Wooden Ship Building and the Interpretation of Shipwrecks
Nautical Archaeology
8.5 x 11, 328 pp.
63 b&w photos. 219 line drawings. 6 tables. Gloss. Bib. Index.
Pub Date: 08/21/2012
Ed Rachal Foundation Nautical Archaeology Series
Price:        $60.00 s


Published by Texas A&M University Press

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Wooden Ship Building and the Interpretation of Shipwrecks

By J. Richard Steffy

This book is a guide to the study of the most marvelous structures ever built by humankind–wooden ships and boats. It is intended for nautical archaeologists and for anyone charged with documenting and interpreting the remains of wrecked or abandoned vessels. It will also be of value to historians, authors, model builders, and others interested in the design and construction of wooden watercraft of the past. The text is divided into three parts. The first introduces the discipline and presents enough basic information to permit the untrained reader to understand the analysis of ship and boat construction that follows. Part II is broken into three chapters that investigate ancient, medieval, and post-medieval shipwrecks and supporting documentation. Not all of the world's ship and boat excavations can be included in this single volume; nautical archaeology has progressed too far for that. Instead, these three chapters have been assembled to represent a cross section of shipbuilding technology as seen through the interpretation of a select group of finds. Part III addresses the techniques of recording hull remains, assembling archival information, reconstructing vessels, and converting data into plans and publication. It is by no means a "how-to" section. Sites, logistics, and the wrecks themselves vary so much that, like wooden shipbuilding, this discipline can never become an exact science. Rather, the third part of the book discusses work done on previous projects and suggests additional methods that might prove helpful to readers in their own endeavors. The book contains an illustrated glossary, specifically designed for archaeological use. There is also a select bibliography, annotated where titles do not indicate content and arranged in historical groups to provide sources for most areas of research.

J. RICHARD STEFFY'S lifelong interest in ships and seafaring was directed toward nautical archaeology in the mid-1960s. Since then, he has been involved in numerous shipwreck excavation projects in Europe, Asia, and North America. His most recent research has been directed toward ancient and early medieval craft. He was awarded a MacArthur Foundation fellowship in 1985 in recognition of his contributions to the field. He was the Sara W. and George O. Yamini Professor of Nautical Archaeology, Emeritus, at Texas A&M University and the Institute of Nautical Archaeology.

What Readers Are Saying:

" . . . a work that is both erudite and lively. Teeming with photographs and diagrams, Steffy's book details exactly how ancient vessels were built (with much more skill and sophistication than was previously thought) and how archaeologists and ship enthusiasts have deduced their information. Steffy's enthusiasm is infectious, as is his admiration for the shipbuilders of the past and the researchers of today."--Islands

"Steffy's work on analysis of construction and techniques for documentation, from gridding a located wreck to working on a reconstruction, is first class. . . . Highly recommended." --Choice

"Dick Steffy must be known by reputation, if not personally, throughout the world of nautical archaeology. This unassuming man's utterances about the archaeology of boats and all that entails demand attention, since he is one of those very rare persons who has applied a considerable practical talent and intellect to the understanding and reconstruction of ancient wrecks for over thirty years. Also during that time he has taught at the Texas A&M University. There is nothing quite like teaching for creating order out of the knowledge gained elsewhere. His conclusions and assessments are original and sound, unlike some writers who are uncertain purveyors of the work of others. . . . a quite remarkable and readable book on the subject of gleaning the maximum information from ancient wrecks. . . . Dick Steffy has created a book quite unlike any available. It is accessible to readers from every level of attainment without ever being simplistic. The book combines clarity, warmth of style and authoritative writing to such a degree that it must become a major work of reference." --International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, No. 3

"After decades of careful, diligent, single-minded devotion, during which he practically invented the field of scientific shipwreck reconstruction, Steffy has done what every academic pioneer should do (but most do not): he has set it all down in a book. . . . this book occupies a unique niche in the literature on wooden shipbuilding and ship archaeology." --The American Neptune

"The book has three parts, all superbly illustrated and fully referenced . . . this book is a surpassing achievement, and will be the basic text on ship and boat archaeology for years to come."--David Gibbons

" . . . the format and clear style should appeal to anyone with an interest in wooden ships."--Sea History

" . . . an awesome piece of scholarship that will, I think, take its place as a standard work in maritime history and archaeology. . . . Taken as a whole, this book is the nearest thing to an `ultimate glossary' of terminology pertaining to wooden ship construction I have encountered even in relation to other redoubtable sources . . . "--Journal of Field Archaeology

"What distinguishes this work from other classics in this field is the author's excellent interpretation of accumulated data. . . . a milestone in the progress of modern archaeology. . . . the text acts as a Rosetta Stone between archaeological description and the overall field of maritime history, adding a great deal of knowledge to a specialty which has heretofore sailed only the coastline of written texts."--Northern Mariner/Le Marin du Nord

". . . should be on the bookshelf of any archaeologist who works on the maritime side of his discipline or who teaches courses in the practical aspects of archaeological work. . . . In all, this is a thorough textbook, and good reading."--WoodenBoat

"Destined to become both a genre classic and a respected textbook, this work takes us through each historic era, from ancient Egypt to Federal America, illustrating each with one or more studied shipwrecks. . . . this book perfectly follows the highest level of academic paradigm, the format that we should demand from all writers and publishers of reference works."--Seaways' Ships in Scale

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