Hoping to find a local dolphin named Kevin, a citizen archaeologist ended up finding a medieval logboat sunk in the shallow water of an Irish river. The man, Anthony Murphy, found the vessel while flying his drone over the River Boyne. “I was actually looking for Kevin the dolphin that has been in the river in the past couple of weeks,” he told The Irish Times. Not a bad consolation prize.
It’s not Murphy’s first archaeological rodeo. In 2018, during a historic drought in Britain that exposed a number of historical sites, Murphy flew a drone near the famous Neolithic site of Newgrange and found a new henge. “What the f*** is that?” he said at the time.
The dolphin is named after Kevin Costner and is well known to people in the area. The animal’s first sighting was in 1993, when the movie “The Bodyguard” was in theatres. The dolphin was noticeably protective of other members of its pod, so it was dubbed Kevin. Recently, a finned creature was reported in the River Boyne, and notches on its dorsal fin confirmed it to be Kevin. The dolphin tends to hang around the local estuary, according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin group reports on recent sightings.
The River Boyne has a history of turning up logboats, dug-out tree trunks that carried people across water from the Neolithic age through the Georgian era. Twelve such vessels have now been discovered in the Boyne, the oldest dating to about 5,000 years ago. The logboat Murphy found was actually previously reported by Ireland’s National Monuments Service last year. However, Murphy also found what appears to be a second logboat nearby, which he describes on his Mythical Ireland Blog.
The two logboats measure 3.6 m metres and 3.9 metres long, according to an analysis done by archaeologist Niall Gregory and shared with Mythical Ireland Blog, though they can be much bigger. The Lurgan Canoe, a 4,000-year-old boat found in 1901 and now housed in the National Museum of Ireland, is nearly 15.24 m long.
“The Boyne has probably thrown up a lot of these because it’s just been looked at a bit more than most,” said Stephen Davis, an archaeologist at University College Dublin, in an email to Gizmodo. “The Shannon [River] has boats, too, and I strongly suspect that if one looked more in other larger rivers they would show up. Preservation is just a matter of waterlogging — if they are kept wet, then they will last.”
Less lasting, evidently, are glimpses of Kevin the dolphin. In October, the townsfolk of Dingle, across Ireland, feared the death of Fungie the dolphin, though sightings still crop up. Less lumbering than a logboat, perhaps Kevin has slipped away once more.