In 1972 Paul Johnstone initiated a project to build and sail a hide-covered boat which would embody the theories of those Norwegian scholars—in particular Professor Sverre Marstrander—who have classified the boats of the Scandinavian Bronze Age with the Eskimo umiak and the Irish curragh. Thanks to the publicity given the experimental model by the BBC ‘Chronicle’ series and the enthusiastic advocacy of Bregger, Marstrander and Johnstone himself (‘Bronze age sea trial’, Antiquity, XLVI, 1972), the skin-boat theory has become almost an orthodoxy in Britain and Scandinavia. In fact, however, the reconstructed boat itself clearly demonstrated the awkwardness of translating into the medium of a hidecovered frame the boat designs of the bronze age rock art, which include several features utterly irreconcilable with the requirements and norms of skin-boat construction.
For no type of boat before the age of photography has such a vast corpus of evidence been preserved as for the vessel that served the fishermen, traders and raiding parties of Scandinavia between 1200 and 600 BC (that is, the Bronze Age periods 111, IV and V). The boat is a favoured motif in thousands of rock carvings in southern Norway, Sweden, and the Baltic islands, and on at least 200 late bronze age razors from Denmark and North Germany.