World’s oldest boatyard is discovered under housing estate in Wales

An artists impression of what the prehistoric boat would have looked like The world’s oldest boatyard has been uncovered by archaeologists – under a new housing estate in Wales.

The ancient boat building site dating back nearly 4,000 years was uncovered when housing developers discovered the edge of a long-vanished Ice Age lake.

Work on the housing estate in Monmouth, South Wales, was stopped for six months as a team of archaeologists discovered the remains of the ancient boat building site used by prehistoric man.

It dates back to 1,700BC with excavations revealing three 100ft-long (30m) channels which run parrallel to each other – and at right angles to the ancient lake.

The “dead-straight” metre-wide channels are shaped like the bottom of wooden canoes – and cut through a mound of burned earth carbon dated to the early Bronze Age.

The housing estate in Monmouth where the world’s oldest boatyard was uncovered

The three “dead straight” channels found on the edge of an ancient Ice Age lake Archaeologist Stephen Clarke MBE said they showed a twin-hulled boat with an outrigger being dragged into a huge Ice Age lake.

Mr Clarke, 71, said: “I have been digging for 55 years and I have never seen anything like it. “No one in the world has ever identified a prehistoric boat building site before. “They have found fragments of boats but never a boat building site – this is of international importance.”

The discovery was made on the newly built Parc Glyndwr housing estate on the edge of the historic market town of Monmouth, South Wales. Monmouth Archaeological Society moved onto the site soon after the edge of the post-glacial lake was uncovered by unsuspecting builders.


The three “dead straight” channels found on the edge of an ancient Ice Age lake Mr Clarke said: “It’s a hell of a site – within 60 yards of it we had Stone Age artefacts and six Bronze Age sites.

“The three channels turned out to be 100ft-long and all perfectly parallel, level and at right angles to the edge of the post-glacial lake. The channels show they built a boat made out of twin canoes with an outrigger. There was no sign of the wooden boat but there was evidence of wood working on the site – with sharp flakes of imported flint found alongside the channels.”

He said the boat was built on what was a huge prehistoric lake which became a home to hunter gatherers – and slowly drained away over thousands of years.

Prehistoric cave drawings in Scandanavia have been discovered depicting outrigger boats like the one the Monmouth boat left behind. And they were still being used in places like Fiji in the 19th century. A large boat of a similar date and form to the Monmouth remains was recently recovered from a peat bog at Lurgan, Ireland.

Similar boats were still being sailed in Fiji in the 19th century

An artist’s impression of what the Monmouth boat would have looked like

Monmouth Archaeological Society have previously won the highest award in their field – the Silver Trowel for the Greatest Initiative in Archaeology. But after uncovering the prehistoric shipyard the archaeologists had to give it back to housing developers Charles Church.

Mr Clarke said: “The prehistoric site is now mostly under a flood pond and the parts that aren’t have been built on. “We have preserved it by recording it to the best of our ability before it was developed on unfortunately there just isn’t the money to preserve and protect all these sites.”

The research surrounding the prehistoric boat building site is now being published in a book called The Lost Lake.

Mr Clarke added: “I am hoping other archaeologists will have seen similar channels on other sites and realise what was happening there.

“This is the first site that has been recognised in the world but there must be others out there.”

For more information about Prehistoric Boats can be found HERE.