For thousands of years, wooden boats allowed the peoples of northern Europe to trade, influence, and sometimes spread war across the seas and continents.
In December, the United Nations Culture Agency added Nordic “clinker boats” to its list of traditions that represent humanity’s intangible cultural heritage. Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden jointly sought UNESCO designation.
The term “clinker” is thought to refer to the way the wooden boards of the boat were fastened together.
Proponents of the successful nomination hope that it will protect and preserve for future generations the boat-building techniques that led to the Viking Age as the number of active clinker craftsmen dwindles and fishermen and others prefer ships with cheap glass fiber hulls. choose option.
“We can see that the skill of building them, the skill of wielding boats, the knowledge of the sailors … of Copenhagen.
The museum not only displays the remains of wooden ships built over 1,000 years ago, but also works to reconstruct and rebuild other Viking boats. The process involves using experimental archaeological methods to gain a deeper, more practical understanding of the Viking Age, such as how quickly ships sailed and how many people they carried.
Nielsen, who oversees the construction and repair of wooden boats built in the clinker tradition, said that there are only 20 practicing clinker boat craftsmen in Denmark, perhaps 200 across Northern Europe.
“We think this is a tradition that we have to show, and we have to let people know that it was part of our background,” he told the Associated Press.
Wooden clinker boats are characterized by the use of overlapping longitudinal wooden hull planks sewn together or riveted.
Builders strengthen the boats internally by additional wooden components, mainly tall oak trees, which constitute the ribs of the vessel. They fill the gaps between tar or tallow mixed with animal hair, wool and moss.
“When you build it with these overlaps within it, you get a hull that is quite flexible, but at the same time, incredibly strong,” explained Triona Sorensen, curator at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, who It is home to five 11th-century remains. Viking boat built with clinker methods.
Nielsen said there is evidence that clinker technology first appeared during the Bronze Age, thousands of years ago.
But it was during the Viking Age that clinker boats had their peak, according to Sorensen. The era from 793 to 1066, when the Norsemen or Vikings conducted large-scale raids, colonization, conquests and trading trips across Europe. They also reached North America.
Their light, strong and fast ships were unsurpassed in their time and provided the foundation for the kingdoms in Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
If “you had no ships, you would have no Viking Age,” Sorensen said. “It literally made it possible for them to expand that kind of horizon so that they could become a more global people.”
While the clinker boat tradition in Northern Europe persists today, the ships are used by hobbyists for festivities, regattas and sporting events, rather than the raids and conquests seen 1,000 years ago.
The UNESCO nomination was signed by about 200 communities and cultural functionaries, including Sami communities, in the fields of construction and traditional clinker boat craftsmanship.
The inscription on the Intangible Cultural Heritage List obliges the Nordic countries to try to preserve the remnants of the fading tradition.
“You can’t read how to make a boat in a book, so if you want to be a good boat builder, you have to build a lot of boats,” said Nielsen of the Viking Ship Museum. “If you want to keep these skills alive, you have to keep them.”