6 Canoe Builders

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Basket with charred wood
Stone maul
Shak tooth hafted tools
Gourd filled with water
Gourd filled with water
Gourd filled with water
Gourd filled with water
Gourd filled with water
Sixth carver works on the prow’s interior, smoothing the surface
Fifth man collects charred wood in a large shell; these along with the wood chips at his feet will be used as fuel for the cooking fires
Fourth man uses a hafted axe to remove the charred wood from the interior, giving it a smoother, more comfortable surface
Third man fans the fire forward along the length of the canoe
Second man stands ready with water filled gourd, watching carefully to ensure the fire doesn’t burn the wood too deeply
First man stokes the fire with a long stick, scraping the charcoals forward
Hafted axe

Canoe Builders

This scene shows the later stages of canoe manufacture, with six men working on a 10 meter-long ‘expedition’ canoe, to be used for travel and trade to neighbouring islands. This is not the largest canoe known from the Caribbean region, which reportedly reached nearly 30 meters in length and held over 60 people – nor the smallest, which were only large enough for one canoeist; but it is a good size for voyages between neighbouring trade hubs.

The hard work of felling a tall, straight tree with a sufficiently thick trunk, and dragging it to the edges of the water is now over, and the equally hard work of adzing out the heartwood to make a light, sea-going canoe is underway. After propping the long trunk on supports that serve to raise it to a good working height, they progress through several stages, each requiring woodworking skill and the technical knowledge of the wood’s strengths and limitations.

The scene is set out to provide an overview for key carving phases; these progressed in sequence – from (left to right) the charring of the interior prior to the scraping and final decorative carving. On the left three men work to control the fire they built within the tree trunk, while on the right, a further three excavate the canoe’s charred interior. The prow is carved in an elegant, semi-lunar design, inspired by the prow of a canoe recovered from Stargate Blue Hole, Andros.


Unit 6a: Canoe Builders, all (JPG, 1.5 MB)

Unit 6b: Canoe Builders, left ​​​​​​​(JPG, 1 MB)

Unit 6c: Canoe Builders, right ​​​​​​​(JPG, 1 MB)