Thursday, September 27, 2012

The World’s Oldest Dugout Canoe

The world’s oldest surviving dugout canoe was found in 1955 near the village of Pesse in the Netherlands. Like so many otherwise fragile artifacts, this boat was preserved in a peat bog. It was found over 6 feet (2 meters) below the surface by a crane operator working on the Dutch A28 motorway. The crane operator believed it was a tree trunk, but a local farmer noticed it and took it away for study. He gave it to the University of Groningen, where it was examined and preserved. Eventually, it found its way to the Drents Museum in Assen, Netherlands.

Carbon dating indicates that the boat was constructed somewhere between 11,000 and 9,500 years ago. It is nearly 10 feet (3 meters) long and 17 inches (44 centimeters) wide, and was made from a single scotch pine log. Scrape marks in the interior may have been made by either flint or antler scrapers and adzes.

A replica of the canoe was constructed by Dutch archaeologist Jaap Beuker. A canoeist successfully launched and paddled the little boat. The canoe is very similar to other prehistoric boats found elsewhere.

While some have argued that the boat might in fact have been a feed trough for domestic animals, Beuker says that animals were not kept by the people of that era, so it is unlikely to have been used to feed animals. The canoe is also very similar to other prehistoric boats found elsewhere in the world, although it is much older than the others.

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