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The Development of Watercraft In The Prehistoric Southeastern United States

Mark Hartmann
Dissertation: December 1996
Chair: Hamilton
Nautical Archaeology Program


The maritime and riverine past of the southeastern United States has often been ignored or poorly addressed in previous archaeological research. Historical records and archaeological data indicate that this heritage was rich and centered around the development and use of dugout canoes. Such vessels were used in all aspects of southeastern life, including subsistence, trade, transportation, and warfare. They were well-suited to the geography of the region which contains networks of interconnected braided and meandering river channels, swift tidal currents, and broad, shallow sounds. The core of the research is the examination of more than 200 dugout canoes throughout the southeastern United States. The majority of the canoes studied were discovered in Florida, with significant finds also occurring in Louisiana, Mississippi, and North Carolina. Two major wood types were identified in dugout construction, cypress and pine, both of which were used frequently depending on which species was available in a particular region. While two major adaptive strategies are considered, inland and coastal, dugout canoe construction did not vary significantly between these environments.

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