The oldest hand-sewn boat in the Mediterranean is about to leave the water

Wreck of Zambratija, Istria. Observations on the hull. © Philippe Groscaux/Missi
Wreck of Zambratija, Istria. Observations on the hull. © Philippe Groscaux/Mission Adriboats/CNRS/CCJ
The Zambratija boat in Croatia has stood the test of time, with 7 of its 12-metres still being remarkably well preserved. Dated to between the end of the 12th and the end of the 10th century BC, it is the oldest entirely hand-sewn boat in the Mediterranean. This wreck - a rare example of the ancient shipbuilding tradition of Istria and Dalmatia - will be studied in detail by a Franco-Croatian team from the Centre Camille Jullian (CNRS/AMU) and the Archaeological Museum of Istria (Pula, Croatia). From the 2nd July 2023, a team of divers will remove sections of the boat in the bay of Zambratija 1 . Once the pieces have been removed and placed in a bespoke support, the scientists will reconstruct the boat in 3D and precise its construction date, will identify the fibres used for sewing and study the techniques used to shape the wood. Handling relics of this calibre is a delicate affair; therefore, every stage of the process will require the utmost care. Once the analyses have been completed, this exceptional vessel and its components will be desalted in Croatia before heading to Grenoble in 2024, where they will pass through the capable hands of the Arc-Nucléart restoration workshop. It is hoped that the fully-restored boat will one day be exhibited in a new museum dedicated to Istria’s naval maritime heritage in Pula, Croatia.

1 Operation carried out as part of Ministry of Europe and foreign Affairs mission "Adriboats - Navires et navigation en Adriatique orientale dans l’Antiquité", directed by CNRS researcher Giulia Boetto