A dugout canoe is a boat made from a hollow tree trunk. The process of making dugout boats has been one of the earliest and longest used methods of creating watercraft since the Neolithic period. This method of boat making was a craft for more temperate regions and has been used all over the world until as recently as this very century. As of 1980 the oldest securely dated dug-out boat find is from the Netherlands, which has a date of 6315 BC. However, it is not certain if this was actually a boat rather than some other form of dug-out vessel. In 1987, a herdsman in Nigeria discovered a boat that was dated as being 8500 years old. In 1991, three dug-out boats were discovered along the Seine River in Paris that were from the Neolithic period which were between 5600 and 6500 years old.
Before the appearance of metal tools, dugouts were hollowed out using controlled fires. The burnt wood was then removed using an adze. ...view middle of the document...
In Europe the majority of dugouts that have been found have been made out of linden wood. The properties of linden wood make it very suitable for boat making. It was abundant in that region after the glacial melts of the ice age. Linden trees also grow quite tall, so they would be able to build a longer boat. Thirdly, it doesn’t crack or split easily. Some of the other materials that were used to make some of the prehistoric boats that were found include Scotch pine, oak, cedar and African teak, all depending on the region from which they were built.
For my Cave WoMan project I made a water vessel using the burn and scrape method that was used in making dugout canoes. I found out very quickly that this was an ambitious project to undertake. After researching types of wood I decided to use a log of birch. Birch is a tough, moderately hard and fine grained wood. It has a pleasant “satin” finish when sanded and was extensively used for making vessels and canoes. I used the embers from several bonfires to burn the wood out of the center of my log. I didn’t want to use any modern tools for this project (other than my lighter), so I used a stick and a shell to scrape out the charred remains of wood after each burning. It would have been so much easier if I would have had a stone adze to gouge the wood out of it!
This project has shown me that it would have been quite an endeavor to make a full sized canoe in the Neolithic period. They would have had to make the stone tools needed to chop down a tree, chop the tree down, remove all the bark, collect all the fuel to start the fires, keep a close watch on the burning as to not burn through the sides, make the axes or adzes used to scrape the wood out, scrape and gouge out the charred wood, and in some instances heat up rocks enough to boil water inside the finished boat to shape it. I can see how this would be a project that would take several people to accomplish and a lot of cooperation on their parts.