The Oldest Ships In The World

The Oseberg Ship at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. Editorial credit: lovelypeace /
The Oseberg Ship at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. Editorial credit: lovelypeace /

Water transportation started in the stone-age when the people built primitive boats to help them navigate rivers and lakes while fishing. With the growth of civilization, boats evolved from simple vessels to bigger war and trading boats. Galleys were developed in the Mediterranean around 3000 BC. From 1300 to 900 BC, the Polynesian progeny used some double-hulled sailing vessels to venture into the open ocean from the Bismarck Archipelago to Hawaii. The Arabic caravel replaced galleys in the 13th century. Water transport has evolved over the last hundreds of centuries to what it is today, some of the oldest vessels in the world include:

1) Pesse canoe

Pesse canoe is the oldest known boat on Earth and carbon-dating indicates that it is from the Mesolithic era between 8040 BCE to 7510 BCE. One of the Pesse canoes is currently on display in the Drents Museum in the Netherlands. The boat was made using a Scots-pine log, and it is 17 inches wide and 117 inches long. The canoe was discovered in the Netherlands in 1955 during the construction of the Dutch A28-motorway.

2) Dufuna canoe

The vessel was discovered by a Fulani herdsman in 1987 some few miles from the Dufuna village in the state of Yobe in Nigeria and is considered the oldest canoe in Africa. Radio-carbon dating of the piece of charcoal collected near the site indicated that the canoe was 8,000-8,500 years old. The boat is in Damaturu and is considered the second oldest vessel in the world.

3) Khufu ship

The Khufu ship is the largest preserved ship and is about 143 ft long and 19.5 ft wide. Khufu ship is currently on display in Giza-Solar boat Museum, and it is believed to have belonged to the second Pharaoh Khufu of the old Egyptian kingdom. The vessel was sealed in the Pyramid complex in Giza around 2,500 BC, and just like most of the buried Egyptian ships, the Khufu ship was to be used in the afterlife.

4) Dover bronze-age boat

The Dover boat is one of the few bronze-age vessels found in the United Kingdom, and it dates back to 1575 to 1520 BC, making it one of the oldest intact boats in the world. The Dover boat was built using Oak planks which were sewn together using yew lashings a technique used in Britain during that era. The 31.17 ft long vessel is at the Dover museum in the United Kingdom. The Norwest Hoist construction workers discovered the Dover boat on September 28, 1992.

5) Ma’agan Michael ship

Ami Eshel discovered this shipwreck while driving off the Kibbutz coast in Israel in 1985 and preliminary exploration of the wreck confirmed that it is a 5th century BC vessel. The vessel was excavated and its remains immersed in some preservation tanks at the Haifa University where it went through a 7 year impregnation process by heated PEG (Polyethylene glycol). The ship was reassembled in March 1999 and transferred to Hecht Museum on the university’s grounds.

6) Kyrenia ship

Kyrenia vessel is a 4th century BC merchant shipwreck from Greece. Andreas Cariolou, a Greek-Cypriot diving instructor, found the boat in November 1965. After losing its exact position, he did over 200 dives until he rediscovered it again in 1967. Michael Katzev directed the salvage expedition to extract the vessel from 1967 to 1969, and the preservation of its remains continued in 1970. The ship is well preserved with about 75% of it in excellent condition, and currently, it is on display in Kyrenia Castle.

7) Sea of Galilee vessel

Also referred to as the Jesus boat, the Galilee boat is an old fishing vessel from the first century AD which was discovered on the northwestern shores of the Sea-of-Galilee in 1986. The 7.5 ft wide and 27 ft long ship appeared during a drought after the sea water receded. Two brothers (Yuval and Moshe Lufan) found the boat's remains on the shores. The vessel was entirely fragile when exposed to the atmosphere. Therefore, it was wrapped using a mantle of fiberglass plus insulated foam and transported to its new location where it was submerged in a bath of chemicals for ten years before being displayed at the Yigal-Allon boat museum.

8) Arles Rhone 3

The Arles Rhone was a 102 ft long trading vessel which was used during the 1st century, and it was discovered in 2004. The ship was about 13 ft below the Rhone river surface in Aries France, and it had been on display at the Musee-departemental Aries antique since 2013.

9) Salme ships

The Salme vessels were used as ship burials during the 700-750 AD in the Nordic iron-age which contained numerous artifacts, weapons, and remains of more than 40 warriors. The two clinker-built vessels of Scandinavian origin were discovered in Salme village in Saaremaa Island, Estonia in 2008 and 2010.

10) Oseberg ship

The Norwegian vessel is a well-preserved Viking vessel found at the Oseberg-farm in the County of Vestfold. It is one of the beautiful artifacts which survived from the Viking period plus the boat is at the Viking-ship museum in Bygdoy, Norway.


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