May 22, 2024

7,000-year-old boats provide new insights into seafaring science


From the Environmental Protection Agency

Bulletin – A canoe has been excavated at the bottom of Lake Bracciano. The remains of worn-out canoes, more than 7,000 years old, give an idea of ​​the breadth of knowledge of seafaring in the Neolithic Age. Image: Gebaja et al/2024, PLOS ONE, C/dpa

More than 7,000 years ago, people may have sailed the Mediterranean in technologically advanced boats. The discoveries show that important advances in sea navigation were made as early as the Neolithic.

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Rome (dpa). The remains of ancient canoes, more than 7,000 years old, give only an idea of ​​the breadth of knowledge of seafaring in the Neolithic. Discoveries near Lake Bracciano, not far from the Italian capital, Rome, indicate that people have been sailing in the Mediterranean Sea in technologically advanced boats for thousands of years, as a team of researchers reported in the specialized magazine “PLOS ONE”. The finds also indicate that many important advances in seafaring were made during the Neolithic.

During excavations in the historic village of La Marmotta on the shores of Lake Bracciano in the Lazio region, researchers found five canoes made of hollow trees. It dates back to between 5700 and 5100 BC. One of the boats is a large oak canoe, more than ten meters long and a meter wide at the stern. Another dugout canoe was said to have been made of alder and may have been a fishing boat.

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The excavation site is now located in the city of Anguillara Sabazia. Analysis of the dugout canoes showed that they were made of four different tree species (poplar, alder, oak, beech). Since they are all found around La Marmota, this is unusual. They are also shown to have been manufactured using relatively advanced construction techniques such as transverse reinforcement. They were likely made with specialized tools, including axes. In addition, the interior is likely hollow due to burning.

The location on Lake Bracciano made it possible to travel to the Mediterranean

La Marmotta is an important reference point for the study of historical seafaring: its location on Lake Bracciano made it possible to travel to the Mediterranean, as the lake is connected to the Tyrrhenian Sea, i.e. the part of the Mediterranean off the western coast of Italy, by the River Aron. Researchers suspect that there are other boats preserved near La Marmota that could be a possible starting point for future research.

According to researchers, what particularly distinguishes these discoveries is the technical sophistication with which the boats were built. A series of holes were found in the dugout canoe, which was more than ten meters long and was probably used to attach ropes, perhaps to sails. It was said that boat building must require a detailed understanding of the structural design and properties of wood, as well as well-organized, skilled labor. Dugout canoes are the oldest known in the Mediterranean.

In the Neolithic Age, also known as the Neolithic, agricultural societies began to spread throughout Europe and North Africa. Beginnings in the Middle East date back to about 10,000 BC, and communities from this region settled the entire Mediterranean region around 7,500 BC.

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The Mediterranean Sea was clearly used for travel and transport, as it enabled boats to move quickly and exchange goods quickly, explains the team led by Juan Gibaja of the Spanish National Research Council in Barcelona. Presumably, people at that time were taking short trips along the coast.

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