The “Vernacular shipbuilding in Cyprus” photo exhibition and educational workshops

Vernacular shipbuilding, meaning the hand-crafting of a boat, is one of those cultural practices and perceptions that remain unprotected on the island.

The Intangible Maritime Cultural Heritage Project! It is a project that touched the heart of the neglected and often forgotten Intangible Maritime Cultural Heritage of our country. The shipbuilding craft has flourished in Cyprus during previous centuries, gave us great craftsmen, and has created unique vessels. Vernacular shipbuilding was a natural consequence for Cyprus due to its insular character, its abundance in suitable timber, and the ingenuity of the craftsmen themselves. Highly skilled shipbuilders and other craftsmen worked at Limassol, Paphos, Famagusta, in constructing merchantmen, fishing boats, or vessels for private use, meeting the needs of Cyprus and the Mediterranean region.

The group of my adult students from the Cyprus Archaeology Seminars participated in the unique Experimental Workshop of the project, dealing with the vernacular shipbuilding. The two-hour workshop clearly resonated with this declining traditional craft, through the eyes of one of the last Cypriot shipbuilders.

Along with the Maritime Archaeologist Maria Ktori and Mr. Marios Parpour, one of the last vernacular shipbuilders on the island, the workshop examined the intangible features of an ancient culture, which are preserved to us –amongst others- through social customs. The shipbuilders, carriers of a craft which was transferred and preserved through family tradition or apprenticeship, employed a significant number of skilled workers and built a great number of vessels.

Byzantine chanting, Wine-making, and Rebetiko music are part of the world’s Intangible Cultural Heritage, a global heritage protected by UNESCO. Why shouldn’t vernacular shipbuilding in Cyprus form part of this, being a craft which gave a huge economic push to a large part of the island’s population for many centuries. The protection of our Intangible Maritime Cultural Heritage remains an important factor in preserving our cultural diversity as an island while encouraging mutual respect for different ways of life.

Author: Dr. Annita Antoniadou, Geoarchaeologist