“ROW, ROW, ROW YOUR BOAT”
THE FIRST BOATS
10,000 years ago
|A simple dugout boat made from a tree trunk. This is a 10th century dugout boat found in the Oder River in Poland. It is currently displayed at the Świdnica Museum near Zielona Gora, Poland.
Credit: Photo by Mohylek, courtesy of Wikipedia.
For millions of years water must have been a very formidable obstacle for humans and proto-humans. By the end of the last Ice Age, it appears that people began to adventure along and across bodies of water through the use of new technological innovations: floating devices such as rafts, canoes, and boats. By the use of paddles people could power and steer such vessels of transport, opening up new possibilities for fishing, hunting of marine animals, obtaining more distant raw materials, and for migrations.
Although it is clear that humans crossed water from Southeast Asia to Australia before 40,000 years ago, it is not clear whether this was intentional with watercraft or accidental (such as a group stranded on a large log or a mat of floating vegetation in a storm; remember, much earlier New World monkeys somehow got from Africa and Europe across the Atlantic…). The first direct evidence of boats comes in the form of dugout canoes from the Mesolithic of Scandinavia and other parts of northern Europe (the oldest, the Pesse boat found in a peat bog in the Netherlands, is a canoe made from a pine trunk and dating to ca. 10,000 years ago), and in the movement of obsidian (volcanic glass) in the Aegean from the source island of Melos to the Greek mainland and elsewhere.
HOW DO WE KNOW?
We have the actual evidence of dugout canoes from waterlogged sites in northern Europe as well as the indirect evidence of boats from the transport of obsidian from island to island in the Aegean Sea.
WHY SHOULD I CARE?
Evidence of boats shows us that human populations were becoming more comfortable with water transport which would greatly enhance their ability to move across water barriers such as rivers, lakes, and sea channels.
This is a National Geographic article about early humans conquering the sea.
This is a discovery channel article about early human ships.
This is a Wikipedia article about the earliest evidence for the use of boats to travel across bodies of water.
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