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College of Arts & Sciences
Maritime Research Division

Edisto Beach Canoe Recovery

Prehistoric Canoe Discovered on the Coast

By Jessica Irwin, MRD

South Carolina has an extensive history of water travel, Native Americans used the waterways as highways, constructing canoes to navigate the area, and shared this technology with settlers when they arrived. The Maritime Research Division has been a part of the recovery and conservation of quite a few examples of these canoes. Some of the most well-known are displayed throughout the state. There are currently canoes at the Parris Island Museum, the State Museum, on Daufuskie Island, and this most recent canoe will soon be displayed at a DNR location.

On May 2, the Maritime Research Division got a report that a possible prehistoric canoe had appeared near Edisto Beach. After further investigation it was discovered that indeed a pre-historic canoe had been discovered on Botany Bay, a DNR property. It is not clear exactly where the canoe came from but it appears to have eroded out of the bank and washed ashore at Botany Bay.

Jessica and Nate went to examine the canoe that May 6th. The canoe appears to be prehistoric but will need to be confirmed with further testing. There is no evidence of metal tools being used to create the vessel, there are significant signs of burning which suggests that the canoe was created using the burn-and-scrape method. It does have a significant amount of erosion that had begun to peel the wood back in places. The canoe appears to be cypress, indicated by its smell and its texture, but will need to confirm that with testing.

As visible in the image above, a little less than half the canoe has survived the ages. The canoe is eight feet six inches long  at its longest point and rises one foot eight inches high at its highest point at the assumed stern of the vessel. At its widest point the interior of the vessel is two feet wide. 

The current plan for this canoe is for it to be conserved and then displayed at a DNR facility of their choosing. If you would like to read more about Canoes in South Carolian click here