Ancient, moss-covered canoe found in Alaska forest

Thu Jul 14, 2011 10:01am EDT
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By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters Life!) - An unfinished Indian canoe, apparently abandoned 500 years ago, has been discovered in a remote section of an Alaska rain forest, according to officials.

The canoe, carved from cedar, was discovered under a thick layer of moss and is surrounded by trees that are several hundred years old, Sealaska Corp., the Alaska Native corporation that owns the land, said in a statement.

The artifact was first spotted last winter by a surveyor checking potential timber-harvest sites, but the discovery was kept confidential until now, the company said.

Its exact site - near the Haida and Tlingit village of Kasaan on Alaska's Prince of Wales Island - was also being kept confidential, Sealaska said.

Preliminary examination shows that ancient hand tools, not modern saws introduced by Europeans, were used to cut the wood and hollow out the canoe, Sealaska officials said.

Based on that, and on the age of the cedar trees that have grown up around the site, experts believe the canoe is roughly 500 years old.

Rosita Worl, an anthropologist and president of the Sealaska Heritage Institute, said she knows of only one other canoe found in the rain forest of southeast Alaska. This is a special find, she said on Wednesday.

"This is a pretty ancient one. It probably predates anything we have in museums, so we might be able to look at the dimensions and find out are we making canoes differently today," she said in an email.   Continued...

<p>A moss-covered unfinished Indian canoe (R), discovered in a remote section of southeast Alaska rain forest, is shown in this undated handout released to Reuters July 13, 2011. REUTERS/Sarah Dybdahl/Sealaska Heritage Institute/Handout</p>