Bronze Age Boat

Má I

Through a review of available archaeological, textual, iconographic and ethnographic data, the REF funded Ma I Bronze Age Boat Project systematically explored the use of Bronze Age materials, tools, and techniques, and then replicated the evidence to experimentally construct a full-size hypothetical model of a reed boat that would have traded in the Gulf and western Indian Ocean between 4000 and 2000 years ago.

Conventional research methodologies were counterbalanced by tapping into indigenous knowledge systems associated with western Indian Ocean shipbuilding traditions. This was achieved by including expert shipwrights, skilled in building modern equivalents of Bronze Age boats, in the research and construction teams. These individuals brought essential practical knowledge and ethnographic data that was outside of the experience of the Dhakira Principal Investigators to the project. These traditional skills and knowledge were critical to construction and at the same time allowed researchers to investigate “authenticity” by comparing contemporary expertise with the historical and archaeological records.



In the Ma II project, Dhakira and its partners from Zayed University are constructing an 18 meter Bronze Age ship for display in the central atrium of the Zayed National Museum. The ship will offer visitors a unique glimpse of the earliest forms of maritime technology in the Arabian Gulf. The ship is a reconstruction of a hypothetical trading vessel from the Umm an-Nar period in the late 3rd millennium BCE.

Although a variety of similar vessel types have been constructed prior to this, a composite Bronze Age ship reconstruction of this length has never been built before. This has necessitated the design of a series of experiments aimed at materials and construction features to ensure the strength and stability of the ship.

The Ma II project expands on research questions raising out of experimental evidence produced during previous construction projects, such as the refinement of construction techniques, and focuses on new questions, including: What are the exact dimensions of the hull of a 120-gur Bronze Age vessel from the Umm an-Nar period? What impact will reed bundle quality have on the long-term integrity of the hull? And, what techniques for parceling and lashing will ensure that the fastening method is the most suitable for long-term display in the museum?

Find out more about this program on its website, click here.

Partners: DHAKIRA Center for Heritage Studies at NYUAD, Zayed University, Department of Culture and Tourism, Abu Dhabi, UAE.