The construction of Ship Model 52940 provides clues to the ship’s purpose and identity. The ship’s structure and method of propulsion support the claim that I made in my last blog post: this vessel was clearly made for leisure. Though the museum originally labeled it as a barge, based off of Worcester’s extensive research on Chinese riverboats, I was able to conclude that it is closer to a junk. The bulkhead and the hull are the key components for this identification. Despite the discrepancies between this model and the actual junks, the detail provided in the model’s construction echoes the precision of Chinese shipbuilders. Click to read more.
What is Ship Model 52940? How does it propel itself without any sails or oarsmen? What purpose did this ship serve? These are questions that I grapple with this week. I come to the conclusion that the ship construction characteristics are consistent with this ship being a junk—not a barge, as the Peabody Museum label originally suggests. I conclude that this boat was designed for pleasure, rather than war or trade. What do you think? Are you persuaded? Is this a case of mistaken identity or a researcher gone wrong? Find out more.
Since no historical record of “A Barge” exists, I initially found it difficult to determine its significance in the broader history of Song or Ming China. However, I later realized that it was still possible to theorize the purpose of the model by analyzing its construction elements. In other words, the model itself offers clues to why it was originally built. The existence of an easily accessible flat stem and ornate superstructure, for instance, suggests that the model transported people, most likely only those that could afford passage on such a luxurious vessel. Furthermore, the lack of a mast or sail may tell us that the model primarily traveled short distances along a river or canal. Taken together, these details imply that the model may have been a pleasure barge or imperial taxi, designed to carry China’s elite through its many canals. Click to learn more.
Content of this page provided by students of Anthro 1218: Shipwrecks and Seafarers, Piracy and Plundering: An Introduction to Maritime Archaeology.