Saturday, December 18, 2010

World's Oldest Birchbark Canoe Discovered

I don't often steal true news items from other blogs, figuring that they do a good job speaking for themselves -- Gavin Atkins' In the Boatshed blog in particular. But Gav has posted news so interesting that I feel compelled to make sure my readers see it, on the off chance that they don't subscribe to his blog (which they should). It's about the discovery in England of what is probably the world's oldest birchbark canoe -- an American Indian canoe from Canada, thought to be about 250 years old.

There's more about it in the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association Forum:


  1. Reports of this canoe appear in our local Falmouth, Cornwall, newspaper. I am ambivalent about its eventual return to Canada. It does not belong to one tribe but to the World and we have a fine maritime Museum here where it could be displayed and made available for research.

    In fact I don't understand this concept of indigenous boats being hugged to the bosom of any particular people. For example North-Western dugout replicas are restricted at the request of tribal members:

    So, should all the North American versions of coracles and currachs be dismantled because they are native to Ireland and the UK?

  2. Edwin - I agree in principle that ancient artifacts should be available for viewing by people in other places. I just visited the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and was thankful for the opportunity to view ancient works of Egypt, Mesoamerica, etc.
    My understanding of this instance, though, is that the canoe's owner elected to give or sell it to the Canadian Canoe Museum as the one best qualified to preserve and study it. This implies no criticism of the truly wonderful museum in Greenwich, and it wasn't based on anyone's policy of repatriation.

  3. I was thinking of the National Maritime Museum, Falmouth, Cornwall, just down the road from us. his has the national collection of smaller boats. Very interesting as it is lnked to a marine School with boat-building courses.

    Hadn't realised that it was the owner's decision though, sure it is up to them where it goes.

  4. Thanks for clarifying Edwin. I had forgotten about the NMM in Falmouth, even though I mentioned it once: