The world’s oldest KNOWN boat is actually a canoe that basically is nothing more than a hollowed out log. It’s known as the “Pesse Canoe” and is dated at between 11-9.5 kya. It is kept in the Netherlands inside the Drents Museum. The Pesse Canoe is a dugout measuring 117 inches (9.75 ft) long and 17 inches wide. The material is from a single Scottish pine log. Marks inside the canoe indicate it was hallowed out using flint tools or antler tools.
This canoe was first discovered in 1955 during construction of a highway in the Netherlands near the village of Pesse, hence its name. It was found in a peat bog when the peat was being removed by roadway construction workers. It was located about six and one-half feet below the surface but was thought to only be an ancient log and nothing more. Upon closer inspection by a farmer named Hendrik Wanders it was determined to be a canoe. So was this thing seaworthy? That’s been an ongoing debate since it was found! Archaeologist Jaap Beuker made a replica of the canoe in 2011 and paddled the replica on the water successfully. So, it did float and it was seaworthy!
Some have argued that the “canoe” is nothing more than an animal trough but Beuker has argued that animals were not kept by people in the area at that time when the boat was made so it could not have been an animal trough. Further, the construction of the canoe is similar to those found elsewhere.
Other canoes have been found around the world too. Back in 2000 archaeologists found more than 85 Indian canoes sticking out of the Newman’s Lake bed near Gainesville, Florida C14 dating determined the canoes range between 500 years old and 5000 years old. These canoes were found when the lake water levels dropped by high school students working on an environmental project. Archaeologists believe these canoes were used for fishing. They averaged 22 feet long with rounded sterns and bows and most were made of pine. BTW the oldest canoe ever found in Florida dates to 6 kyr (thousand years old). The original name for the lake was Pithlachocco which is a Seminole word meaning “place of the long boats.”
Last year archaeologists found remains of a partially constructed oak log boat near a submerged ancient forest at Bouldnor Cliff off the Isle of Wight. This land used to be above water but today is 11 meters below water. This artifact is dated at about 8 kyr. The discoverers also discovered a scalloped out end piece and string that would have been used to secure various elements of the craft. This may have been a boat building site as could be the one in Florida mentioned above. If so then this changes our understanding of some of the technology our ancients ones employed. It also means that wheat from the Mid East came to the UK 2000 years before previously thought. Trading and importing 8000 years ago? Seems our ancestors were not quite the “savage cavemen” we once thought. 🙂
It would take two people no more than a week to make a dugout canoe using stone and/or bone tools. Sometimes the makers burned a cavity into a tree trunk with hot coals and cut away the charred wood. These ancient boats were made from a variety of material not only including logs but also reeds and other material.
There is a rock carving in Azerbaijan of a boat dating to 10 kya. It shows a reed boat being paddled by 20 people. Some researcher believe Kayaks (hide boats) were used in Northern Europe as early as 9500 BCE also.
According to studies at the University of Montreal the very first sea-worthy boats were likely made about 800 kya and NOT by modern man but by HOMO ERECTUS the “smart naked ape”!!!!!!!! Many researchers believe Erectus build seaworthy watercraft 600,000 years BEFORE the first Homo sapiens appeared!!
Many of the boats Erectus built could have been from reed and bamboo material but he could have also made dugouts which are simple to make.
We know very little about prehistoric boat building but we do know people have been doing it for a very long time. The first boats were likely simple rafts and dugouts (canoes). Plank built vessels go back to the Bronze Age (32000-600 BC in Europe) in this area. Bronze Age boats have been found at Dover in Kent and at North Ferriby in Yorkshire dated between 3.5 and 4 kyr.
I have seen and examined some of these ancient water vessels and I do NOT believe they are “animal troughs.” They are dugouts and they do float on the water. I have a very STRONG suspicion that prehistoric man was making dugouts and sailing the waters long, long before we suspect! In fact, I’d go as far as saying man has floated upon the waters for as long as he’s been walking the land!