Possible ancient logboat spotted in River Boyne by citizen archaeologist

Wooden object ‘almost certain to be a logboat’, UCD archaeologist says

A potential medieval logboat spotted in the River Boyne has been captured via drone footage by a local citizen archaeologist.

Anthony Murphy spotted the weathered rectangular object in shallow water when the river was at low tide.

“I was actually looking for Kevin the dolphin that has been in the river in the past couple of weeks,” he said, adding that it was “incredible” to snap something that is potentially of historical interest.

Logboats or dugout boats, fashioned by hollowing out tree trunks, have been traced as far back as the Neolithic era, but they were used for a long period of time in Ireland, with the most recent dating to about 1800 AD. The remains of a 5,000-year-old dugout boat were discovered by local anglers in the same river during 2018. By then, 11 logboats had been found in the River Boyne, although this was the first one that dated to the Neolithic period.


According to a spokesman for the National Monuments Service, the photographed artefact could be a vessel that was discovered in 2020. If so, an inspection found that that logboat dated to the medieval or post-medieval era about 400 to 1654 AD.

“The National Monuments Service will continue to monitor the condition of this logboat and other wrecks in the area and, in this regard, an inspection will be carried out of the boat when conditions and tides suit in the coming weeks,” the spokesman added.

Local to the area, Mr Murphy made a significant historical discovery in the dry summer of 2018, when his drone photographed the outline of an enormous late Neolithic ceremonial enclosure or henge close to Newgrange.

Dr Stephen Davis, an archaeologist with University College Dublin, said the wooden object is “almost certain to be a logboat”.

“It would be extremely surprising if it were anything other than a logboat,” he said, adding that it is a “really nice find”. The drone-captured image is a “really nice example of what amateurs can find just by keeping their eyes open”, he added.

Dr Davis conducted a survey of the Boyne’s river bed in 2019, uncovering logboats or dugout boats possibly dating to the Neolithic era.

As this artefact is exposed, Dr Davis said it will likely need to be rescued quite quickly.

“The wood will deteriorate very rapidly if it is above the water,” he said.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter