Beginning of Everything in Shipbuilding: The Pesse Canoe

Beginning of Everything in Shipbuilding: The Pesse Canoe

Modern ship types are the product of countless centuries of development and ships have been with us for long years. The fact remains that, even way before the huge boats were built, people were also curious about crossing small bodies of water. The beginning of the story dates back thousands of years. To be exact, it actually goes back to 8000s BC. If you are thrilled enough, let’s find out more about the very first boat believed to be built by our ancestors.

History of The Discovery of The Pesse Canoe

In the year 1955, when the ruins of the Pesse Canoe were found initially, nobody would imagine that it was the first known boat in history. During the construction of the Dutch A28 motorway which passes south of the village of Pesse, while working on the removal of the peat, a crane operator noticed something stiff two meters below the surface. For him, it was nothing unusual because he thought that he just uncovered a tree trunk so he left it there. In spite of this, local farmer Hendrik Wanders thought that the log was worth the effort. Wanders later found and inspected the log closely and realized that it could not be just a remnant of an old tree.

For further examination, Wanders gave the log to the University of Groningen. As a result of the scientific work, its ancient past and titulary of the oldest boat known were discovered. Carbon dating evidence showed that it was constructed between 8040 BCE and 7510 BCE. The canoe was named after the place where it was found. University employees also freeze-dried it to prevent it from deteriorating. Later, Hendrik received 150 gulden and lifelong membership of the museum.

Since then, it has been showcased in the Drents Museum in the Netherlands. The Drents Museum is located pretty close to the discovery site. 

Years later, A very similar boat was found in the surrounding area of Dufuna village in Nigeria. However, this time carbon dating indicates that it dates back to 8000 years. This means there are approximately 2000 years between the one in Nigeria and the Pesse Canoe. 

Features of The Canoe

The Pesse Canoe is classified as a dugout canoe which means it is made from a hollowed tree. Specifically, from Scots pine trees by carving a single Scots pine log. It is a relatively small boat only measuring 298 centimeters long and 44 centimeters wide. In the cavity, marks possibly from flint or antler tools are seen. Obviously, the builder(s) of the Pesse Canoe was not aiming for the oceans but to cross lakes, rivers or creeks. 

Most probably, the people around Pesse were using their canoes to catch pikes and shoot birds with flint arrows by the predictions from the discoveries of the tombs found in the area of the river.

Debates and Proofs

The discovery of the canoe came together with question marks. Initially, Some likened it to an animal feeder. However, the argument was easily disprovable. Humans did not even have domesticated animals at that time

On the other hand, queries about the canoe were not limited to the animal feeder. For a Danish expert, the buoyancy of the canoe was questionable because it had such a small wooden structure which could result in losing stability. 

In 2001, in order to prove the opposite and the floatability of the canoe, the conservator of the Drents Museum Jaap Beuker got his loins. He built the replica of the Pesse Canoe. The replica was successfully paddled by a canoeist. Beuker not only proved the practicalness of the Pesse Canoe but also showed that more ancient boats had a round base because the Danish expert’s argument included the round base of the canoe was unfit. You can also watch the moments when the boat successfully floats by the link.