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Louie da fly

10th-11th century Byzantine dromon by Louie da fly - 1:50

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Very nice detail in the painting Steven, if it holds up that well under macro/close photography then it would great to the naked eye.

 

cheers

 

Pat

Edited by BANYAN

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Thanks everybody for the likes and comments.

 

Messis, yes the fires are very widespread and destructive, made worse by the shortage of water caused by the current drought. Thank you for your concern.

 

On a more cheerful note, I've just come across a new paper from Germany outlining an updated theoretical (and practical - scaled 1:10) dromon reconstruction at  https://www.academia.edu/24592168/Zur_Modellrekonstruktion_einer_Byzantinischen_Dromone_Chelandion_des_10._11._Jahrhunderts_im_Forschungsbereich_Antike_Schiffahrt_RGZM_Mainz?email_work_card=view-paper

 

Unfortunately it's in German, and I'm currently making my way through the hodgepodge version Google Translate has presented me with, trying to make it make sense in English. Once I've done that I'll figure out whether I agree with it. So far I agree with the general shape of the reconstruction, but not with the oar arrangement.

 

He's introduced an interesting idea - that the xylokastra (side castles) and perhaps even the pseudopation (forecastle) were demountable constructions, only put in place when the ship was going into battle. The reason given that they would interfere with the operation of the lateen sails. Interesting, but I'm not so sure he's familiar with how lateen sails work - from seeing video and still photos of them in operation, I'm not so sure the problem really exists. Also, in places where he disagrees with Pryor's book, he often simply dismisses Pryor's conclusions rather than disprove them. So - a bit unsatisfactory, but I'll suspend judgment until I've had the chance to look over his stuff properly. Interesting, though.

 

Steven

 

 

 

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On the contrary, Mark. The available evidence suggests they removed sails, yards and masts before they went into battle, and one battle is quoted as having been lost because they neglected to do so.

 

Steven.

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Posted (edited)

Well, I’ve had a pretty good look over this new paper (which turns out to have been published in 2010 – who knew?) and though I agree with some of it – the cross-section follows the Yenikapi finds, and makes sense structurally (though if the oars were configured the way they’re drawn they would foul each other and break). The shape of the ship makes sense and is a possible interpretation of the information available from contemporary descriptions and pictures, and from the archaeological record.

 

However, I have quite a few objections to this interpretation. One thing I do have a problem with is his contention that the lower oarbank had one man per oar, but the upper had two. This comes from a contemporary source regarding the number in the crew, and he goes into some detail as to why this would be. This or similar ideas are advanced by other academics, but Pryor interprets the data differently, saying one man per oar in each bank. I don’t follow maths of either argument – there are contradictory numbers in the original sources – but in my view this interpretation violates Occam’s razor – it’s an unnecessarily complex solution to a simple problem.

 

The spur is interpreted as an “assault bridge” even though the spur is mentioned repeatedly in the contemporary sources, while there’s never any mention of an assault bridge. Granted that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, nonetheless it would be surprising if an assault bridge really existed that it wouldn’t be mentioned in the manuals. It is also proposed that the spur/bridge was fixed permanently to the structure of the ship, and though I find Pryor’s interpretation somewhat lacking – the spur fixed to the hull by what the sources call a “pin” which would make it pivot around the fixing point in event of ramming - this author doesn’t answer the evidence Pryor puts forward, which is quite extensive.

 

Though there is a case for single mast rather than two (I think I’ve covered this earlier in my build log) this paper dismisses Pryor’s arguments for two masts without answering them.

 

It also proposes that the xylokastra (side castles) – and even the pseudopation (forecastle) would foul the lateen sails and therefore would be temporary structures erected only when rowing (masts lowered) into battle. An interesting interpretation but if so why is it never mentioned in the sources? On contrary, the contemporary descriptions suggest that these structures were permanent. Also, many other relatively contemporary pictures of galleys show a forecastle – a fact this paper does not mention. Though I don’t claim to be an expert, much of the time when sailing, a lateen yard is on a very slight angle indeed – almost horizontal – rather than on the sharp angle you often see in modern reconstruction drawings, so it wouldn’t foul the castles. And a dromon could only sail with the wind directly behind it – more than 10 degrees of heel would put the lower oarports under water – so the lower ends of the yards would normally be out to the sides of the ship.

 

Though the paper quotes Pryor extensively, but it seems only to disagree with him. It fails to cover many issues Pryor raises which would, if properly examined, cast doubt on the ideas it advances.

 

It raises a few new concepts, but not many that I believe improve our understanding of dromons. 

 

Steven

Edited by Louie da fly
removing rant

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Hi Steven,  a pity the paper doers not provide better evidence (and discussion) for your build.  This seems a common theme in some maritime subjects where authors all disagree with each other rather than getting together to try and find common ground and then develop the 'thesis' etc from there :)  Ayt least you now know you can discount that paper.

 

Happy New Yeatr

 

cheers

 

Pat

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Carl first happy new year to you.  From a strictly sailing point of view by removing some wedges the mast would be able to be leaned aft which would change the shape of the sail and centre of effort which could affect speed depending on the type of vessel. In Modern racing yachts the mast is bent to change the shape of the sail which affects its airfoil shape making it more full or flat depending on how much bend is put into it.

 

Michael

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1 hour ago, BANYAN said:

This seems a common theme in some maritime subjects where authors all disagree with each other rather than getting together to try and find common ground and then develop the 'thesis' etc from there

And not just maritime subjects - almost any academic subject attracts people who seem to be more interested in proving their fellows wrong than in achieving anything useful. On the other hand I think the author was genuinely trying to arrive at a workable truth - I just find it hard to accept most of his conclusions.

1 hour ago, BANYAN said:

At least you now know you can discount that paper.

Well, not completely. It's always good to get another viewpoint, even if you don't agree with it. The "demountable castle" concept is attractive, given the huge scarcity (only one known example) of castles in contemporary pictures of dromons. But where would they be stored on-board? And would they be solid enough to fight from? It's an interesting idea and I haven't totally dismissed it, but as I've already built the things (though not fitted them), I expect I'll go ahead with them even though the ship will be displayed with masts and sails.

 

And his reconstruction of the oarbenches is almost identical to what I came up with independently (though I decided not to use a fore-and-aft beam joining the benches, having decided it  would interfere with free movement for the oarsmen in times of combat). 

 

Also his deck beams (lightweight crossbeams - to allow for limited headroom - supported by two intermediate fore-and-aft beams sitting on columns either side of the lower walkway) is exactly how I'd envisioned them, though I didn't put the support beams and the columns in the model because they weren't structurally necessary at that scale. 

 

Not a complete waste of time, but I feel rather a wasted opportunity in many ways - it could have been much better. 

 

Steven 

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Hi Steven,

I think you are right. A major problem in academic research is indeed, that some people often do not accept any new aspect or ideas, etc. Often these are the

"old masters". It seems to me this can become a problem at a certain stage of their reputation, when some researchers think they are in general superior to others.

Can also be a problem of getting "mentally old" (not physical). This can be frustrating, especially for young researchers starting their academic career.

 

Götz

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Very true, Götz. On the other hand, to get any sort of recognition at all young researchers are obliged to come up with something different from what has gone before, and the temptation is perhaps there to disagree with the "old masters" for the sake of saying something new - even if it doesn't make a lot of sense.

 

There are certainly a few things about Pryor's book I disagree with, but it is still far and away the best and most comprehensively researched book on dromons in existence. The Yenikapi discoveries coming just as the book went to print made it somewhat out of date as soon as it came out, but taking that into account, just about all my other disagreements are on very minor issues indeed.

 

And as an academic, to add to or disagree with what he's done you would have to really be on top of your material. The reconstruction of the hull itself is not bad (though even then I have my disagreements with it), but apart from that I don't think it adds to our knowledge of dromons.

 

Steven

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I've just been working on the anchors for the dromon. I've made 5 of them.

 

Byzantine ships seem to have had many lightweight anchors rather than a small number of large ones. This seems to be due to the limitations of manufacturing technology - they were made of relatively small pieces of wrought ir on, hammered out to remove the slag and them hammer welded in a forge to join them all together.  The dotted lines in the diagram below (one of the anchors recovered from the 11th century Serce Limani wreck) denote the welds.

 

image.png.754c5d1a3f526a6a95fa9baabd24d6e0.png

Unfortunately, as the archaeological report on the anchors (by Frederick. H. van Doorninck Jr, illustrations by Sheila D. Matthews - see https://books.google.com.au/books?id=E6ZJ-05aC-sC&pg=PA237&lpg=PA237&dq=serce+limani+anchors&source=bl&ots=2cbB35RuzX&sig=ACfU3U1pE9YyddqSStaB-VdSDSQfXvc_nw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjgq9yX_vfmAhWlyDgGHbYRCbsQ6AEwDHoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=serce limani anchors&f=false )  states,

image.png.7c2e625eec9c84310e39320c26ce7306.png

The Serce Limani ship had nine anchors on board, of which six were spares stacked together in two piles on the deck. The ship had cast at least three anchors but was probably wrecked when one of them (probably the first to be cast) broke under the strain.

 

All the Serce Limani anchors were of the same type, with minor variations due to their being made individually by blacksmiths. This was a common anchor shape at the time, so I'm using them as a model for the dromon's anchors. I've made five of them - I don't have space for more on the ship. As it is, some will be stored under the forecastle. The best of them will be mounted at the bow.

 

20200107_122424.thumb.jpg.0d62c3cd7db1289ea4d48a010b342a39.jpg 20200110_120947.thumb.jpg.6d6edc6dfd7d001b29dcadacdf4e786d.jpg  

I got jewellery chain for a couple of bucks from a hippy shop (with some trashy pendant attached, which I chucked away - but the chain itself is brilliant!)

 

Steven

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The anchors look good Steven, that chain looks prety good too - would you mind advising the links per inch please?  Also is the shop local or online?  I am assuming local so a trip up your way may be in the offing.

 

cheers

 

Pat

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About 20 links per inch, Pat, and I got another one about 15 per inch from the same place - Ishka. Just a matter of dumb luck, being in the right place at the right time,  (and cost about 5 bucks as I recall) and I don't know if they'd still have the same chains. I expect you have an Ishka fairly local to you, so maybe don't have to come up to Ballarat after all - if you did though, you'd be very welcome to come and visit:).

 

Steven

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The written evidence is a bit sparse, Druxey, but Pryor's book has a quote from a contemporary text (can't lay my hands on it at the moment) that he interprets as meaning there was a length of anchor chain between anchor and cable to keep the anchor weighed down so it would "bite". When I can lay my hands on the book I'll follow up with the quote.

 

Steven  

Edited by Louie da fly

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Thanks Steven, I will have a look around as there are a few down this away :)  I will probably be up your way in the not too distant future and will give you a bell before hand.

 

cheers

 

Pat

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Nice job on the anchors, & amazing how similar it is to the typical modern fisherman's anchor.

 

Just to add to the anchor chain discussion: there is an alternative way of getting an actor to bite, by using a decent sized weight with an eye on the top. The anchor line goes through the eye & a second lighter line is tied off to the eye, & you lower it down along the anchor line. Even if you have a chain, in difficult conditions it will dramatically increase the holding power of an anchor. I wonder if they kept one on board?

 

If you had no chain then you would require something like this or the anchor just won't work. One advantage is its simplicity, & chain was probably a relatively expensive commodity.

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On 1/12/2020 at 10:29 AM, BANYAN said:

I will probably be up your way in the not too distant future and will give you a bell before hand.

That'd be good, Pat. I'll PM you my phone number.

 

Mark, thanks for that insight.

 

Druxey, I'll put that quote up when I find it.

 

Steven

Edited by Louie da fly

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Aha! Here it is - Age of the Dromon page 212:

 

"The inventories [for the Cretan expeditions of 911 and 949 A.D.] specified that for the 20 dromons there should be 120 sidera bolistika with 120 siderobolia, that is, six of each per dromon, as well as another 50 siderobolistika with 50 siderobola. This has to be the starting point . . . they also said that Department of the Vestiarion supplied another 60 “iron-throwing ropes”, scoinia siderobola, for the expedition.

 

Since schoinia siderobola clearly implied something made of iron and equivalent to a rope, we conclude that the 120 and the 50 siderobola were the same thing and that the 120 and 50 siderobolistika/Sidera bolistika were something different. Sidera bolistika literally meant “casting irons” and these latter must therefore have been the anchors, which were “cast” into the sea, as the Leo VI and Nikephoros Ouranos both said.

 

What then were the siderobolia/siderobola or schoinia siderobola in this context? There is no doubt that one of the scholia on Lucian’s Lexiphanes used the word siderobolion for an anchor; however, here we suggest that they were iron anchor chains attached to the anchors. The rope anchor cables would have been attached to them. When anchor cables are made of rope, as was the case in the Middle Ages, it is necessary to have the last few metres connected to the anchors made of a heavy chain because an anchor works best when the drag of the ship on it is as close as possible to parallel to the sea bottom. This causes the flukes to dig into the sea bed. But, because rope is light and floats, it tends to pull anchors upright and dislodge the flukes if attached directly to the anchors. Iron chain, on the other hand, will sink, thus causing the entire anchor system to form an arc with the anchor end as close to parallel to the bottom as possible. All modern small craft using rope anchor cables have a length of heavy chain connecting them to the anchors."

 

As you can see, the evidence is pretty vague and subject to interpretation. I choose to follow Pryor in this, as I think his explanation makes sense.

 

Steven

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Hi Steven, reading "iron-throwing ropes" - could not another possibility be grapnels for throwing during boarding?

 

cheers

 

Pat

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Certainly it's possible, Pat. The Greek terminology is so vague there's any number of possible interpretations. One thing to work off is that there were 60 of them for 20 dromons - so three per dromon, and perhaps three anchors in use and three spares, to which the chains could be transferred when they were put into use?

 

However, I like Pryor's logic regarding the need to get the anchor to lie down so it would bite, so I'm going with his interpretation.

 

Steven

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Steven if I may add to this conversation, according to the linguistic point of view.

 

Sidirobola written in greek σιδηροβόλα, its a combination of two words: σίδηρος=iron  and βολή=shot from the verb βάλλω thst can mean both, shoot or thrown.

 

You can take another example. πυροβόλο = greek word for gun,  thats again a combi from  πυρ=fire and again βολή.... that is shooting fire. Or πολυβόλο the greek word for machine gun  thats πολύ=multiple and again βολή. Αεροβόλο  air gun, αέρας= air, etc etc. 

 

Schoinia (σχοινιά) is definitely rope.No other interpretation can be possible to that. Etymology roots back to plant fibers, the wire ropes are called συρματoσχοινια σύρμα=wire.

 

So schoinia siderobola means in my opinion ropes with which iron (iron anchors) were shooted (thrown).

 

Christos

Edited by MESSIS

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That's really interesting, Christos. Back in the day when I went to La Trobe university in Melbourne I discovered one of the founders of the university must have been a Geek enthusiast, because the place names included the agora (the main square where everybody had lunch, gathered and talked etc.) and the peribolos (sorry I don't know how to do a Greek font - except by copying and pasting from your posts) - the peribolos was a structure "thrown" around an open square.

 

It occurs to me that an alternative interpretation for σχοινιά σιδηροβόλα might be a thrown rope made of iron (i.e. a chain). But I think your interpretation seems more likely - otherwise the two ideas "iron" and "thrown" would not have been combined in a single word. Also, as Pryor mentions above the word σιδηροβόλα was sometimes used to mean anchor. 

 

Which leaves me with the problem of whether or not I use a chain on the anchor. On balance, simply because a chain would hold the anchor down to "bite", I think I will still use it. Also, the inventories above make no mention of any other ropes made of plant fibre (such as the ship's rigging) - if the σχοινιά σιδηροβόλα was made of rope, I'd expect the inventories to specify all the ropes, not just those for the anchors.

 

Or (curse these second thoughts!) would an anchor cable be a special case that would be specified, when the ship's rigging was taken for granted? I'd better stop now, otherwise I'll vanish up my own navel . . .

 

Steven

Edited by Louie da fly

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Steven your most dialectical thoughts made me go in my Homeric naval dictionary and look up for the word σιδηροβόλο. But still could not find anything. I also had a look at the Theodosious Harbour wreck indexes, searching for anchors or chains. Again there wasnt anything much. Though stones and stone anchors were mentioned. Perhaps that solved the holding down of the anchor.

 

What chains concerned, we still  know that chains did exist. The bay or harbour was closing by a chain. Chain in greek is αλυσίδα, in the middle alter  called άλυσος, of which in connection with anchoring, I could not find any mentions. Lack of Hard evidence is a problem. Surely is a long shot just to say, If the Vikings did used chains for their anchors, why not the byzantines as well?  

 

Its a hard issue what you got there. Still through my last post, based only on the linguistic aspect, I remain loyal to the theory that the anchors were iron made and they had fibre ropes and not chains.

 

Christos  

Edited by MESSIS

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Ps. "Killick" it was allready a well known art in Homeric era  of binding a stone on the anchor in order to help holding it down. 

Edited by MESSIS

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