Interlude – Boats of Prehistory

This 'interlude' episode sits in the gap between Seasons 1 and 2 of the podcast. While Season 1 began with ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, and the Mediterranean, we didn't really go back further than written history allows. Today we'll take a whirlwind look at the basic types of boats and watercraft that were probably used by prehistoric man in different parts of the globe. From the dugout canoe to the bundle raft, hide boat, and bark canoe, these were the boats that allowed man to occupy the furthest reaches of the globe long before European explorers 'discovered' those islands in the scientific sense.

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This Week's Books


Listen to the end of the episode for my brief thought's about the two-book set Early Ships and Seafaring by Professor Sean McGrail. The books are available to purchase at both Amazon and through the publisher, Pen & Sword Books. For a full review of the books, check out this page and this page.

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  • Fernand Braudel, Memory and the Mediterranean (1998).
  • First Mariners Project. [link]
  • Lincoln Paine, The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World (2013).
  • Lionel Casson, The Ancient Mariners: Seafarers and Sea Fighters of the Mediterranean in Ancient Times (1959).
  • Paul Johnstone, The Sea-Craft of Prehistory (1980).
  • Robert Bednarik, et al., Nale Tasih 2: Journey of a Middle Paleolithic Raft, Int'l J. of Nautical Archaeology, Vol. 28, pp. 25–33 (1999). [link]
  • Seán McGrail, Boats of the World: From the Stone Age to Medieval Times (2009).
  • Seán McGrail, Early Ships and Seafaring: European Water Transport (2014).
  • Seán McGrail, Early Ships and Seafaring: Water Transport Beyond Europe (2015).

  3 comments for “Interlude – Boats of Prehistory

  1. RussellW
    January 30, 2016 at 7:46 pm


    Thanks for your interesting and informative podcast. I’d like to suggest a minor correction to your comments on the Tasmanians. They would not have needed boats to travel there, as, until the end of the last Ice Age and the subsequent sea level rise, it was connected to the Australian mainland.



    • Brandon Huebner
      January 31, 2016 at 2:56 pm

      How right you are, Russell. Thanks so much for that correction! My lack of general knowledge about prehistory is one of the reasons we didn’t cover it in depth, so I appreciate you pointing that out for us. I shall make the point on our next episode, as well.

      • RussellW
        February 4, 2016 at 4:03 am


        I forgot to mention another aspect of the difference in sea levels. Building a raft and sailing directly from Timor to Australia seems like a lot of fun, however it’s highly unlikely that people initially, used that route to reach Australia. Possibly the first landfall was in New Guinea or land that is now submerged and that there was a gradual migration south to what is now Australia. Regardless of when and where they landed, they had to navigate the open sea, it’s still a remarkable and unique achievement for Stone Age people, more than 40,000 years ago.

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