We have looked at the early days when man first worked out how to transport their goods and chattels and of course themselves across land; but how did they get across bodies of water?
The word canoe comes from the Carib word kenu (dugout). The first kinds of boats were probably made by hollowing out tree trunks and are called dugouts.
Boats have served as transportation dating back to prehistoric times; the earliest times they were used are perhaps as long ago as 9000,000 years ago. Archaeologists have found signs of the earliest dugouts in Europe, Australia and Africa; oldest recovered boat in the world, called the Pesse canoe, was found in the Netherlands.
This boat is a dugout made from a hollowed tree trunk and is believed to have been built somewhere between 8200 and 7600 BC. It is exhibited in the Drents Museum in Assen, Netherlands.
Rafts have operated for at least 8,000 years. A 7,000-year-old seagoing reed boat has been found in Kuwait. Boats were used 4000 and 3000 BC by the ancient Egyptians and rafts were used to move across the Indian Ocean.
Rafts were built from reeds that grow in the Nile Valley in Egypt. A very primitive type of boat was woven from branches or twigs and then covered with animal skins and coated with tar to keep it waterproof.
These early types of boats were also found to be used in India. Uru craft originated in Beypore, a village in south Calicut, Kerala, in south-western India.
It was only a few hundred years ago that boats were built with manmade materials. Before that, anything made to float was built of natural materials – mostly out of wood but also reed, bark and animal skins.
Man needed to cross rivers and lakes if they lived inland. In Africa, there are some vast lakes that would have taken many days of travelling on foot to go around the water.
Dugouts, the oldest boats archaeologists have found, date back to the Neolithic Stone Age. These heavy craft were made of massive pieces of wood, which preserve better than bark or skin craft.
First, a huge tree would be found – in those far off days, a tree that had fallen to the ground would be searched out because the people did not have any metal tools to work with.
First, the bark was removed from the trunk then fires were made to burn away the hollows that the people would sit in. The burnt wood was then removed and the inside treated in a special way; surely, the wood would have been smoothed too as no one wanted big splinters in their butts or legs.
How they managed to shape the front and back of these craft without tools is quite an interesting thought!
The Dufuna canoe, found beneath many layers of dirt in Nigeria, is an 8,000-year-old dugout and the oldest boat discovered in Africa.
It is the third oldest vessel in the world. Dugouts have been used since the beginning of time in Africa from the northern reaches of Southern Africa to the northern areas of Egypt. African Teak, a very hard wood, was the timber preferred to make these dugouts.
The dugouts, called makoro in many African countries and pirogues in French African countries, were paddled or punted (where the person in the craft would use a long stick to push at the ground beneath the water to get the craft to move).
The makoro/pirogues were used for transport as well as for fishing and hunting. The waters the people had to cross were dangerous, as there were squalls and heavy tropical weather that could whip up waters that would make the craft unstable. The people could fall out the craft easily into waters filled with crocodiles and hippopotamus.
There were also biting fish (not quite the same kind of fish found in the rivers in the Amazon that strip flesh off any living creature). Some species of fish in African waters have large teeth and can leave a human arm or leg in a bad way.
The Dufuna Canoe was discovered by a Fulani herdsman in 1987 while he was digging a well. The canoe was made of a very dark (almost black) wood from the African mahogany tree.
The Stone Age era began more than 12,000 years ago; when humans started making things out of pottery, it brought about the end of the Stone Age era.
Today, there are people in Africa who are very good at reusing, recycling and repurposing. They even make canoes out of empty plastic bottles. These don’t cost much at all – just collecting as many empty bottles as possible.