustains the use of similar small craft in Maryland waters, and provides some context for their employment.

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