Discovery of a Neolithic-Period Wooden Boat and Oar Dating to 8,000 Years Ago

Seoul—Yonhap News; Kim Taeshik

The remains of a wooden fishing boat dating to the early Neolithic period some 8,000 years ago, along with an oar and fishing equipment, have been discovered in Ulchin Prefecture in North Kyŏngsang Province.

This is the second discovery in Korea of a Neolithic-period boat, after that excavated at the Pibong-ni site in Ch’angnyŏng, with which it is roughly contemporary. Further, not only is this the earliest wooden boat found in Korea, it is also the earliest so far found in the world. As such, this discovery is expected to generate an extraordinary level of interest among archaeologists in Korea and elsewhere.


Fragment of Wooden Boat In Situ

In May of 2010, the Samhan Institute of Cultural Properties (Kim Ku-gŭn, director), a research organization specializing in buried cultural properties, excavated an early Neolithic-period site in an area being developed for roadways in the vicinity of Chukpyŏn-ni in Ulchin Prefecture. During the process of preserving the remains recovered from that site, fragments of a boat and an oar were recently identified among the artifacts made of wood.

The fragment of the wooden boat is a plank measuring 64 cm by 50 cm, with a thickness of 2.3 cm. The research team noted that analysis has revealed the species of wood to be a dense and hard camphor.

The oar discovered with this boat fragment measures 170 cm by 10 cm, with a thickness of 2.1 cm. The broad paddle portion of the oar is wide and trapezoidal in shape, while the handle portion is rectangular in cross section. The oar was made of oak.


Fragment of Wooden Boat After Preservation

Wooden Oar

Director Kim Ku-kŭn stated that the boat fragment and oar were excavated from the fourth cultural layer of the research site at a depth of 180 cm below the present ground surface. He also explained that at the time of their discovery, the wooden fragments were so badly eroded that it was difficult to ascertain their original form, so they were removed from the site embedded within the soil in which they were found. During the process of preservation their exact functions were revealed.

Director Kim stated further that the Kimhae National Museum identified two early-Neolithic-period wooden boats at the Pibong-ni site in Ch’angnyŏng, and analyses determined them to have been dugout boats made by burning and digging out the interior of a log. The boat from the Chukpyŏn site, however, has been determined to have been constructed of planks of camphor wood.

Such results indicate a relatively advanced degree of skill in woodworking during Korea’s early Neolithic period.


Assemblage of Fishing Tools

Curator Im Hak-chong of the Kimhae National Museum, which excavated the Pibong-ni site in Ch’angnyŏng, stated that the present discovery is significant in that it reveals a snapshot of the social life and economy of the Neolithic period.

Even though the artifacts from this site were poorly preserved, the excavation of an assemblage of fishing tools indicates that the boat was utilized for fishing.

The Chukpyŏn site, which consists of five cultural layers dating to the Neolithic period, also yielded some 580 pottery shards of various kinds, 407 stone artifacts such as handaxes, fishing tools and mortars, and a large quantity of fishhooks made of bone.

27 August 2012


The original article (in Korean) is here.