After years of restoration work, Africa’s oldest boat will soon go on display.
Nigerian Minister Mohammed Abare said this week that an 8,500-year-old canoe, found near the village of Dufuna some 30 years ago, is in the final stages of preparation before it goes on exhibit. It has been kept at the National Museum at Damaturu, one of the Nigerian museum system’s several sites.
The canoe was made from black African mahogany and is eight meters long. It was designated a historic treasure in 2014, but was originally found by a Fulani herdsman named Malam Yau in 1987 when he was digging a well in the Yobe State region that borders Niger.
Nigerian authorities say the find, with its age confirmed through radiocarbon dating in Europe, created a new understanding of the innovation and advancements in Africa’s early civilizations. The only known boats in the world that are older were found in Pesse, Netherlands, and Noyen-sur-Seine in France.
Peter Breunig, the head of African archaeology at Goethe University at Frankfurt,Germany, specializes in early societies of West Africa and has said the Dufuna canoe shows sophistication and “elegant form” that is superior to the boat found at Pesse.
“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,” he said in a 1996 paper.
The boat composition also shows links to the Lake Chad region, adding to the potential for future research as well as tourism interest, Nigerian officials said.