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7,000-Year-Old Canoes Oldest Ever Found in Mediterranean

Five canoes found at the bottom of a lake in Italy were used more than 7,000 years ago for fishing and transport by people living in a Neolithic village near what is now Rome.

Archaeologists discovered the boats at La Marmotta, a prehistoric coastal settlement that is now underwater, while conducting ongoing excavations, according to a study published this month in the journal PLOS One.

7000 year old canoe found in Italy
One of the canoes found at the site. (Image | Credit: Gibaja et al., 2024, PLOS ONE, CC-BY 4.0)

The large dugout canoes - which were constructed of alder, oak, poplar and European beech - were built between 5700 and 5100 B.C., radiocarbon dating revealed. The boat builders also used "advanced construction techniques" to craft the vessels, reports Live Science. For example, they incorporated transverse reinforcements, which would have increased the durability of the canoes' hulls.

"The construction techniques and materials used indicate a sophisticated understanding of boat-building and navigation," senior study author Niccolò Mazzucco. "Such advancements suggest a deeper comprehension of maritime technology and navigation, with vessels equipped for long-distance voyages," Mazzucco added.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, one of the most exciting finds has been wooden T-shaped objects, drilled with two to four holes, that explain how the canoes were outfitted to carry large loads. These artifacts “are undoubtedly reminiscent of much more recent navigation systems,” the researchers write. The structure suggests the boats were towed using rope, allowing for the movement of goods, people and animals, likely for trade.


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