Illuminating the past – Enhancing the present – Inspiring the future

“Ik spreek geen Vlaams” at Oostende voor Anker festival!

Marion Green writes: Anticipating talking to hundreds of Flemish visitors about the Bronze Age boat replica at this marine festival at the end of May, like a good teacher I did some prep. With the help of Flemish Kristien, one of our newest excavators at the Trust, I put together a few sentences. Trying the native language always goes down well and some English vocabulary relating to the boat was very similar in Flemish. Most of our festival visitors were happy to speak French or English though and these were our languages of choice for three days.

As we found in Boulogne-sur-Mer last year, people were enthralled by the story of the Dover boat discovery and in awe of the imagination and skills of our ancestors – demonstrated so well by the wonderful replica vessel, an experimental archaeology exercise for the European project ‘Boat 1550 BC’.

We could confidently deal with questions about the technologies involved in making both the boat and the tools used while ‘Do you know if the original boat was made in England, France or Flanders?’ or ‘Do you think they all spoke the same language back then?’ were questions we couldn’t answer – but we could muse over them together.
Replica Bronze Age boat in OstendReplica Bronze Age boat in OstendReplica Bronze Age boat in Ostend
People remarked on how important it is to do such work – recovering the original boat and using the replica to demonstrate the capabilities of people 3,500 years ago and perhaps influence some modern misconceptions about our prehistoric ancestors. Further, people were fascinated to hear about the archaeological evidence we have for links between the lands we now know as south- east England, Northern France and Flanders over 3,000 years ago. The same kinds of tools, pottery etc found on sites in these three areas demonstrate communication between their peoples and it is quite possible that the original Dover boat – and others like it – enabled this.

Encouraging an awareness of this bond in the past among 21st century communities on either side of the Channel was at the heart of the ‘Boat 1550 BC’ project … and actively promoting the original and replica boat at occasions like the Boulogne and Oostend festivals really does enhance this giving a fantastic opportunity for lots of positive engagement. People seem to genuinely benefit from the experience.

We certainly flew the flag for Dover Museum and the Dover Boat Gallery over the three days so museum staff might like to try this out … “Dit is een boot uit de Bronstijd”.

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