The Italian Almanac

a view of Lake Bracciano

Italian News - August 8

Italian archaeologists have uncovered a Stone Age canoe like those probably used by Europe's first farmers at a lake near Rome. The 8,000-year-old pirogue - a canoe made from a hollowed tree trunk - was discovered on the bed of Lake Bracciano at a depth of just 12 metres.

The experts who carried out the excavation, led by local Prehistory Superintendent Antonietta Fugazzola Delpino, said the find will reveal a great deal about Neolithic sailing and boat-building. Archaeologists think the Stone Age inhabitants of the area did not use pirogues just to move around Lake Bracciano - a large expanse of water filling an enormous volcanic crater. They say they were also used to take to the high seas.

Indeed, some argue Europe's first farmers arrived from the more advanced Near East by sea in these canoes. Their arrival ushered in the Neolithic Age as it changed the hunting and fishing societies bordering on the Mediterranean into agricultural ones. The founders of the Neolithic village of Marmotta, the site the pirogue was found at, are thought to have been among the first to make this trip.

The settlers probably chose this area because, with the lake and surrounding forest, there was plenty of food and wood for boats and houses. Marmotta was a huge village-on-stilts at the time - a sort of Neolithic Venice. Archaeologist say something mysterious happened in the 53rd century BC and the settlement was abandoned.

As well as boats, underwater excavations have uncovered a wide variety of tools, ceramics and utensils in recent years.