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17.12.2020

The dugout boat, Brokso

In the Stone Age, water was the easiest means of transportation. The land was covered with vast forests and swamps, which made walking difficult. Therefore, the boat was one of the most important tools of Stone Age man. We only know of canoes made from hollowed tree trunks, the so-called chiseled boats, but the vessels may have been made from other materials as well, such as bark and leather. Land boats could be used for sailing and fishing in coastal areas, inland lakes, and waterways. In addition to being a means of transportation, boats were also used as coffins for the dead on their final journey.

The boats of Stone Age hunters were made of linden. During the Neolithic period, alder, linden and oak were also used for making chiseled boats. The dugout boat from Broxe in Holmegard's Mose, South Zealand, is from the early Neolithic period, c. 3500 BC. 3500 B.C. The kayak is 3.8 m long and 0.55 m wide at the stern and is made from an oak trunk. It is carved with axes and wedges. In the stern there is a row of holes for fixing a wooden plate - the so-called bulkhead.

Remains of dugouts have been found during excavations in swampy areas where wood was preserved. Many Stone Age boats have been dug out by divers in underwater settlements or found while digging peat in inland marshes. Boat remains are often soft and deformed after a long stay on the seabed or in the swamp. In some cases, chips and pieces from chopping and splitting wood for chiseled boats have been found.

Mesolithic dugouts were mostly made of linden, a wood that is easy to work with a flint axe and not easy to split. The sides of the boat were made 1-2 cm thick and the bottom about 3-5 cm thick. The bow was pointed and the stern was cut straight and ended with a semi-circular bulkhead. This loose plate was attached to the inner side of the boat with stakes. In this way it was possible to create a light and flexible vessel weighing 250-350 kg, which could carry six to eight people at a time. If a wooden boat splits or starts to crack, the damaged area can be stitched or patched with resin or clay. A boat is easier to repair than a new one to hollow out!

The boat was propelled forward with an oar or wooden pole. Some paddles had a long pole with oval or rounded blades, while others were short with wide heart-shaped blades. The shape probably depended on whether they were used to maneuver the boat in the open sea or in shallow water. However, the shape of the blade could also have been designed to meet the needs of the user.

In the latter part of the Mesolithic, dugouts were sometimes used as coffins or burial covers. At the underwater settlement of Møllegabet, near Erösköbing in the archipelago south of Funen, archaeologists found a 2.5 m long piece of dugout boat. It was in a dump at the water's edge, not far from the settlement. In and around the boat lay the remains of a man about 25 years old. His skull showed healed impact marks. Apparently, the deceased had been placed in the boat, covered with a layer of bark, and then buried under water near the settlement.

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