The Kadakkarapally Boat

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The Kadakkarapally Boat is a shipwreck found near Kadakkarappally, in the Southern India state of Kerala.

Kadakkarappally village in Kerala, India

Kadakkarappally is a village in Alappuzha district in the Indian state of Kerala. This is a panchayat which comes under the Cherthala Assembly constituency.

India Country in South Asia

India, also known as the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh largest country by area and with more than 1.3 billion people, it is the second most populous country and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the northeast; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives, while its Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.

Kerala State in southern India

Kerala is a state on the southwestern, Malabar Coast of India. It was formed on 1 November 1956, following passage of the States Reorganisation Act, by combining Malayalam-speaking regions. Spread over 38,863 km2 (15,005 sq mi), Kerala is the twenty second largest Indian state by area. It is bordered by Karnataka to the north and northeast, Tamil Nadu to the east and south, and the Lakshadweep Sea and Arabian Sea to the west. With 33,387,677 inhabitants as per the 2011 Census, Kerala is the thirteenth-largest Indian state by population. It is divided into 14 districts with the capital being Thiruvananthapuram. Malayalam is the most widely spoken language and is also the official language of the state.


The vessel was found in a coconut grove in southern India by farmers in 1990. In 2002, archaeologists were notified of its existence, and the wreck was excavated in 2003.

Dating the wreck

Radiocarbon dating done in the United States yielded a date of AD 1020 to 1270, corroborating the C-14 date of AD 920 to 1160 derived by an Indian laboratory. With no associated artifacts that could have been used for comparative dating, the overlap in the radiocarbon dates, that is 1020 to 1160, should be regarded as the likely date of the vessel.

Radiocarbon dating is a method for determining the age of an object containing organic material by using the properties of radiocarbon, a radioactive isotope of carbon.


The vessel is a flat-bottomed boat with a hard chine, pointed bow and a similar stern. The planking is in two layers held together with iron nails and chunnam. Large floors set in recesses carved into the bottom help give the craft some internal strength, but these are set far apart and probably are only secondary to the ship. Deck beams dovetailed into the vessel's chine strake help hold the side of the ship.

A chine in boating refers to a sharp change in angle in the cross section of a hull. A hull without chines has a gradually curving cross section. The term hard chine indicates an angle with little rounding, where a soft chine would be more rounded, but still involve the meeting of distinct planes. Chine log construction is a method of building hard chine boat hulls. Hard chines are common in plywood hulls, while soft chines are often found on fiberglass hulls.


A strake is a course of the planking or plating of the hull of a vessel. In a wooden construction it is a strip of planking running longitudinally along the vessel's bottom and sides. In a metal ship it is a course of plating.

Furthermore, channels and cleats throughout the hull are for transverse lashing, as seen in the presence of rope remains in them as well as in their alignment. This feature has only been found previously on Pharaonic Egyptian boats, such as the Khufu ship dating to the early third millennium B.C. No cultural connection is implied between Egypt and the Kadakkarapally Boat. Some have suggested the cleats and channels are part of a lashed-lug compression system as found in the Western Pacific and some areas of Southeastern Asia. This is not the case here, however, as the hull form is wrong (lashed-lug requires a hull curved in cross-section), and there are no wear marks indicative of such a compression system.

Khufu ship

The Khufu ship is an intact full-size vessel from Ancient Egypt that was sealed into a pit in the Giza pyramid complex at the foot of the Great Pyramid of Giza around 2500 BC. The ship now is preserved in the Giza Solar boat museum. The ship was almost certainly built for Khufu, the second pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom of Egypt. Like other buried Ancient Egyptian ships, it was apparently part of the extensive grave goods intended for use in the afterlife, and contained no bodies, unlike northern European ship burials.

Bulkheads made of panels were set into the tops of the floors to divide the hull into compartments. These were not watertight, as centrally placed limber holes run through the floor for the drainage of the bilge. While the presence of bulkheads invites comparisons with Chinese ships, the ones on the Kadakkarapally Boat are different in that Chinese bulkheads are watertight and thus serve a somewhat different function.

A limber hole is a drain hole through a frame or other structural member of a boat designed to prevent water from accumulating against one side of the frame, and allowing it to drain toward the bilge. Limber holes are common in the bilges of wooden boats. The term may be extended to cover drain holes in floors. Limber holes are created in between bulkheads so that one compartment does not fill with water. The limber holes allow water to drain into the lowest part of the bilge so that it can be pumped out by a single bilge pump.

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