Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Ancient Canoes Found Volume 49 Number 4, July/August 1996
by Paul G. Bahn

The remains of about 50 dugout canoes, some nearly 2,500 years old, have been found along a three-mile stretch of the Brivet River, a tributary of the Loire in central France.

Discovered during dredging operations, they are in various states of preservation. The canoes were carved out of logs or crafted from several pieces of timber. Both types vary greatly in shape and size, from long and slender to short and massive; all are between ten and 20 feet long.

Three of the best-preserved specimens have been carbon dated by a Grenoble laboratory. The oldest dates to the Late Bronze Age, between 1430 and 1210 B.C. Another, nearly intact, dates to between A.D. 970 and 1025, and one dates to the thirteenth century A.D. Some of the vessels include rope holes for mooring and anchoring and show traces of repair. Net weights, oars, and paddles have been found in the vessels. The river's weak current and heavy silting are responsible for the preservation of artifacts here over hundreds of years. The canoes were brought to the surface to be photographed, then reimmersed in a nearby pool to await funding for a proper study.

© 1996 by the Archaeological Institute of America