The World’s Oldest Canoe

Humans have a relationship with the open waters that has lasted for thousands of years. Since before (way before in fact) recorded history men and women have crafted vessels that allow them to float on the water and travel to both new and known destinations. It’s because of this that people were able to connect all over the globe, this ability to traverse the rivers and oceans cannot be overvalued, it changed the way we lived and allowed us to evolve. As far as we can tell this all started around ten thousand years ago, and we know this thanks to the Pesse Canoe.

The Pesse Canoe was found in the Netherlands and dates back to the Mesolithic period, sometime between 8200 and 7600 BCE. This was a time when humans were predominantly hunter gatherers between the upper Palaeolithic and Neolithic eras. The Neolithic era is essentially the time when people progressed from this way of life to ways of settlement and agriculture. For this reason, many tools and devices are associated with this period making it even more impressive that the Pesse Canoe dates back so much further.

The boat is what is referred to as a dugout canoe, this style of canoe is made using the trunk of a singular tree which is then hollowed out and carved into that iconic canoe shape. The oldest boats found are usually crafted in this style, this means that either this was the earliest style of boat building or it could be due to the fact that it is made from one great piece of wood. This allows the boat to be better preserves than others such as ones made from bark or even hide. The Pesse Canoe measures at around 298 cm long and 44 cm wide. It was made from the log of a Scots Pine tree and thanks to marks left on the boats cavity it is believed that it was crafted using flint or antler tools.

Its name comes from the location it was discovered, Pesse in Hoogeveen in the year 1955 CE. It was found (like many relics are) by a local farmer during the construction at the time of the A28 Motorway, the route it passes through was once a peat bog. This bog needed to be removed if construction was to continue, as they were excavating the peat, they discovered what they assumed to be a tree trunk, which to be fair wasn’t entirely untrue. The farmer could see that this was no ordinary log and took it the University of Groningen. They studied the artefact and once they could determine its origin, they freeze dried it for preservation. After this the canoe was transferred to the Drents Museum which is located not far from where it was discovered where today you can go and visit this incredible piece of human history for yourself. It’s amazing to think how far we’ve come, yet still to this day canoes are not just in use, but a popular pastime.