While it was reported in some online account that the “Dufuna Canoe” is the oldest in the world, other accounts recorded that it the oldest in the world.
No matter what the variance in the tagging of the Dufuna Canoe might be,one can concluded that it is one of the oldest in the world which has had a significant change in maritime history of the entire world.
With its historical value, it is quite expedient to blog about this archaeological discovery that really speak volume about the history of the African Continent.
I present to all my readers, viewers and followers, a piece on the history of the Nation where I come from—the most populated black nation on earth called NIGERIA.
Dufuna Canoe is a canoe discovered in 1987 by a Fulani cattle herdsman a few kilometers from the village of Dufuna in the Fune Local Government Area, not far from the Komadugu Gana River, in Yobe State, Nigeria. Radiocarbon dating of a sample of charcoal found near the site dates the canoe at 8500 to 8000 years old, linking the site to Lake Mega Chad.
It is the oldest boat to be discovered in Africa, and the second oldest known worldwide. The canoe is currently in Damaturu, the state capital.
When an ethnic Fulani herder, Mallam Y’au, began digging a ditch in the village of Dufuna by the edge of the Komadugu Gana River in northeastern Nigeria in 1987, his purpose was to find water to refresh his herd. But instead of water, he struck a hard wooden object as he began to dig deep. Roused by curiosity, he dug further and found it was no random object, with signs that some effort had gone into making it.
Subsequently, he told people about his find, word of it went around and experts were called in who suggested that it required the specialist attention of archaeologists. The site was eventually excavated in 1994 by a team of German and Nigerian archaeologists. The object embedded there in the soil was a canoe that turned out to be about 8,000 years old. It predates the iron age and is rated one of the three-oldest such vessels in the world.
The boat was found lying in a depth of 4.5 meters. The canoe’s “almost black wood”, said to be African mahogany, as “entirely an organic material”.
It measured 8.5 meters in length, about 0.5 meters in width, built with a 5 centimeters thick wood. When carbon-dated, it was found to be about 8,000 years old. Only a boat found in the Netherlands in 1957, dated about 8,265 years was found to be older. Another found in France in 1992 had dated about the same age as the Dufuna canoe.
However, where those found in Europe are smaller, more crude objects, the Dufuna canoe is bigger and more exquisitely finished, indicating a boat-building tradition that most probably went back several hundred years. The canoe is currently located in the museum in Damaturu, the capital of Yobe state, where it was found.
Various Radio-Carbon tests conducted in laboratories of reputable Universities in Europe and America indicate that the Canoe is over 8000 years old, thus making it the oldest in Africa and first oldest in the World. Little is known of the period to which the boat belongs, in archaeological terms it is described as an early phase of the Later Stone Age, which began rather more than 12,000 years ago and ended with the appearance of pottery.
The laboratory results redefined the pre-history of African water transport, ranking the Dufuna canoe as the world’s third oldest known dugout. Older than it are the dugouts from Pesse, Netherlands, and Noyen-sur-Seine, France. But evidence of an 8,000-year-old tradition of boat building in Africa throws cold water on the assumption that maritime transport developed much later there in comparison with Europe.
Peter Breunig of the University of Frankfurt, Germany, an archaeologist involved in the project, says the canoe’s age “forces a reconsideration of Africa’s role in the history of water transport”. It shows, he adds, “that the cultural history of Africa was not determined by Near Eastern and European influences but took its own, in many cases parallel, course”.
Breunig, adding that it even outranks in style European finds of similar age. According to him, “The bow and stern are both carefully worked to points, giving the boat a notably more elegant form”, compared to “the dugout made of conifer wood from Pesse in the Netherlands, whose blunt ends and thick sides seem crude”. To go by its stylistic sophistication, he reasons, “It is highly probable that the Dufuna boat does not represent the beginning of a tradition, but had already undergone a long development, and that the origins of water transport in Africa lie even further back in time.”
Egypt’s oldest known boat is 5000 years old.
The first thing the Dufuna canoe discovery did was to rewrite the history of boat-making and water navigation, which at that point in time only took account of the findings made in Europe. The better technical skills applied in Dufuna indicate a longstanding tradition, whereby the canoe discovered is most likely not the first or the only one made, as the skills and tools evolved over many generations.
The presence of the canoe hints at an era when the Lake Chad was very much larger than the shrinking lake of today, when such vessels were needed to hunt aquatic animals that no longer inhabit the area due to a changed environment
The existence of such a boat also indicates there was a need for movement to distant places taking along both people and goods. All of these suggest that the precursors to the civilisations that later emerged in the area, that of Kanem Bornu and the rule of the Sefawas go way back in time.
In all, the Dufuna discovery is a pointer that there’s likely more where it came from. While this find may have been a chance discovery, there’s need to embark on a systematic study of the region in order to unravel more answers to the questions posed by Dufuna.