Sunday 17 November 2019

SHED WARS der der de de de derrr derrr etc.

Two weighty tomes have appeared in the last few years dealing with 'ship garages'. Shipsheds are the buildings in which galleys were housed when drawn up out of the water, to protect them from the elements and allow craftsmen to work on them out of the elements.


These two books are not really in competition with each other - at first sight, Shipsheds is a catalogue of all known shipshed remains and Ancient Harbours of the Piraeus Volume II (AHP II) is a detailed excavation report from a single location -Zea Harbour.

Both books are well worth buying if you are a galley freak but Shipsheds obviously has a broad range of comprehensive content compared to the narrow focus of AHP II.

Shipsheds is presented by Blackman, Pakkanen et al,  HERE on vid.


There is more to this pair of books than meets the eye, however, these academic volumes conceal a universe of competing egos, betrayal, error and misrepresentation that is more than your usual fare when looking for stuff about where the ancients kept their boats in the winter - we are talking


The cast:

Young Loven (now somewhat older) : PhD student working for Athens Harbour Project and Zea Harbour Project sponsored by Danish Institute at Athens.Upcoming and yet-unspoiled.

Yaaaay. Let's dig and find stuff!

Old Rankov and Old Blackman along with Ja Ja Pakkanen and the lovely space princess Kalliope, established British grizzled academic researchers and their cohorts, authors steeped in shipshed lore. But totally absorbed into the Dark Side.

The Darth-Ran-Kov and Black-man Axis of Evil - Tell daddy what you found Luke! We will explain it!
The TOMES OF WISDOM line up somewhat equal. In a straight bar-room fight they are probably worth about the same but the more robust cover on Shipsheds could probably have someone's eye out. In monetary terms there is quite a difference, however,

£113 Shipsheds Hardcover                       £45 AHP II Flex/Hard Cover

Shipsheds appeared in 2013 and AHP II in 2019. It turns out, though, that AHP II was originally to come out in 2013 also. It was pipped at the post but this gave Loven a chance to discover, to his horror, that the Dark Side had stolen a march and mishandled him in a decidedly nefarious mode. AHP II was shelved in disgust.

The Dark Side utilised the Rebel Alliance's data against them and constructed a model to show the world which we shall hereafter know was The Death Shed.

The Death Shed was constructed from a series of surveys and discoveries made in 2003 to 2006 and prior to then. It is finely illustrated and reconstructed in Shipsheds.

Key aspects of the Death Shed (at the risk of boring with minutiae)

1) The gradient of the floor of the sheds at Zea

2) The length of the sheds at Zea

3) The quality of the survey data from Athens Harbour Project

4)  The form of the shipshed floors at Zea.

5) The ancient sea level used as a reference to model the harbour

(That's enough minutiae, Ed.  - there are plenty more)

Young Loven had a whole range of stars from the world of ancient galleys allied with him to form a Rebel Alliance that gave him the necessary support to rewrite his volume and put it out with the necessary explosive and incendiary content to combat the Death Shed.
Battle-hardened heroes such as ....

John Hale       William Murray       Ionnas Nakas       Vincent Gabrielson   allies to be proud of.

All guns blazing, Loven went full speed into attack on the Death Shed.

Academic writing has often seen a clash of opinions. Darwin's evolutionary theory got its fair share of public debate and discord. Indeed, the idea that the Earth is round still has its critics!  The subject of' the trireme' was a flashpoint for years in the period after the reconstruction was mooted. But usually error or misinterpretation has been dismissed with a corrective footnote or a letter to the TES but not so for this unholy construction. The Death Shed required the nuclear option of direct contradiction and accusation in black and white in the body of the text of a major academic reference work.

Let's look at a few of the missiles Young Loven sent crashing into the mass of the Death Shed.

Loven left the harbour project in 2006 due to disagreements over LEADERSHIP, AGREEMENTS, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ISSUES !     And at that point he had 'simply had enough'.


Despite a variety of suggestions for the difference in mean sea level since antiquity - these ranged from 3.5m to 1.5m - Shipsheds uses 1.40 metres and not the 1.90m established by the Zea Harbour Project. The 1.90m figure was firmly established using the depths to which stone had been quarried around the harbour. It has even been subsequently revised to -2.25m of the present level.
Shipsheds' figure assumes that stone was quarried below water level !! Loven is curtly dismissive of this idea when he says that to suggest the ancients quarried or worked stone - stone available nearby on dry land - in the surf zone or under water is to deny their evident  mastery and sophistication in masonry. Rankov and Blackman suggest casemates and temporary walls could keep out the sea while works were conducted...


In the same discussion, to reduce the amount of sea level change required, Rankov and Blackman also try to say that solid rock can be liquified in earthquakes and cause large structures built on it to settle......


At various points Rankov and Blackman give measurements of gradient to 3 or 4 significant figures whereas the original data allows only for 2. The Dark Side seem to do this to promote a hypothetical 'foot' which is 0.308m. This foot is easily disproved by Loven by simple calculation.



The dispute over gradients - the two factions model the gradient diferently from different aspects of the survey data - leads to two main problems with recosntrcution of Phase 3 shipsheds.

1) How steep a ramp has to be to meet the ancient shore and therefore how long it extendsboth  inland and under the modern shoreline.

2) The gradient of the roof construction set over the ramp.

The Dark Side suggest that Loven's model requires that the ramp has a kink in it as the gradient changes sharply and also that the roof had a steepened upper end.

Loven refutes these ideas, by demonstrating that a more accurate ancient sea level figure and with the realisation that the top of the ramp was inclined to fit the stern of the ship, means the roof does not have to conform to this.

These diagrams illustate the main differences shematically -(technical draughtsman not I am. Ed.)


Loven repeatedly proves errors in the Shipsheds reconstructions of the Zea structures. He is not backward in coming forward with criticism.

'the reconstructed length presented here is based on hard data not on architectural hypothesises(sic) such as the alignment of the columns of the lower end or guesswork about the length of ancient triremes.'

'Calculations such as these, which disregard the established measure of sea level change, inevitably lead to erroneous results.'

'Rankov fails to understand that an extrapolation to this depth, or to a minimum sea level change of -1-90m, as presented in Volume I, would automatically invalidate his construction.'

'No evidence found in the shipshed superstructure at Zea or Mounichia supports Rankov's reconstruction.'


One of the unkindest cuts of all is where Rankov actually cites Loven in support of reconstructions which Loven does not agree with !!!

Specifically, Shipsheds reconstructs the roofs of the shipsheds as being steeper at the top of the slipway because the ramp is inclined more steeply at its end to accommodate the upcurving stern.

This can be seen here where the ramps are almost fully preserved at Oiniadai on the north side of the Gulf of Patras.

Diffendale at flickr has many great fotos - HERE

Loven and the Zea Harbour Project team, however, have established that the uppermost parts echoed the steeply curved sterns of the ships but the roof did not need to as the ship remained at a constant angle all the way up the slipway.As shown above -- Wonky Shipsheds.


The number of brickbats, slings and arrows which Loven casts upon his foes is too many to fully recount here. We will finish with the deadliest payload delivered to the heart of the Death Shed which cruelly damages and undermines the structure erected by the Dark Side.

In establishing the plans and reconstruction  of the Phase 2 and Phase 3 shipsheds at Zea, Shipsheds uses findings of the Zea Harbour Project, and Loven personally, without accrediting them!

The ZHP excavated the submarine parts of Phase 2 shipsheds in 'some of the harshest and most difficult conditions in the history of archaeology'. Unacknowledged in Shipsheds.

 The divers had to contend with all kinds of pollution in the restricted waters of the harbour. Chemicals damaged their suits and bodies....

The submarine parts of the shipsheds were identified by Loven. Unacknowledged.

59% of the planned features on the reconstructions by Pakkanen were identified by ZHP. Unacknowledged..

Other figures present findings misleadingly or ambiguously.

In summary, as Loven puts it..
' The failure of these scholars to follow accepted citation practice is disappointing,'

 One of the most egregious aspects of the whole matter is that Jari Pakkanen was Loven's PhD supervisor at the time of the fieldwork being carried out !!!!!!!

 The last word, as the fragments of Shipsheds' chapter on the Piraeus scatter in the wind, is Loven's....

'The resulting catalogue entry, "Piraeus", is thus fatally flawed and should be treated with extreme caution'

'Well it turns out we were not needed. The whole thing was about Death Sheds, not Death's Heads.'

Bjørn Loven atZea Harbour Project here


Confused ? I was. All actors and events in this production may not have any relation to your or anyone else's reality.

See Loven describing Zea Harbour Project here

See a reconstruction of the military installation here

Tuesday 29 October 2019


After a a break which has been too long I am back to crank the blog into life again.

The book project has been slower than hoped and sucks the life out of everything else, but the light is visible a long way down the tunnel...on the plus side I have some new ideas on tactics, running the ships and there is so much to say - maybe another book ?

I aim now to post two pieces each week. One dealing with history/archaeology and the other with gaming/visits/books/etc.

Histarch pieces to come....

Tuna and triereis- The fabulous eternal links between the Mediterranean diet and galley warfare.

Shed Wars - The sawdust and soil flies when archaeologists are in dispute.

Shooting at sea in the pre-gunpowder era - Could a ballistics computer help with catapult accuracy?

The Fire weapon- Some ideas go up in smoke, and I nearly do too.


Figures for deck fighters and rowers - which ones ?What scale ? Where from ?

Large scale models of galleys for gaming - how I make mine

Book reviews to come...

Une nave Punica

Zea Harbour II - The latest volume on the naval docks of ancient Athens.

If you have a topic you would like me to address I would be happy to put something together,
Just put a comment in.

Saturday 3 August 2019

Egadi Montefortino Helmets : A smidgin more on a new sub-type

Haaretz has an article with a little more on the dozen or so Montefortino  helmets and a nice summarising article on Egadi finds and the history.

Article from Nov 2017 ! How up-to-date I am .....

Click on picture (from Haaretz) to go there.

Another picture and summary at Realm of History blog HERE

Monday 29 July 2019


Two more rams have been lifted from the seabed at Egadi where th ebattle which decided the First Punic War took place.

From La Silicia local newspaper
See Italian report HERE.

Sicilian Regional News film  HERE

RPMN are rsponsible for the site excavation and their 2019 report is HERE.

Two Montefortino helmets not previously seen have also been exhibited.

Also a block of encrustation which includes a 70cm sword blade.,, will it be Spanish type?

As is the usual custom, the publication of the relics proceeds with infinite slowness. Some work on the ram inscriptions has already been done by Jonathan Prag but ......  NOTES here    Paper HERE

Saturday 13 July 2019

Best Use Yet for a Trieres

courtesy The Economist 12/7/2019
Trierarch Salvini rubbles the EU
Salamis was not won for free states to fall to a resurrection of the USSR.

Monday 1 April 2019


The obstreperous Sidetans are to be put in their place by a Seleukid flotilla.
The Nine'Poseidon' leads two Fours, Apollo and Arrow and two 'friends' the lembi 'Speed' and 'Quick. Poseidon is stuffed with troops and 4 catapults (3-span). Each Four has a 3-span in the bows.
The Sidetans have no big ships but they have fast ones. Threes are 'Alacrity', 'Dolphin' and 'Medea'. Also two sharks, 'Biter' and 'Dangerous'. No catapults and less deck fighters.

The Sidetans scatter while the Seleukids stay in a block.
 The Seleukids have to decide which group to go after, or all?

Arrow makes a charge at Alacrity but misses. Alacrity swoops behind Arrow to get into a dangerous position.

 Arrow is now directly behind Poseidon. Best possible position.
Following turn was tense to see who got to move first. The lembus could block the Three if it got in first or Poseidon might be just able to get out of the way....

Arrow gets to go first ! Good crew and speed. It lines up on Poseidon's stern and the oars dig deep for a charge!

Arrow whacks into the steering oar and stern of Poseidon...
Some missiles fly over to Arrow from the Seleukid flagship but the damage is done.
Arrow gets maxiumum damage on Poseidon and just has to pull away successfully....

All ships scratchbuilt 10mm scale. Figures Magister Militum.

Sunday 31 March 2019


Replacing planks in shell-built hulls is tricky. Of course it can be done and was a common necessity.

Nidhug is a Gokstad-type Viking Period ship now more than 20 years old. It is not a narrow warship but a general purpose hull which is a bit deeper and rounder than one would like for fast rowing.

On the stocks - note shallow draught. (unladen)
Several planks need replacing having begun to weaken.

An upper plank needs replacing. The hole was easily knocked through after the plank was taken off.

 Planks removed reveal the lightness of construction. It is the edge-fastened planks which give th ehull most of its strength, not the internal fittings.

From the eupper strake nice and light coloured is the one shown rotten above. The clamps allow th eplank to be set fast in place before nailing. The floors and knees defining each sess or rowing place (interscalmium on an ancient galley). The cross-timber is a tofte, equivalent of a zuga.

The planks are fastened with a nail/spike that is driven in from the outside and rivetted over a rove or washer on the inside, so joining two planks together through their overlapping edges. This is clinker construction.

Copper spike and rove. These woul db eiron in the Viking Period. We use copper for security and because hand-smithed boatspikes cost a lot of money and are not always available.
Over-lapped joint with nail heads visible. They ar ein the old holes in the existing plank.
From the inside you can see the overlap joint of th enew and old planks. The spike end is rivetted over the rove.

Another type of joint is the scarf which overlaps two thinned-out plank ends to maintain the single thickness. This is  nailed close along its length.
Scarf gaping before closing.
Line of roves showing scarf fastened along its breadth,

The other end of the lap jointed plank. Looks great. Note lovely texture from years of tar application on old planks.
The replaced planking looking nice and new and neatly fitted into the hull.
Replacing planking in a draw-tongue edge fastened shell like the ancient war galleys was also tricky. Even more tricky than this. I will do a note on that to follow.