GEA systems cool sensational find from the Bronze Age - Keeping fresh in quite a different way: preservation of prehistoric boats in England

Press Release

21. October 2013 Two GEA Searle KMe 95-6AL-4 air coolers are keeping fresh a spectacular archaeological find in England: eight very well preserved dugout canoes from the Bronze Age. Archaeologists found these boats, around 3,500 years old, in a silted, long dried-out arm of a river at Flag Fen, at an archaeological dig near Peterborough (in Cambridgeshire). The scientists at the open-air Flag Fen Bronze Age Centre and Archaeology Park are planning to preserve these precious findings by spraying synthetic wax (polyethylene glycol) and water on the prehistoric relics for about two years. Only then is it possible to dry the wood step by step, without tearing it: a technique that had earlier proved effective in preservation of the Mary Rose, a warship that sank in 1545.

The eight dugout canoes from the Bronze Age, upon being delivered to the new cold room at Flag Fen, in England. The preservation process will take around two years, to enable gradual later drying. (Photo: Vivacity Peterborough Museum)
The eight dugout canoes from the Bronze Age, upon being delivered to the new cold room at Flag Fen, in England. The preservation process will take around two years, to enable gradual later drying. (Photo: Vivacity Peterborough Museum)
One of the dugout canoes was decorated with impressive hash-mark etchings. Archeologists are still working to explain their meaning. (Photo: Cambridge Archaeological Unit)
One of the dugout canoes was decorated with impressive hash-mark etchings. Archeologists are still working to explain their meaning. (Photo: Cambridge Archaeological Unit)

The archaeologists go about their work at Flag Fen in a refrigerated room. Museum visitors can observe their work through double-glazed windows at specific times in the day. The English refrigeration specialist R.A.C. Kettering from Northamptonshire built a cold room especially for this use. The work in the cold room takes place at less than 5 °C to keep the boats in peak condition. The two GEA Searle air coolers, installed across from each other, keep the temperature at its required level. Only one cooler is sufficient to keep the room at the required temperature, so that the other can be shut down for service. R.A.C. Kettering decided on GEA systems, since their reliability and solid craftsmanship are critical for uses with such historical significance. The capability of quickly procuring spare parts was also a factor in selecting GEA. Key components for refrigeration are semi-hermetic P8LL-40X-EWL compressors from Copeland.

Single dugout canoes are more frequently found, usually during the installation of underground pipelines. But to find eight boats at once was an extremely unique discovery – and possiblly of greater significance than the discovery of the Mary Rose. The largest boat is 8.5 m long and the smallest, 3.5 m. Six of the canoes were made of oak, with one of lime and another of alder. The skill of our ancestors in woodwork is attested by the visible repair work with wooden plugs and carrying handles. One of the vessels was even insulated against moisture with clay. The archaeologists believe that the boats were scuttled intentionally over a period of approx. 600 years. The reason? Perhaps as sacrifices to the deities – or the sinking was intentional in winter to protect them from drying out. The experts are still undecided about the etched hash-mark pattern that decorates one of the canoes.

Flag Fen will be installing an automatic wax spraying system to conserve these remarkable log boats and is partners wishing to get involved with the project. If you would like to know more please contact Sarah Wilson, Archaeology Development Officer at Vivacity, on Sarah.Wilson@vivacity-peterborough.com

 

Sales contact:
GEA Heat Exchangers Ltd.
GEA Searle Systems
Jeremy Manktelow
20 Davis Way, Newgate Lane, Fareham, Hampshire, PO14 1AR,
United Kingdom
Phone: + 44 (0)1329 823344
searle.hx.uk@gea.com

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