It was a story that started in early June, when the boat was found off the coast of New Zealand, its hull and propeller missing.
The discovery was followed by the discovery of what looked like a human skull, a piece of metal that would be of great interest to forensic scientists.
But for the researchers who were analysing the bones to date the events, the discovery was far from unexpected.
What they discovered instead was that the human remains had been washed ashore, presumably in a river.
That is when they became aware of the story they were trying to tell.
“The story started about two months ago and we just sort of rolled it out,” says Dr Jens-Dieter Nelms, an anthropologist at the University of Bergen in Norway who was part of the team that collected the remains.
“It’s really an exciting story, but it’s also quite technical.”
How do the bones come to be in the river?
Archaeologists and scientists have long been fascinated by the mystery surrounding the Boatners.
Some believe that they were once a small people from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, a remote island chain that is now mostly uninhabited.
Their people are believed to have lived in the region for tens of thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans, who brought them a new diet of palm oil and other tropical fruits.
But archaeologists have struggled to understand how the Boaters got to the island, or even where they were originally.
“A lot of questions are still unanswered, particularly with regard to the location of the first settlement, or the earliest inhabitants,” says Nelmes.
“So we wanted to try and understand more about the way they did it.”
What the scientists have found suggests that the Boatiners might have travelled to the Sulaweese island of Bali and settled there after their first wave of people arrived in the 15th century.
But in the first decades of the 20th century, there were signs of a new group of Boaters.
The boatbuilders and fishermen of the island were becoming increasingly powerful, with their ships and boats having been adapted to their needs.
A number of early settlers were also able to get away with the crime of leaving the island.
But the new arrivals began to attract the attention of the authorities, who were increasingly concerned about the islanders’ continued presence in the area.
The Boatners have been a part of British history since the 16th century and are recognised by the British government as a British overseas territory.
But they have been persecuted for their actions, and some of the descendants of the original settlers have expressed a desire to return to Sulawesia to establish their own colony.
“In the early days, there was a lot of interest in Sulawese society and people and what they were doing,” says Misha Rabinovich, a linguist at the American University of Beirut who has studied Sulawsean.
“But the people were quite poor and were being attacked by the colonial authorities.”
The Sulawehians’ stories were also told by a number of other ethnic groups, including the Chinese and Koreans, who lived in what is now Malaysia and Singapore.
“We thought that it would be interesting to understand these different groups and what role they played,” says Rabinovsky.
“When we were trying out the language of the Sulawses, we realised that the Sulayshians had a lot more to say than we expected.”
What were the Boatnners eating?
One of the biggest questions that the team was trying to answer was what was the first thing the Sulawians cooked on their boats?
They began to wonder if they were eating their way out of the problem.
“There are some theories that they are just consuming their own food, that they might have been cooking rice or beans for a long time,” says Svetlana Maks, a specialist in Asian food history at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.
“However, we’ve also seen that people were also eating fish and other seafood, and that they didn’t have a lot in the way of a traditional diet.”
The boat builders were also known to have eaten their own meat.
The Sulawse people were said to be very keen on catching fish in their nets and were known to cook it in their kitchens, and to have been very skilled at making a variety of dishes, including sushi.
But these ingredients were not widely eaten by the Sulayas.
The story of the boat builders may have been told by the boats themselves, says Rabanovich, who believes that the people who built the boat might have had an important role in the development of modern fishing and rice farming in the Sulawan archipelago.
What the boatbuilders were eating was likely a mix of fish and meat, but with the exception of a few rare items such as lobsters, fish was generally the mainstay of the diet