Reasearch and Reconstruction of Ships


Instructors: Dr. Filipe Castro (

Every Fall Semester



Ship Reconstruction Laboratory

The SHIPLAB was established in 1976 by J. Richard Steffy to support the research of wooden vessels, and to train students in the techniques of ship reconstruction. It is part of the Nautical Archaeological Program (NAP) in the Anthropology Department at Texas A&M University.

The SHIPLAB is the place where all NAP students endure the difficulties of their first full reconstruction of a ship, which is the final project for the course ANTH 616 (Research and Reconstruction of Ships).Outside of class, students and faculty work on other reconstruction projects in the laboratory.

Current research projects include the hulls of the early 17th-century Portuguese Indiaman Nossa Senhora dos Mártires; the late 17th-century Portuguese frigate Santo António de Tana; and the 18th-century British frigate H.M.S. Pallas.



"At the university of Chicago I was lucky enough to go through a general education program devised by Robert M. Hutchins, where science was presented as an integral part of the gorgeous tapestry of human knowledge. It was considered unthinkable for an aspiring physicist not to know Plato, Aristotle, Bach, Shakespeare, Gibbon, Malinowski, and Freud - among many others. (.) The status of the teachers in the Hutchins curriculum had almost nothing to do with their research; perversely - unlike the American university standard of today - teachers were valued for their teaching, their ability to inform and inspire the next generation."

Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, New York: Balantine Books, 1997:xiv-xv.









Fall 2000

Fall 2001

Fall 2002

Fall 2003

Fall 2004


Fall 2005


Fall 2006

 Fall 2007




Class Time: Tuesday, 9:10 AM - 12:20 PM
Room: Anthropology Building, Rm. 105
Office hours: Tuesday 1:30 - 3:30 PM or by appointment.


Portal to Relevant Files:


























Guidelines to write your paper






Class Notes:








Week 1

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Week 8

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Week 14

Read the "Guidelines to write your paper" before you start.

Start early: papers delivered after the deadline will be graded to 90 points.


Intellectual content

This course is an introduction to the basic technical skills required for the recording, representing and interpreting of archaeological old remains. During their first semester in the Nautical Archaeology Program students are introduced to the history and theoretical basis of nautical archaeology as a discipline, in ANTH611 - Nautical Archaeology, and learn the basic concepts of the history of wooden shipbuilding in ANTH615 - History of Shipbuilding Technology.

ANTH616 gives the students a practical approach to the conceptualization and design of a ship. From the intellectual content point of view, this course is divided in three parts: recording a shipwreck, reconstructing a ship from its archaeological remains, and producing a comprehensive ship project.

Upon completion of ANTH616 students are expected to be familiar with:
a) the particular vocabulary of shipbuilding;
b) the basic rules and methods to map an archaeological site;
c) the basic rules and methods to record hull remains: how to quantify and represent 3D curves on paper and how to produce a clear and comprehensive set of documents with all relevant records pertaining to a particular set of ship's hull remains;
d) the basic principles of ship construction, in terms of the structural components of a ship and its construction sequence;
e) the process of designing a ship's hull in the three standard views of the so-called "lines drawings";
f) the basic rules to reconstruct an archaeologically excavated ship's hull or, in other words, to formulate an "educated guess" about the probable size, shape and structural composition of the ship under study;
g) the standards for graphic representation of ship's hulls and their components;
h) the basic arithmetic of hull analysis.


Teaching strategy

This course is a hands-on course that requires many hours weekly of intense work. Students are expected to attend a ninety-minute lecture once a week, where the basic theoretical rules are explained and the weekly readings are discussed. Almost all classes are available on my website in Power Point format. The remaining time is spent solving problems and making practical exercises.

During the semester students must complete six short exercises and a final project. The exercises consist mainly of practical training in recording and drafting ship's parts, learning specific computer software, and developing a clear concept of desired accuracy; namely the relation between time, money and relevance of the data retrieved.

The final project consists of a complete study of a ship chosen by the students. Each student must select a vessel type and develop a full set of line drawings, construction drawings, and a paper in which his options and choices are described and explained.


Learning assessment

Students are encouraged to interact closely with the instructor during the course, as questions will continually arise from the intense research required to produce the final project.

Student performance is carefully supervised, as they complete the six short projects, and produce their drawings in the "Ship Lab", adjacent to my office.

This course is intellectually demanding on both students and faculty, and it is not uncommon for students to bring sleeping bags and coffee machines to the anthropology building during the last month of the semester.

There is no need to test the students' knowledge in a formal way, as it is not possible to pass this course without learning the basic concepts.