The Oldest Boats in the Mediterranean Were Discovered in Italy, They’re 7000 Years Old!

The depths of Lake Bracciano in the Lazio region hold the remains of the oldest known boats in the Mediterranean basin, according to an article published in PLOS ONE.1

Five boats found in the ancient settlement of La Marmotta, approximately 35 kilometers northwest of Rome, reveal the maritime skills and technological advancements in seafaring of Neolithic communities in Italy.

Through examinations conducted using radiocarbon dating method, it has been determined that the boats were constructed between 5700 BC and 5100 BC, that is, approximately 7 thousand years ago. Various types of wood, including oak, beech, poplar, and alder, were utilized in the construction of these boats.

The boats, distinguished by advanced carpentry techniques and functional designs within the context of Early Neolithic conditions, help us understand how ancient sailors survived. The T-shaped wooden objects found next to the boats, which were probably used to fix maritime equipment, are among the evidence that these boats were used not only in inland waters but also in the open sea.

CanoeMaterialLengthWidth
Marmotta 1Oak
(Quercus sp.)
10,43 m
(34,4 ft)
1,15 m
(3,9 ft)
Marmotta 2Alder
(Alnus sp.)
5,4 m
(17,8 ft)
0,40 m
(1,3 ft)
Marmotta 3Alder
(Alnus sp.)
8,35 m
(27,4 ft)
0,58 m
(1,1 ft)
Marmotta 4Poplar
(Populus sp.)
?0,65 m
(2,2 ft)
Marmotta 5Beech
(Fagus sylvatica)
9,5 m
(31,2 ft)
0,60 m
(1,1 ft)
Some features of the canoe-shaped boats.

The authors of the article say that it is difficult to determine the boundaries of the La Marmotta settlement, based on the information obtained through archaeological excavations, so it is possible that a large part of the area has not yet been excavated. They also believe that if research and excavations continue, many boats that have survived to the present day can be found in the depths of Lake Bracciano.

La Marmotta and Its Surroundings in the Prehistoric Period

As far as is known, the first hominins arrived on the Italian Peninsula approximately 850,000 years ago.2 On the other hand, the first traces of the existence of homo sapiens date back to the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic.3 However, La Marmotta and the surrounding region are poor in terms of finds from the Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods. Therefore, information about the pre-Neolithic period of this region is limited.

The Neolithic period refers to the era in human history when the hunter-gatherer and nomadic way of life was abandoned in favor of agriculture and settled living. The Neolithic period in the Lazio region, including La Marmotta, generally exhibits similar characteristics to the Neolithic period in other regions of Italy.

It is accepted that the Neolithic period in Lazio began around 6000 BCE and extended until the 4th millennium BCE. Settlements in Lazio were typically established on the slopes of hills, near rivers, or in fertile valleys. These settlements often contained simple houses made of stone or mudbrick.

It is believed that La Marmotta turned into a trade center towards the end of the period.

  1. Gibaja JF, Mineo M, Santos FJ, Morell B, Caruso-Fermé L, Remolins G, et al. (2024) The first Neolithic boats in the Mediterranean: The settlement of La Marmotta (Anguillara Sabazia, Lazio, Italy). PLoS ONE 19(3): e0299765. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0299765[]
  2. “Erano padani i primi abitanti d’Italia”, Alice Danti, National Geographic, January 20, 2012[]
  3. Fossil Teeth Put Humans in Europe Earlier Than Thought“, John Noble Wilford, New York Times, November 2, 2011[]