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The Sea of Galilee or “the Jesus Boat” is an ancient fishing boat from the 1st century AD, discovered in 1986

Neil Patrick

Sea of Galilee boat is an ancient fishermen’s boat dating to 1 AD, discovered in 1986 on the north-west shore of the Sea of Galilee in Israel,  is the oldest shipwreck to be recovered from a body of fresh water Although is also known as The Jesus Boat, there is no evidence connecting the boat to Jesus or his disciples.

 

The 'Sea of Galilee Boat' housed in the Yigal Alon Museum in Kibbutz Ginosar Source

The ‘Sea of Galilee Boat’ housed in the Yigal Alon Museum in Kibbutz Ginosar Source

The remains of the boat were found by brothers Moshe and Yuval Lufan, fishermen from Kibbutz Ginnosar. The brothers were keen amateur archaeologists with an interest in discovering artifacts from Israel’s past.

It had always been their hope to one day discover a boat in the Sea of Galilee, where they and generations of their family had fished. When drought reduced the water-level of the lake, the two brothers examined the newly exposed beach and stumbled across the remains of the boat buried in the shore.

The boat on display in its special climatised museum hall Source

The boat on display in its special climatised museum hall Source

The brothers reported their discovery to the authorities who sent out a team of archaeologists to investigate. Realising that the remains of the boat were of tremendous historical importance to Jewsand Christians alike, a secret archaeological dig followed, undertaken by members of Kibbutz Ginosar, the Israel Antiquities Authority, and numerous volunteers.

Rumour spread that the boat was full of gold and the dig had to be guarded night and day. Excavating the boat from the mud without damaging it, quickly enough to extract it before the water rose again, was a difficult process which lasted 12 days and nights.

The ancient wood was extremely fragile when exposed to the atmosphere and the boat had to be rescued from the place it was found by wrapping it in a mantle of fibreglass and insulating foam, which helped with both keeping it together, and floating it to its new location. It was then submerged in a chemical bath for 7 years before it could be displayed at the Yigal Allon Museum in Kibbutz Ginosar.

Part of the insulating foam coating used to float and rescue the boat Source

Part of the insulating foam coating used to float and rescue the boat Source

The boat has been dated to 40 BC (plus or minus 80 years) based on radiocarbon dating, and 50 BC to AD 50 based on pottery (including a cooking pot and lamp) and nails found in the boat, as well as hull construction techniques. The evidence of repeated repairs shows the boat was used for several decades, perhaps nearly a century. When its fishermen owners thought it was beyond repair, they removed all useful wooden parts and the hull eventually sank to the bottom of the lake. There it was covered with mud which prevented bacterial decomposition.

 

 Galilee boat Source

Galilee boat Source

The boat’s construction conforms to other boats constructed in that part of the Mediterranean during the period between 100 BC and AD 200. Constructed primarily of cedar planks joined together by pegged mortise and tenon joints and nails, the boat is shallow drafted with a flat bottom, allowing it to get very close to the shore while fishing. However, the boat is composed of ten different wood types, suggesting either a wood shortage or that the boat was made of scrap wood and had undergone extensive and repeated fixes. The boat was row-able, with four staggered rowers, and also had a mast allowing the fisherman to sail the boat.

The Sea of Galilee Boat is historically important to Jews as an example of the type of boat used by their ancestors in the 1st century for both fishing and transportation across the lake. Previously only references made by Roman authors, the Bible and mosaics had provided archaeologists insight into the construction of these types of vessels.

The boat is also important to Christians because this was the sort of boat used by Jesus and his disciples, several of whom were fishermen.Boats such as this played a large role in Jesus’ life and ministry, and are mentioned 50 times in the Gospels, though there is no evidence connecting the Sea of Galilee Boat itself to Jesus or his disciples.