Nigeria’s 8,000-year-old boat

Nigeria’s 8000-year-old boat was found by Mallam Ya’u, a Fulani cattle herder in Dufuna, Nigeria. It happened when he began digging a well on May 4, 1987. Before he reached the depth necessary to draw water, he would find something of far greater significance. He brought Nigeria’s 8,000-year-old African Mahogany boat to the surface.

At a depth of 4.5 meters beneath the surface of the earth, Ya’u encountered something hard while digging the well. The realization came that he had discovered something important while continuing to dig.

Nigeria's 8,000 year-old boat
The 8,000 year old Dufuna canoe being excavated in Yobe State, Nigeria (Wikipedia).

Africa’s oldest boat is in Nigeria. The Dufuna boat is at least 2,000 years older than Kemetic (Egyptian) Pharoah Khufu’s boat, which is more well known. It was dug up in Yobe State two kilometers north of Dufuna between Potiskum and Gasha in the Fune Local Government Area. On the Komadugu Gana river, Dufuna is a dry plain now. Though the area floods during the rainy season, at one time it was under water year round.

The area was once beneath the waters of an inland sea, now known as Lake Megachad. Before 3000 BC, Lake Megachad, the remains of which are Lake Chad, covered an area of 1,000,000 km2 (390,000 sq mi). That should tell you how much the conditions changed between when the boat was last used and today.

from lake mega chad to lake chad to Nigeria's 8,000 year-old boat
Map showing size of Lake Mega-Chad compared to current location of Lake Chad in Africa via DailyMail.com

The University of Maiduguri in Nigeria began excavations at the site during the years 1989 and 1990. Intending to determine if what Ya’u found was actually a canoe, researchers took samples to conduct radiocarbon dating.

Economic constraints in Nigeria led to a partnership between the University of Maiduguri and the University of Frankfurt with Dr. Peter Breunig assisting. Abubakar Garba and Dr. Breunig conducted a second excavation, and took a second chipped sample.

The Oxford Handbook of African Archaeology page 22 cropped showing the excavationof Nigeria's 8,000 year-old boat

Made from African Mahogany (Khaya senegalensis) Nigeria’s 8,000-year-old boat is 27.5 feet (8.4 meters) long and 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) in breadth and height.

Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures page 938 cropped showing Nigeria's 8,000 year-old boat
Prehistoric dugout canoe, about 8,000 years old, being excavated near Dufuna in northern Nigeria (photo: Breunig).

By Nnamdi Azikiwe

The Mhotep Corporation uses its Keyamsha The Awakening brand to heighten perceptions and expand awareness. By producing content that engages, entertains and educates we create value for value relationships with our audience for mutual benefit. Mhotep is derived from the name of the architect and builder of the first pyramid in Kemet, so-called ancient Egypt. I formed the Mhotep Corporation in 2003 to produce and distribute 3D animation videos based on traditional African stories. Since then it has evolved to being a media production company including books. In a previous life I worked as a systems analyst developing solutions for government and multinational organizations. Born and educated in Washington, D.C. I have traveled to several places including Haiti, the Bahamas, Mexico, Canada, Nigeria (several times), Ethiopia (several times), Benin, Togo, and South Africa. I am married with three children.

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