Apart from the havoc Hurricane Irma caused, it might have brought with it the gift of a possible archaeological discovery: a historic Indian dugout canoe. The canoe discovery has been doing rounds in the news and social media and officials say it could be either decades old or hundreds of years old. It may have belonged to the natives of Florida around the Indian River at the time.
A local photographer, Randy Lathrop, during his morning bike ride in the aftermath of the hurricane, instantly knew what he was looking at. Anyone else might have thought it was just a big piece of wood that washed up:
The old boat is said to have belonged to the natives of Florida, who used it for fishing and travel. Initial observations indicate it is approximately 15′ long and weighs between 700 to 1000 pounds according to the transporters. The canoe appeared to be carved out of a log, which experts later identified as a cypress.
The canoe was found in a place that was historically inhabited by the Native Americans known as the Ais. They were known as the “Indians of the coast” and lived along the Indian River. They were chiefly hunters and fishermen, and Hurricane Irma primarily affected their former territory.
Perhaps this explains why the canoe was found in the area. However, experts from the University of Florida explained that while the boat was used by more than one Indian tribe, it was also popular among the Seminole Indians who occupied most parts of the west coast of Florida.
The wooden canoe was identified north of Cocoa and a few kilometers from the Kennedy space center. This area, and Florida in general, has had the highest concentration of dugout canoes found, which is mainly attributed to the climate. A humid environment is conducive to the preservation of wooden artifacts.
The artifact was preserved in a water bath, pending carbon dating, which will establish how old the canoe really is. However, some of its features, according to a historian, are unique. It had a square form, a feature that was common from the 1500’s to about 50 years ago.
Surprisingly, it also had cut nails, which historians date back to the 19th century. Available features show an interesting mix, so it will be exciting to wait for the dating results and precisely relate it to our historical records.
A source from the Florida Department of Historical Resources acknowledged that the artifact was unique and if it indeed proves to be historical, it will be preserved and find its place in a museum. However, first, it has to be stabilized to avoid further degradation.