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by Archaeology Newsroom

The route of obsidian. Travelling to the Cyclads in a papyrus boat

The transportation of obsidian from the remote island of Melos to the continent (lecture given at the Nautical Museum of Greece in December 1988) has raised the issue of the kind of vessel used for such a transportation. The author, having studied the geographical, climatological and technological conditions prevailing between 9.000 and 8.000 BC, has considered as very probable that these vessels were made of papyrus. His argument is based not only on the parallel example of the Egyptian papyrus boats, but also on the existence, until 1987, of a small papyrus vessel, the “papyrella”, on the island of Corfu. The papyrella was built on the basis of the aforementioned data. A double-prow papyrus vessel, with no sail, propelled by six pairs of oars,it left Lavreotiki – a commercial transportation centre of obsidian- on October 8th, 1988 having as its destination Mylos. “Papyrella” covered the distance between Lavrio and the island in seven days, not counting, of course, the delay caused by unfavourable weather conditions. Thus, it was proved that even if the prehistoric ships transporting obsidian were not made of papyrus, at least, the employment of the poor technology of that period, would have made commercial shipping more efficient than what we have until now believed.