Virtual Reconstrution of a XVI Century Nau (NAU)

Duration: 01.02.20008-30.01.2011 (36 months)

Coordination: Instituto Superior Técnico

Partners: Instituto Superior Técnico and Texas A&M University

Funding Entity: Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology

This project consists on the reconstruction of a 16th century Portuguese nau, based on archaeological and documental information, and the assessment of its technical characteristics and performance. The ship’s reconstruction will be implemented with three-dimensional (3D) geometric computer models. The development of underwater archaeology in the last three or four decades, together with the advance of computation instruments and methods, has created unique opportunities for the research and understanding of the ships of the Discoveries. Combining existing information from contemporary iconographic and written sources with the data from the archaeological remains of these ships makes it possible to establish plausible configurations for both the hulls and rigging arrangements of these ships, and then test them with scientific processes in controlled environments. This project aims at: (a) Producing a rigorous and scientifically justified model of the hull shape, interior arrangements, structure and rigging of an India nau. The basis for this work is the corpus of data yielded by the archaeological excavation of the ship wrecked on the Tagus River mouth in 1606 (see State of the Art section below), and on the reconstruction of the hull and rigging carried out by Filipe Castro, one of the members of this team. (b) Studying the nautical characteristics, structural soundness, and living conditions of the reconstructed India nau, based on the information obtained in the pervious task. (c) Reconstruct and research the technology and construction procedures used in Portuguese shipyards, such as the Ribeira das Naus one, during the 16th and early 17th centuries. The methodology to employ will consist in analyzing and combining the data retrieved from the sources mentioned above namely contemporary texts, including shipbuilding treatises and regimentos, iconography and archaeological remains sufficiently studied and published using actual naval architecture methods, such as computer software and experimental tests with scale models. The research work is multidisciplinary, combining the scientific areas of modern history, naval architecture and nautical archaeology. A working plan has been established to help achieve the objectives stated above, divided into six complementary tasks. In Task 1 the hull geometry and rigging arrangement are analyzed and improved. Tasks 2 and 3 consist on the analysis of the materials used in the ship’s construction, the fastenings, its structural soundness and construction sequence, and in the definition of the ship’s interior spaces. Based on historical documents, which include shipbuilding treatises and regimentos from the late 16th and early 17th centuries, the analysis and interpretation of this theoretical model with precise scientific methods will advance our knowledge of this type of ship, which was the vehicle of the Portuguese maritime expansion. In Task 4 the data obtained from the previous tasks is used to analyz

Project Team

Associated Publications