An Oar

A rather unexpected discovery was made in Pit LXV, on the sloping ground at some considerable height above the Tweed. This was an oar standing upright in a corner (Plate LXIX., Fig. 5). Its total length is 5 feet 5 inches. The wood is oak. The loom is 7 inches in circumference and the blade inches in width. Five inches from the top a hole, 1¼ inches square, has been cut through the shaft, while at the lower extremity of the blade there would appear to have been a second hole, the lower margin of which has been broken away. The exact purpose of the holes through the loom and the blade was by no means clear until the oar was submitted to Mr. Henry Balfour of the Pitt-Rivers Museum, Oxford, who has kindly supplied the following note

'It must have been the steering oar of a small low-freeboard boat, one probably resembling the modern Nordland rowing-boats, and having a high stern-post such as would dictate a rudder at the side instead of the end. The hole at the top of the loom of the oar was no doubt for a tiller pointing inboard. The hole at the end of the blade probably accommodated a cord which was attached at its other end through a hole in the gunwale or to a peg on it. This cord would take the weight, or part of it, off the oar and prevent the oar slipping away. With this arrangement there must have been some kind of collar or grummet round the loom to keep the loom close against the gunwale. The oar could be rotated in this grummet, when the tiller was pushed forward or drawn backward, and also there would be a certain latitude (owing to the sloping sides of the boat) for the loom to be pushed or pulled laterally, outboard or inboard, thus assisting the process of steering and combining the effect of a steering oar with that of a true rotating rudder. The thing is, in fact, half way between oar and rudder, and shows how the latter was in the North developed out of the former.'

Mr. Balfour goes on to point out how the features of the Newstead oar are to be traced in the steering gear of such ancient Norse vessels as those found at Gokstadt, Nydam, and Tune, in all of which the steering oar had a place for the tiller at the top of the loom and a hole for suspension in the blade. All of these types, however, as he remarks, represent a stage of development a little nearer the asymmetrical rotating rudder.

It should be added that fragments of manufactured wood were not uncommon. A piece of oak perforated at one end is shown in Plate LXXXIII., Fig. 4. Portions of oak beams were found in several pits. The largest of these came from Pit XVI. It measures 4 feet 5 inches in length by