When the boat sank, some 2,000 years ago, it began filling up with silt until much of its lower hull was encapsulated in a packed-mud time bubble, which slowed down the setting in of decay. However, the damaged inner cells of the wood had decayed and been replaced with water. Even when the boat appeared to be well preserved, the timber was in fact soft and spongy.
Excavation efforts concentrated on extricating the boat in one piece. The major problem confronting the excavators from the start was the need to protect the timber from drying, which would have led to shrinkage and deformation. It was the excavation team's aim to complete the excavation as quickly as possible then reimmerse the boat in water.
The fragile condition of the boat called for unusual excavation conditions. Excavators needed to clear the mud without handling or having any contact with the vessel. Therefore, a suspended platform was devised affording access to the inner hull. Excavators would lay on the platform and carefully remove the mud encasing the boat.
Throughout the round the clock 11-day excavation the boat was constantly sprayed with water to avoid dryness and thus distortion. The vessel was also kept shaded during the day to prevent drying from the sun.
Once the mud was cleared a method was needed to support the vessel for transport to the conservation facility. Excavators packaged the weak and waterlogged hull with fiberglass and the entire craft was filled with polyurethane foam. The polyurethane foam created the same cocoon effect as the original mud encasement.
Suitable conservation facilities were a considerable distance from the excavation site. The problem of transporting this large, fragile body was resolved once it was packaged in foam. The vessel could then be securely floated to its destination. After 11 days of strenuous excavation work, water from the Kinneret was pumped back into the excavation pit, a passage was cleared in the dike surrounding it and the boat floated out on to the lake for the first time in 2000 years to the fishing-boat dock at Kibbutz Ginosar.
Here a facility was erected in a temporary insulated structure, inaccessible to visitors. It consisted of a 42-cubic meter pool of tiled reinforced concrete, equipped with a double-pump stirring systems, filters, and submerged heating elements, all computer-controlled.
Here it underwent an extensive, carefully monitored, eleven year long conservation process.
The polyurethane covering was stripped off and the vessel was nestled into a fiberglass frame.
The conservation pool was then filled with water. It consisted of gradually replacing the water in the wood cells with a solution of synthetic wax to reinforce the wood as it gradually dried.
The boat was submerged in a solution of heated polyethylene glycol. This synthetic wax replaced the water in the wood cells. The hull was then allowed to dry slowly and cleaned of excess wax.
When the chemical process was complete he boat then had to be moved to its exhibition space.
Transportation to the Exhibition Space
The project of transporting the boat to its permanent place of exhibition was conducted in the early morning hours. The newly conserved ancient boat was packaged again for transport. The packaged vessel was lifted by a crane and carefully lowered through the temporarily removed eastern wall of the newly-built annex of the museum into the exhibition space.
The Exhibition Space
The exhibition space has been fitted with a sensor-operated environment control system, guaranteeing constant relative humidity, temperature and air pressure at all times. A movable platform, erected above the boat, affords easy access to all its parts, and allows for constant maintenance.
Once the environmental conditions in the exhibition space had been stabilized, the packaging materials and metal supports were removed. The 1st Century Galilee Boat emerged in its full glory.
In February 2000, fourteen years after its excavation, the boat moved to its permanent home, in a new wing of the Galilee's Miracles Center, which is devoted to the story of the man in the Galilee.
The Ancient Boat
The boat may have functioned as a ferry, but it's measurements also suit those used by ancient fisherman employing a seine, or dragnet, "cast into the sea" as described in Matthew 13:47-48.
Numerous repairs, the reuse of timbers and a multiplicity of twelve wood types evident in the hull, suggest that this vessel had a long work life and an owner of meager means.
Based on several criteria, The Ancient Boat is firmly dated to the first centuries BCE-CE. An analyses of crew sizes, suggests that this type of boat referred to in the Gospels, in use among Jesus Disciples, as well as that used by the Jews against the Romans in the nautical Battle of Migdal in CE 67.
This humble vessel is a remarkable porthole into the past, providing a clearer view of the Galilean seafaring that forms the backdrop to both Jesus ministry and the Battle of Migdal.