Researchers have wasted no time studying the dugout canoe churned up in Brevard County, Florida, by Hurricane Irma and rescued by photographer and local history buff Randy Lathrop. The first round of radiocarbon dating results are in and they tease a solid likelihood that the canoe is much older than Lathrop thought it might be. Or younger. Or a little of both.
According to the Florida Division of Historical Resources archaeologist who examined it and performed the radiocarbon analysis, there is:
• A 50 percent probability the wood used to make the canoe dates between 1640 to 1680.
• A 37.2 percent probability the wood dates between 1760 to 1818.
• An 8.6 percent probability that it dates to 1930 or later.
“It is important to note that this gives us the probability of when the log used to make the canoe died or was cut down,” said Sarah Revell, Florida Department of State spokeswoman.
“The canoe has some interesting features, like the presence of paint and wire nails, that indicate it may have been made in the 19th or 20th century, so this adds to the mystery,” she said. […]
Revell offered some possible explanations. In one scenario, the canoe was made in the 1800s or 1900s, but from an old log. Or, perhaps the canoe was made in the 1600s or 1700s, saw use for many years, and was modified over time. Then again, though the probability is lower, someone could have crafted the canoe during the 1900s, she said.
“Florida has the highest concentration of dugout canoes in the world. We have more than 400 documented dugout canoes in our state. Each canoe is important in that it adds to our database and helps fill out the picture of how people used these canoes over thousands of years,” Revell said.
“This canoe is unique in that the radiocarbon dating indicates the wood is very old, but it has features that indicate it is more modern — so it is a bit of a mystery,” she said.
The Bureau of Archeological Research (BAR) will be doing some additional testing on the paint as they begin conservation protocols to keep the wood from drying out. The aim is to put the canoe on display in Brevard so it can be enjoyed in the community where it was found. That won’t happen until the wood is stabilized and that can take more than a year, even for a smaller piece like this canoe.
While it is being cleaned and soaked in a bath of polyethylene glycol for months, the canoe will still be able to be studied by researchers near and far. It has already been laster scanned and documented in high resolution detail to generate a 3D model that will give scholars, conservators, experts and educators the opportunity to virtually examine the canoe. This will help with every aspect of the study — determining its age, origin, design style, condition, conservation needs — and in future education efforts. This video shows University of South Florida Libraries 3D imaging experts working with local archaeologists to scan the dugout canoe.
And here is the end-result of that effort, a highly accurate 3D model that can be turned and zoomed and seen every which way: