Bovinda - Neolithic Skin Currach
The initial objective of the Newgrange Currach Project was to prove that the Neolithic people of Western Europe crossed to Ireland from Spain in woven baskets boats clad with animal skin, using the method of construction recorded by The National Museum in 1930, of Michael O’Brien building the last leather currach for Salmon fishing on the river Boyne. This, we believe, was in fact the thumb print of how to make an ocean going ship using the same methods.
15 large cow-skins where cut into strips, then coiled, stretched and dried before being used to tong the leather plates onto the currach. A suggested method is to secure the rawhide tong into the thick end of the quill with a tacky material like tree resin the thinner end of the feather could be then fed through previously bored holes made using a flint headed fire bow, or a hand held flint tipped rubbing fire stick. The evidence to date demonstrated that rawhide tonging can endure over 3 months of water saturation every year for 4 years now and swell with the leather to close the hull of a craft and have it remain water tight. Animal fat mixed with fish oil is a suitable lubricant for the above project, but it attracts rats that in turn feast on the natural materials. This was not of concern to the Neolithic communities as rats only arrived into Ireland as late a 300ad, it is said, with merchants who travelled from France (ironically the Gaelic word ‘francach‘ means ‘French’ but can also translate as ‘rat’). We like to believe that it was because of the arrival of the black rat in 300ad and the arrival of the brown rat in the 13th century that skin clad currachs disappeared from our coastline and not solely because Viking technology was superior. Monks must also have faced these same rigors when the plague came to their monasteries, whether they were to stay or risk everything by searching for the truth beyond the horizon of the sea. Another important fact we found was that leather could simply mean tanned with tree bark and oiled or sole leather which was on the far end of the quality spectrum. But yet, the most primitive leather was water resistant and could be preserved with fats, it was much lighter and thinner and therefore could be easily tonged and repairs could be made on the move.