• Hans Faber

Oldest Vessel of the World

The Pesse Canoe. The oldest water vessel of the world was found near the village of Pesse in province Drenthe, the Netherlands. It is dated between 8040-7510 BC, leaving even ancient cradles like Egypt and Mesopotamia behind. Sure, we have time for you to re-read this sentence.

The canoe is of Scots pine wood, about 3 meters long and 45 centimeters wide. It is dug out with an axe. A stone axe, of course, since it was the Middle Stone Age. And why it was made of pine wood and not of oak? Pine was the first vegetation after the Weichselian glaciation, the last ice age.

It was nearly lost. When constructing a road in 1955, the construction workers found this big piece of wood which they gave no special attention. Fortunately, it fell of the dump truck on a dirt-road, and later was found by a farmer. He, crofter Hendrik Wanders, did think it was special, and notified the regional archaeological service, the Biologisch-Archeologisch Instituut. One thing led to another. Hendrik received 150 gulden for it (equivalent about 600 USD today), and a lifelong membership of the museum. An over-the-top reward for such a modest find, of course. Imagine if they would reward every person finding an oldest vessel of the world, the Drents Museum soon would not have resources left.

The reason it was preserved so well, was because it was buried in peat soil, closed off from oxygen. Maybe a few meters deep.

The oldest boat of the planet is exhibited at the regional Drents Museum. Replicates have been made that show it really did float. Even if manned by well-fed modern humans. Proof the canoe was a canoe, indeed. The first replica was built in 2001 by Jaap Beuker, who was conservator of the Drents Museum. And more replicas followed. Check this short movie, spoken in Saxon speech by the way.

Note 1 – We had to be very creative linking this canoe with the Frisia Coast Trail, since the trail itself is still 55 km away from Pesse as the crow flies. However, province Drenthe (Drentland) was the fourth Sealand of greater Frisia during the High Middle Ages! If you think we stretched the argument too far, we must agree, however.

Note 2 – Because this is a hiking site, we point out that Green Planet has developed a nice short hike, Kano van Pesse, which also takes you to the spot where the canoe was found. Please, also find the walking guide they made for this hike.


Beuker, J.R. & Niekus, M.J.L.Th., De kano van Pesse - de bijl erin (1997)

Lok, A., Drentse bodemschat: de kano van Pesse (2018)