When the Bronze Age Boat Comes In

Late Bronze Age logboat from the River Tay at Carpow acquired by Perth Museum and Art Gallery in 2007 with an NFA grant of £500.

We’re delighted to have an opportunity to share in the celebrations of the NFA’s 60th anniversary and express thanks for the Fund’s long-standing support in developing the archaeology collection at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. Many of the objects acquired through Treasure Trove could be singled out but I have chosen what is one of the most exciting and popular acquisitions and certainly the largest!

Digital StillCamera

Excavation of the logboat at Carpow nearing completion

Following its discovery in 2001 this Bronze Age logboat was excavated in 2006 and declared Treasure Trove. It was allocated to Perth Museum and Art Gallery in 2007. Although the bow had been severely abraded by the tidal flows of the River Tay, the greater part of the boat had been protected by mud and peat deposits. Several prehistoric and later logboats are known from the River Tay but this was the first opportunity to excavate and study such a vessel to modern standards. Radiocarbon dating has established a date of circa 1,000 BC, making the boat 3,000 years old. At 9m long the logistical challenges of dealing with the boat were enormous. The Museum saw the acquisition of the boat as a vital and unique opportunity to add to its prehistory collection, one of the key strengths of which is its Bronze Age elements. The excavation of the boat was led by Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust and was followed by five years of conservation, carried out by National Museums Scotland.

Logboat conservation nearing completion

The logboat undergoing conservation at the National Museums Collection Centre

In 2012 the boat made a triumphant return to Perthshire when it was displayed for 12 months in Perth Museum, where it was seen by 100,000 visitors. The exhibition told the story of the logboat, addressing discovery, excavation and conservation and its Bronze Age significance, including making and potential use. The latter could have encompassed ferry, cargo vessel, fishing and/or wild-fowling craft and a platform from which to make offerings to the river.

Bronze Age swords

Late Bronze Age swords from the River Tay

Rodent-nibbled hazelnut recovered from boat

A 3,000 year-old rodent-nibbled hazelnut recovered from the stern of the logboat

It was a double thrill to display both the boat and all the Bronze Age metalwork so far found in the River Tay (and in the collections of National Museums Scotland, Perth, Fife and Dundee museums). Much of this metalwork may have been deliberately placed in the river as offerings and the boat may have ended its working life as just such an offering.

Carpow logboat on display at Perth Museum

The Carpow logboat on display at Perth Museum and Art Gallery

The entire Carpow logboat project demonstrates the value of working in partnership to secure and interpret our shared past. NFA was a vital supporting partner to the core team of Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust, Perth Museum and Art Gallery, National Museums Scotland and Historic Scotland, making a critical contribution to the preservation of the boat and the sharing of its story.

Mark Hall
History Officer
Perth Museum and Art Gallery


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