Creativity as ‘sink or swim’ decision-making: a comparative reflection of the Bronze Age and contemporary creative process of building a sewn-plank boat

Linda Hurcombe, Robert van de Noort and Brian Cumby (University of Exeter)

A full-scale sewn plank boat, Bogmyrtle, has been built over many months in the National Maritime Museum Cornwall. The boat is modelled on the Early Bronze Age finds from Ferriby in the Humber estuary but the professional shipwright, Brian Cumby, has had to solve the problems of building the boat of today. The modern boat is thus the result of the contemporary creative process but because it has been stimulated by finds from the Bronze Age it offers insights into the creative processes of the past. These creative issues in past and present include many different aspects; problem solving based on knowledge arising from experiences gained in distinctive communities of practice; the idiosyncracy of individual natural resources; community of practice issues of the concept of boat-building; leading a creative project with one vision but executed by many hands; variations in skill sets and labour needs over many months; the difference between the expertise of the skilled woodworker and the shipwright; dealing with variations in natural resources and little-known plant chaine operatoire; knowing when to adapt the design and when to reject the materials or the constraints of excavation data.