Dugout Canoes and Dr. Jonathan Lothrup

Dugout Canoes and Dr. Jonathan Lothrup


Ryan: We’re standing here with Jon Lothrop,
curator of archeology at the New York State Museum. How are you doing?
Jon: Good, how are you? Ryan: Very good, we’re in front of the giant
20 foot canoe. Tell us a little about how it’s made.
Well this specimen was actual recovered in 1893 from Glass Lake in Rensselaer County,
east of Albany. It was made by peoples who felled a large tree and then used fire and
wood cutting tools to hollow out the trunk and shape the hull.
Ryan: With fire and axes. Jon: That’s right.
Ryan: You’d just burn a little bit, chip it away, burn a little bit, chip it away.
Jon: Exactly Ryan: And eventually you’d have a hollowed
out log, essentially. Jon: Exactly
Ryan: We don’t really know what tribe this is associated with? Is this a native american
canoe? I’m assuming it is. Jon: It could be Native American, it could
be European. That’s actually a great question because when Henry Hudson sailed up the river
that bears his name he was met by Native Americans in watercraft like this. As Europeans colonized
North America they knew a good thing when they saw one and they saw that this was a
well suited technology for traversing rivers and lakes of the east and so they very quickly
adopted this technology and began making their own dugout canoes.
Ryan: So Europeans and Natives each had their own canoes. Now, it’s a very large structure.
I know wood floats in water but how would you get this to a river? Would they drive
up in their 16th century Chevy with the canoe on top or how would this be transported?
Jon: Well they probably made it very close to the river or lake they were going to launch
it into. And so it would not have been difficult to get it into the water.
Ryan: So you wouldn’t take it on vacation? Jon: Well you could depended on where you
were going. Ryan:So this is one of how many specimens
that the Museum owns? Jon: We have 3 dugout canoes at the New York
State Museum. Ryan: And how old is this particular specimen?
Jon: Well that’s a great question and we didn’t know this until this past year. We did an
analysis called dendrochronology was done by a professor at Cornell University and dendrochronology
is a method for dating wooden artifacts by comparing the tree ring growth patterns in
the artifact to a regional chronology of tree growth for the location where the artifact
was found. And through this analysis we know this canoe was built about 1777, that is the
date when the tree was cut down to make this canoe.
Ryan: How many people could this hold? Jon:This canoe probably could have held 3
individuals. Sometimes they’re were quite large, much larger than this and we have historic
accounts of canoes – dugout canoes, that held 15 or 20 people others, much smaller and holding
a few people. This one could have held maybe 3 or 4.
Ryan: Wow, so not a party boat. Jon: Not a party boat but a technology that
was very well adapted by Native Americans for traversing rivers and lakes of New York
State. To learn more visit us at the New York State
Museum or online at www.nysm.nysed.gov

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