After a long week and a half at work, I realize that I've missed some blogging.
Anyway, today I saw news about the possible discovery of the Santa Maria, flagship of Christopher Columbus on his first exploratory voyage.
That led me to some Wiki-wandering, in which I discovered that the Santa Maria was a carrack vessel, while the two smaller vessels were caravel vessels. (The two smaller ships are often referred to as Niña and Pinta, but likely had other official names. Those names are lost to history.)
Interestingly, both the carrack and caravel vessels were recent innovations to Columbus. These vessels were improvements on earlier designs, and much better-fitted to long journeys over the ocean.
As recently as the 1450s, the remnants of the Eastern Roman Empire had maintained part of the Silk Road trade route from China and India. The downfall of Constantinople had closed that route. This generated pressure towards developing other routes to trade with those parts of the world.
At about this time, shipping technology advanced from barge-like balinger vessels to caravels. The newer caravel also used a newer form of hull-building, known as carvel. The older clinker hulls could not be used to build vessels above a certain limit. The newer carvel hulls could both support more complex sail structure, and be extended to construct ships of much larger size.
The newer ship technology, as well as the desire to find better ways of trade, provided the combination of factors that allowed for the Age of Exploration to begin. The Spanish and Portuguese dominated European exploration of the world for more than a century, due to their primacy in building these new types of sea-going vessels.
This explosion of exploration depended on an advances in technology.
I hadn't realized, before today, how much of an advance in ship-building technology was necessary to enable the Age of Exploration.