My annual lecturing trip to Malta has come and gone in a jiffy, and once again I am glad to have imparted some knowledge on traditional crafts of the world to the new MA students following the Global Maritime Archaeology programme at the University of Malta.

This was a two-week, intensive (for the students at least) programme which involved me talking solely about traditional crafts and their recording methodologies; the types, characteristics, environments, and histories, added with a few ethnographic case studies. The second half of the week was dedicated to recording a traditional boat stored at the Malta Maritime Museum in Vittoriosa.

The craft we were assigned was selected from the 60 or so boats held within the Museums’ store, where the naval bakery ovens are still located in situ. For those who are not familiar with the Malta Maritime Museum, this functioned as the Royal Naval Bakery; completed in 1845 and designed by William Scamp, innovative for incorporating iron columns as part of its structure, which ironically, today cause a bit of an issue when it comes to retaining the structures’ integrity and preservation.

Back to boats! We were assigned a Kajjikk, 3.60 m long with a transom and features of its rigging still in situ. Luckily, the added engine was an outboard engine which required no adaptation apart from a removable washboard, therefore retaining the original shape and most of the fabric. Trying to figure out which elements were repaired and how the rigging system was set up was slightly challenging. However, the museum does retain another example like this which clearly retained the rigging elements.

Working on a boat recording at the Malta Maritime Museum

A programme of repair works was about to commence when we started the recording process. The boat is planned to be exhibited as one of the collection pieces within the main museum halls. Works are being undertaken by a locally employed boatbuilder, who enjoys his morning Tetley (those where his exact words) whilst reading a Second World War Aircraft Magazine.

The method we undertook for recording was using the classic offset method, with measuring tapes, plumb bob, graph paper and pencils. The result was a ‘Naval Architecture Plan’ with a sheer plan, half breadth plan and body plan of the boat. Scaled photographs were taken and the boatbuilder was interviewed on certain aspects of the boat, with regards to repairs, timber species, paint layers, waterline set up and potential function of the vessel.

It took the students a while to get their heads wrapped round the method of taking offsets, seeing as none had a background in Archaeology, but the final plan looked pretty accurate! I’m grateful to both the UoM and Wessex for annually giving me the opportunity and consent to dedicate my time to giving these lectures and practicals, plus it’s always a fab feeling when the students provide positive feedback for the energy spent trying to explain boats!

“Thank you for sharing your knowledge and skills with us this week Stephanie, we all appreciate your assistance and it was lovely to meet you" - Student

By Stephanie Said, Marine Archaeologist