Africa’s Oldest Known Boat found in Dufuna village near Yobe River, Northern Nigeria

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A Fulani herdsman who roamed the desert lands of Northern Nigeria in search for pastures, descended into one of the dry valleys drained by the gentle flowing prongs of Koma Dugu Gana River in the northern part of Yobe State. It must have been a dry season. The location lies on the outskirts of a small sleepy community called  Dufuna village. Malam Yau’s cattle drifted wearily down the dusty slopes and came to a stop near a small depression in the earth. They were tired and dehydrated. Ya’u decided to act fast before any of his livestock collapses. He began to dig a well. He had not dug beyond 5m when he struck a bulk of buried dark wood. This seemed mysterious to him and he immediately called on the Village Head of Dufuna community who later reported the finding to local government officials in the area. This discovery took place on May 28, 1987 and led to the unearthing of the oldest canoe in Africa and the third oldest canoe in the world, dating to over 8000 years (6000BC).

With the collaboration of Archeologists from University of Maidiguri, Nigeria and Universities in Germany, chips from the ancient canoe were subjected to Carbon 14 (C-14) dating which placed the age of the boat at 7264 ± 55 bp (KN-4683) and 7670 ± 110 bp (KI-3587) (uncalibrated) approximating to 8000 years; measuring 8.4m in length, 0.5m in width and about 5cm thickness.

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Further efforts and collaboration between Archeologists from both Nigerian and German Universities finally resulted in the successful excavation of the canoe from the ground in March 1998. The lifting of the canoe from its 5m-deep subsurface location took about 50 labourers and two weeks to accomplish. “The Dufuna Canoe was found water-logged on a sandy base with intermittent intervals of clay, and inaccessible to oxygen; circumstances most favourable for most organic materials,” said Abubakar Garba, an associate professor of archaeology at the Centre for Trans-Saharan Studies, University of Maiduguri in Borno State, who as an active participant on the team that excavated the canoe.

The excavated canoe is presently preserved and exhibited at a Museum complex in Damaturu, Yobe State capital, built by the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM).

This amazing archeological discovery holds a significant place in the great history of Nigeria and Africa at large. The skillful and creative crafting of the canoe’s bow, stern and overall elegant form  demonstrates the height of technological  ingenuity and inventiveness of our ancestors. It also gives a possible clue to the extents of the present-day ‘shrunk’ Lake Chad back in the Neolithic times. Since the age of this canoe predates the Iron-age, some people ask how Africans were able to cut down and carve logs of wood into a beautiful form as the Dufuna Canoe. The fact that cutting tools of flint were found at Iho-Eleeru Cave in western Nigeria which dates back to 9200BC, gives a clue to the suite of cutting and carving tool -types that could be available for use at the time of creation of the Dufuna Canoe. I believe there are still many more mind-blowing artifacts and archeological sites waiting to be discovered and excavated in Nigeria. However, the Dufuna Canoe again records another one of the numerous tourist potentials our country, Nigeria is blessed with.

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This article was written by Folarin Kolawole

Founder of Naijatreks, Nigerian-born Folarin Kolawole is a geologist, travel writer and researcher. When not at work, he travels the length and breadth of Nigeria, exploring, taking photos and writing about her numerous hidden tourist potentials.   'Naijatreks' is a product name registered under the Ntreks brand, which is also duly registered by Nigeria's Federal Corporate Affairs Commission. The contents on this blog are re-usable. However, it must be ensured that it is linked back to this blog, and correctly attributed to Naijatreks or the author. Please do not edit, rewrite or commercialize the original works on this blog without direct and written permission from the Founder (Folarin Kolawole). For inquiries and advert placement on the blog, kindly contact us at info@naijatreks.com or naijatreks@gmail.com.


Lightherlamp@msn.com' Jennifer A.November 5, 2013 at 3:37 pmReply

Interesting discovery.

NaijatreksNovember 6, 2013 at 9:29 pmReply

@Jennifer A…thanks for the comment Jen.

chiaka.ohiadesign@gmail.com' ohiadesignNovember 6, 2013 at 3:40 pmReply

it would be nice to visit the museum that houses this artifact. thanks for the info I just added one more place to my life travel list.

NaijatreksNovember 6, 2013 at 9:28 pmReply

@Ohiadesign…a visit to the excavated canoe is indeed a dream to look forward to….thanks for the comment.

velezstr@hotmail.com' Sugar girlSeptember 18, 2014 at 10:34 amReply

Hmmm…so we got this kind of artifact in Nigeria? I hope Bokko haram hasn’t destroyed the musem with bomb o

sulens14@gmail.com' Inuwa Suleiman AshafaJune 2, 2018 at 10:46 pmReply

Very nice educative and discovering, May you live along