Analysis of surviving features on these vessels indicates that they are all associated with a non-graphic system of hull design, in contrast to La Belle's design system, in which the graphic development of the body plan is a central element. This older non-graphic method in its national and temporal variations is referred to in various ways: the ancient method, the partisone system or method, Mediterranean moulding, the method of the maître-gabarit, la tablette, et le trébuchet, Mediterranean whole moulding, and whole moulding (Alertz 1995; Barker 2003; Bellabarba 1993; Bloesch 1983; Castro 2005; Rieth 1996; 2003a; Sarsfield 1985; 1991).

Our understanding of the basic concepts of Mediterranean moulding is a result of more than a century of effort by many scholars primarily working with documentary materials from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries and some ethnographic parallels (Rieth 1996). However, Éric Rieth's investigation of the remains of the late-thirteenth- to early-fourteenth-century Culip VI vessel definitively showed that the system itself predates the earliest documentary evidence from fifteenth-century Italian manuscripts (Rieth 1996:149–164). Furthermore, investigation of the remains of the ninth-century Bozburun (Harpster 2009) and the eleventh-century Serçe Limani (Steffy 2004) vessels discovered off the coast of Turkey indicates that the origins of some of the design concepts of Mediterranean moulding, with regard to frame-first construction, may date back to the Middle Byzantine era (see discussion in Rieth 2009:132–134).

Mediterranean Moulding

The series of isometric drawings in Figure 49a-f, g-l, m-r illustrates what I consider the basic concepts underlying the definition of a vessel's hull shape in the fully developed version of Mediterranean moulding design. All of these drawings are modeled on La Belle's general shape and curvature characteristics from the midship frame forward. They were developed to compare the principles of the Mediterranean moulding method, as delineated in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French sources, with those of La Belle's design method; they do not adhere to the exact proportions or measurements of any specific Mediterranean moulding tradition.


It is also important to keep in mind that this series of drawings does not illustrate an actual design sequence, since with Mediterranean moulding there is no development of the hull shape in a drawing. In Mediterranean moulding the frame shapes are drawn directly on the timbers using a single set of full-size templates based on the shape of the midship frame (Figure 49a, r). Most commonly, there would be one template used to draw out the floor timbers and another for drawing out the futtocks (Figure 49a). The two templates would be overlapped to define the area of the bilge much like the overlapping of floor timbers and futtocks in a stepped framing system. NEXT