In the Dufuna Canoe, History is Being Made
Kazeem Adeleke
 
Originally published in thisdayonline.com
 

Since the Dufuna canoe was discovered by a local Fulani herdsman in
1987 archaeologists have been in a frenzy about the discovery.

 The canoe which was excavated by a combined team of Nigerian and German
archeologists in 1994 at Dufuna,  has continued to
 amaze them,  for the simple reason that it has changed the course of
 history. Dufuna is a village along the Komodugu Gana
 river in Fune local government area of Yobe State. 

 The boat  was dug out from a depth of five meters beneath the earth's surface and
  measured 8.4 meters in length, 0.5 meters wide and about 5 cm thick
 varying at certain parts of the surface. The age of the boat has been
 put at about 8000 years old (6000 BC), thus, becoming the oldest boat
 in Africa and third oldest on earth.

 The canoe belongs to the Late Stone Age period (Neolithic Age), when
 humans ceased to roam the face of the earth hunting to become herdsmen
 and cultivators and in the process becoming modifiers of their
 environment, with complex social structures, in response to new problems
 and ways of dealing with situations.

 "The discovery of this boat is an important landmark in the history of
 Nigeria in particular and Africa in general" said the late Dr. Omotoso Eluyemi

then the Director of the National Commission for for Museums and

Monuments. Besides proving that the Nigerian society was at par(if not earlier)
 than that of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Phoenicia, the discovery
 also provides  early concrete evidence that Africans  have been

exploring technology to modify their environment and suit their needs.

 But more importantly, "the canoe has shown that people in the Niger
 area had a history of advanced technology and that they had mastered
 the three major items of neolithic culture which included the
 fashioning, standardization and utilization of tools according to set traditions.
"It gives concrete evidence of transportation by
 seas as well as providing evidence of some form of long distance
commercial activities indicative of existing political and economic
structures."

 One great benefit of the discovery is that it has helped
 archaeologists draw a relationship between what was happening in
 Nigeria and else where in the world during that period. Indications
 are that while Nigerians were making boats in Dufuna village in 6000
 BC, the people of Catol Huyuk in Turkey were making pottery, textiles
 etc,  and the Chinese were making painted pottery in the
 Yang Shao region. But particularly of interest to archaeologists is
 the proof that some form of advanced civilization existed in the Lake
 Chad Basin around 6000 BC."

 Documentation has showed that based on the minimal available
 technology during this period, the making of the Dufuna canoe must
 have been a ponderous task which called for mastery, specialization
 and ingenuity. A lot of work, man hours and skill must also have been
 put into the production since no iron tools were in existence at the
 time. It can be assumed that the canoe must have been made near a river to
 eliminate the difficulty of transporting it over long distances.