COLLEGE STATION, TX (AP) - Scientists at Texas A&M University say a Native-American canoe found along the Red River in Louisiana is one of the largest prehistoric watercraft ever found intact in North America.
A&M said in a statement Thursday that a couple boating along the river June 7 north of Shreveport spotted a portion of the canoe jutting from a sandy bank.
"There's something magical about boats, something magnetic, when someone finds a boat, an awful lot of excitement is rapidly generated," said Peter Fix, watercraft conservator at the Conservation Research Lab, part of the Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation at Texas A&M, who is heading up the conservation of the canoe. "I'm proud to be part of the canoe's preservation, it means a lot at the local and regional levels, and we're happy to partner with Louisiana to help them preserve their cultural patrimony."
Radiocarbon dating determined the canoe was made sometime in the 14th century, likely by Caddo Indians.
"Organic things rot away, so when you have the chance to see something like this, it's just a spectacular find," said Southwest Regional Archaeologist Chip McGimsey at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. "We know from historic accounts that Native Americans had hundreds and thousands of organic artifacts made from wood, bone, cloth and basketry, but in this part of the world, those things almost never survive, so we only find the kinds of artifacts made of stone and pottery that persist in a wet or damp climate."
Scientists believe the 34-foot-long craft is a cypress that was hollowed out using hot coals and tools to char and dig out the center.
They speculate the canoe was encased in mud for some 600 years before heavy flooding last year dislodged it.
Plans call for the canoe to be returned to Louisiana for display.
"If you look at it just as an object, it's a phenomenal artifact because of its size, and it's so well preserved," McGimsey said. "We almost never find things like this."
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