Station: [3] Offenbach Dugout Canoe

F: Dugouts are one of humanity’s most ancient means of transport. They’re the archetypal boat, in use from the Neolithic Age to medieval times. A single, suitably worked tree-trunk served as a kind of canoe. Later, dugouts were lashed together and used as floats for raft-style ferries – like the Offenbach dugout you see here. We have another one in our archive.

M: The tree trunk was hollowed out using fire and axe-like tools. On closer inspection of our dugout, you’ll see pairs of holes drilled in the bow and stern, one on either side. Ropes would have been passed through those holes and used to tie several dugouts together. Once they’d been secured, planks were laid on top. A ferryman would have poled the resulting raft across the River Main, which was very shallow back then. People, goods and animals would have been safely transported to the opposite bank. Large numbers of similar dugout canoes have been found along the river.

F: If you’re wondering how old the Offenbach dugouts are – it’s impossible to be sure. The design and material – probably oak, to judge by the surface texture and the dark colour – are typical of the Middle Ages and the Lower Main region.

M: The dugouts were discovered between 1899 and 1902, when Offenbach’s river port was being built.



Foto: © J. Baumann