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North China Canoe

Discussion in 'Birchbarks, Dugouts and Primitive Craft' started by beaver, Jan 1, 2010.

  1. beaver

    beaver Birchbark CanoeingBuilder

    China's northern hunters use birch bark to make tent frames, canoes and a variety of utensils and other objects used in daily life. The largest object hunters make with birch bark is the canoe, which measures 4-5 meters in length. It is a very valuable form of transport to the northern hunter.
    The Elunchun birch bark culture in particular upholds these peoples' unique humanistic values and perpetuates ancient traditions of the world's Sub-Arctic Circle.

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    Last edited: Jan 1, 2010
  2. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    This is very interesting... seems we could speculate that the people who came into North America from Asia may have brought this tradition with them.

    Happy New Year, Ferdie!

  3. Bob Holtzman

    Bob Holtzman Wannabe

    Very nice. Interesting how the "ribs" are so thin that they're given a double-bend in the middle to install them -- they seem to be so flexible that they must serve a somewhat different function than the ribs in a N. Am. bark canoe. -- Perhaps only to keep the sheathing in place, and not provide vertical stiffness?
    Kathy - I think this is probably a case of parallel development, not diffusion of technology. Migration over the Bering land bridge occurred some 15,000-17,000 years ago -- long, long before any evidence for the use of bark canoes in N. America.
  4. tostig

    tostig Curious about Wooden Canoes

    I remember when I built my birchbark canoe. Installing the final rib at the center was really tough as there isn't the room available as for the other ribs. While pounding, I noticed how much the cedar was able to twist and flex. I was afraid it would actually explode on me - but it didn't.
  5. Howard Caplan

    Howard Caplan Wooden Canoe Maniac

    "...15,000-17,000 years ago -- long, long before any evidence for the use of bark canoes in N. America."
    Does today's lack of evidence make a convincing enough case that Birch canoes were not used 17,000 years ago in N. America?
    Seems as though everytime I look again, I find another tid-bit for my, "everything I thought I knew is wrong" file.

  6. Bob Holtzman

    Bob Holtzman Wannabe

    Keeping an open mind is a good thing, but the only way to reach meaningful conclusions is to base them on available evidence. Sure, we could speculate that North America was settled by Gorgonzola monsters around 1 million BC, and that they brought bark canoe technology with them then. But why? Just because it's an attractive notion?

    Some archaeologists believe that bark canoes were first used in Maine around 1,000 AD. I don't know if other areas are presumed to predate that. The idea that the technology was diffused throughout N. America is pretty likely, as is the idea that it might have diffused rapidly, given the bark canoe's great utility and its advantages over dugouts. The idea that pre-paleo-indians brought it with them before the far simpler bow and arrow came into use seems unlikely, to say the least.
  7. Howard Caplan

    Howard Caplan Wooden Canoe Maniac

    I'm with you on this, Bob but new stuff keeps getting found that pushes back the time lines.
    Isn't Gorgonzola a cheese?

    I read a book a few years back, can't remember the name. Guy paddled from the Japanese Islands north and around the Alaskan peninsula to N. America. This after somebody kicked something on a NW beach that turned out to be the skull of an ancient people from the Japan Islands and suggested the land route wasn't the only way the ancients could get to N. America.

  8. Bob Holtzman

    Bob Holtzman Wannabe

    Hi Howard,

    The book was probably In the Wake of the Jomon: Stone Age Mariners and a Voyage Across the Pacific, by Jon Turk. It's a good adventure, but I believe his theory hasn't been broadly accepted. Even so, Kennewick Man, the archaeological find upon which he based his theory, dates from "only" about 8,000-9,500 years Before Present.

    Some archaeologists do believe that contact was maintained throughout prehistory between Asia and the Americas via boats: there was a small amount of iron usage in the Pacific NW prior to European contact. It wasn't produced locally, so it could have been through trade with Asia, or might have been scrounged from drifts/shipwrecks.

    I'm quite open to the idea that the settlement of N. America might be older than now thought -- it's a big continent and we probably haven't found the single oldest artifact that's out there. If we do find things older than present evidence indicates, they'll almost certainly display older or, at best, comparable, technologies, not substantially more sophisticated ones. Since the earliest dugouts found anywhere date to about 8000 BP, it's hard to imagine the development of bark-canoe tools and skills anytime close to that.

    Thanks for taking no offense to my unnecessarily snide remark about Gorgonzola monsters. Kind of cheesey humor.
  9. Howard Caplan

    Howard Caplan Wooden Canoe Maniac

    I'm from Wisconsin. Cheese is everything - no offense in fact I have many theories a lot like Swiss Cheese --- full of holes. But none stink as bad as limberger cheese.

    It was In the Wake of the Jomon, Jon Turk. His ideas may not be accepted but the trip story was good and the basis does make me wonder what will be kicked next to open the eons wider.

  10. Mike Heines

    Mike Heines Upstate Canoe Sailor

    transferring boat technology

    One of the most interesting things I've read about in terms of transferring boat technology across long distances is mention of the Inuit/Eskimo/First Nations kayak. There was for centuries an annual chase of the marine animal populations from Alaska to southern California, and return. Since it was recurring travel over long distances, the conditions were ripe for small boat technology to be transferred along the coast.
  11. Bob Holtzman

    Bob Holtzman Wannabe

    Mike, what kayak types were transferred in this process? I'm not aware of any Inuit kayak types used in S.Cal. (or any skinboats in S.Cal, for that matter). There certainly was some transfer of dugout types from AK and the Pacific NW into N. Cal. And baidarkas paddled by Aleuts (?) carried Russion fur traders all along the coast, but again, I'm not aware that the technology was transferred to or adopted in the southern regions.
  12. Mike Heines

    Mike Heines Upstate Canoe Sailor

    Baidarka: The Kayak

    My comment is based on a (probably somewhat foggy) memory of reading George Dyson's Book titled Baidarka: The Kayak (Alaska Northwest Books 1986 ISBN 088240315x). In the book, he describes the archaeology of baidarka/kayak camps etc along the route of the annual marine animal migrations. I suggest requesting the book via interlibrary loan through your local library as it is a bit expensive to purchase. My copy went into a WCHA auction or I'd pull it and give the exact quotes.
  13. Bob Holtzman

    Bob Holtzman Wannabe

    Aleut baidarkas were "bought and used by many Tlingit during the heyday of sea-otter hunting under the Russian regime." (Source: Canoes and Kayaks of Western America, Bill Durham, Copper Canoe Press, 1960, Seattle, p.47) The Tlingit lived only as far south as northern British Columbia. Anyone have a citation for anything further south than that?

    The Aleuts traveled along the coast, hunting sea otters for the Russians, and I guess it would have been their camps, references to which you're remembering. But the presence of hunting camps doesn't indicate the diffusion of the technology to the indigenous people. Durham makes no reference to skin boats in Southern California. Partly this would have been due to the presence of other good boat buiding materials in S. Cal. Skin-on-frame boats seem only to have been used in areas where materials for other types of craft (dugouts, bark canoes, rafts) were unavailable. The Klamath and Yurok in California built dugouts, and "balsas" (reed rafts) were used in the southern parts of the state.

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