Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America

November 4, 2000 - Issue 22

Antiquity of Ancient Canoes Confirmed

Archeologists have confirmed the antiquity of more than 85 Indian canoes discovered sticking out of a lake bed near Gainesville, Florida, earlier this year.

The discovery of the prehistoric canoes in Newnan's Lake was the largest of its kind in the United States, Secretary of State Katherine Harris said in announcing the results of radiocarbon testing.

The Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research confirmed the canoes range from 500 to 5,000 years old, with most built between 3,000 and 5,000 years ago.

The wooden canoes had remained hidden and preserved at the bottom of the lake for centuries until water levels dropped during a dry spell. They were discovered in April by high school students working on an environmental project.

Archeologists performed radiocarbon tests on 53 of the canoes, while recording their length, width, depth and where they were found.

The canoes, likely used as fishing boats, were up to 22 feet long. Many had rounded sterns and bows. Tests on six canoes showed they were made of pine.

After the find was documented, the canoes were reburied in the lake bottom. Otherwise, they would have crumbled in a matter of days if left exposed to the air and sun.

State archaeologist James Miller said the documentation will be added to earlier data related to more than 300 canoes, including the oldest canoe found in Florida, a 6,000-year-old craft.

Seminole Indian Chief James Billie said the lake's original name was Pithlachocco, a Seminole word meaning ''place of long boats.''

''This may have been a factory where boats were made,'' he said.

Some Types Of Native American Canoes

  • Bark Canoes were narrow, light and shallow-drafted. There have been many styles Bark Canoes, some of the the most common were:
    • The Two-Man Indian Canoe: 8 to 10 feet in length.
    • The Express or Light Canoe: usually 18 to 21 feet long; used for rapid travel.
    • The North Canoe: A 4- to 8-man canoe which was sometimes used as an Express canoe.
    • The Montreal Canoe: A particular style of 8- to 12-man or even 14-man canoe.
  • Wooden Dugout Canoes were most likely the earliest form of water craft in this area, and probably enjoyed the longest use: Pirogues or Dugouts and variants came in numerous sizes with the largest made by splitting a dugout in half longitudinally and then reassembling with planks inserted between the halves.
  • Skin Boats were skin-covered frame canoes which were usually used only as a temporary vessel.
  • Bullboats were a bowl-shaped variation of skin boat that was usually used on streams in crossing from one side to the other.

Give Me of Your Bark Oh Birtch Tree



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