Zwammerdam… canoes! 

Zwammerdam… canoes! 


Log canoe number 5 is located in the showcase of the Roman Museum in Museum Park Archeon. It is one of three dugout canoes that were excavated in Zwammerdam. Interests are often focused on the larger ships, but is that justified? Laura Koehler wrote in her doctoral thesis: 'Locally and regionally, the dugout canoe played perhaps the most important role in the exchange of goods and people.' As a conservation specialist of the Batavialand Heritage Foundation, Laura is involved in the 'Operation Zwammerdam ships' project. Not much is left of the canoes: only half of canoes number 3 and 5 and a number of fragments of Zwammerdam 1. Together hundreds of pieces of archaeological wood that have loads to tell us!

werken aan de kano 3.jpgPhoto: Zwammerdamship 3 

When looking at canoe number 5, you can see that it has been converted into a fish bun: a storage place for live fish. The canoe is 5.50 meters long but has probably been shortened to serve as a storage box, or perhaps after the ship was damaged.

It is known that Zwammerdam 1 was given a second life as a fish bun in early Roman times. The entire canoe measured about 7 meters by 80 centimetres, as a fish bun it is half as long.
During recent work, Yardeni Vorst, team leader Restoration, discovered the vertical partition with which the half canoe was turned into a storage box. The curve of the vertical piece is an exact fit for the underlying wood. Also the holes for the fresh water can still be seen. She also found an 'insert': a piece of wood that was held in place with four nails. Presumably there was a large knot here, which the builders probably already removed during construction.

The archaeological wood of the canoe is currently completely flat. To regain its original shape, the wood will be placed in a moulding sandbox. Yardeni has made these moulds based on the available data, the handmade box was produced by professionals and volunteers from the Restoration Team.

Bekisting ZW1.jpgPhoto: moulding sandbox 

Kano Zwammerdam 3 is the largest canoe and has a total length of 10.40 meters by 1.40 meters. The edges of this oak boat were once raised with silver fir planks. Here too are still wood fragments of which it is unclear where they belong. Yardeni regularly uses drawings from Maarten de Weerd, old photos and also new detailed photos. A crack can be seen in the longitudinal direction, which appeared early in the original building process. It can be seen that it has been mended. Yardeni: “Because there are such beautiful repairs in it, overlapping with caulk, we would like to display this at the final exhibition.”

Due to the fragility of the canoe because of the tear, every 50 centimeter support is applied. This will  be the case in both the longitudinal and width direction, in  in order to give the canoe a stable surface for future transport. Perhaps in the future the Zwammerdam 3 can also be loaned to other museums.

Kano 5 ligt in het Archeologiehuis bij Museumpark Archeon, waar de verschillende onderdelen tentoongesteld zijn..jpgPhoto: Canoe nr. 5 displayed in the Roman Museum in Archeon. 

The Zwammerdam canoes are not the oldest canoes ever found. That honor goes to the dugout canoe of Pesse, so named after a village in the east of the Netherlands (province of Drenthe). This canoe, the oldest in the world (!) dates from 8000 to 7400 years ago and is located in the Drents Museum in Assen.

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