There have been great discoveries of relics in Nigeria which includes the famous 2,500 years old Nok artefacts discovered in 1929, the 2,000 years old Igbo-Ukwu artefacts discovered in 1939 and the 8,500 years old Dufuna Canoe discovered in 1987.
While records show that Nok and the Igbo-Ukwu finds, have been extensively researched and studied by archaeologists (mostly foreigners), there is too little research on the much older Dufuna canoe.
The Nok and the Igbo-Ukwu artefacts which were discovered 10 years apart were well researched and documented by British archaeologists who were encouraged by the colonial authority in Nigeria in the colonial era.
Notable among the archaeologists is Bernard Fagg, a Research Professor of Archaeology at University of Ibadan, and one-time Director of Federal Department of Antiquities (now National Commission for Museums and Monuments). He excavated some Nok sites in 1944.
Another is Thurstan Shaw who excavated three sites around the original Igbo-Ukwu artefacts find for the Nigerian Department of Antiquity in 1959 and later for the University of Ibadan in 1964.
Unfortunately, the Dufuna canoe discovered in 1987 by a Fulani cattle herdsman is not getting from Nigerians and the Nigerian Government the type of attention that was given to the Nok and the Igbo-Ukwu artefacts by the British archaeologists and colonial authorities, though radio-carbon dating by two reputable laboratories (Kiel and Köln) in Germany suggests the canoe to be the oldest boat to be discovered in Africa, and the second oldest known worldwide.
According to Abubakar Garba, an Archaeologist in University of Maiduguri who partly conducted the excavation, in his paper, The Architecture and Chemistry of a Dug-out: The Dufuna Canoe in Ethnoarchaeological Perspective, wrote “the first excavation was sponsored by the University of Maiduguri, between 1989 and 1990, to find out whether what we were dealing with was actually a canoe, and to procure chipped samples for radiocarbon dating.”
“The amount to be expended on further exploration was so enormous that neither the University nor the State Government nor the Federal Government of Nigeria could have given much backing to the project in view of our ailing economy.”
It took the involvement of a German University, University of Frankfurt, before the second excavation required for more sample collection and fuller documentation could go ahead.
Under the auspices of the Universities of the Frankfurt/Maiduguri Joint Research Project, Professor Dr Peter Breunig, an Archaeologist in the University of Frankfurt, obliged to help the project in whatever way possible.
There is too little interest in history and archaeology in Nigeria. Hajia Aisha Jidda, a curator at the National Museum, Maiduguri, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) decried the poor attitude of Nigerians towards artefacts, cultural values and traditions.
Jidda stressed that more research on the Dufuna Canoe might lead to further discovery around the Lake Chad basin and provides more information about the people inhabiting the region.
“Professionals like engineers, botanists, geographers and specialists in other fields would able to carry out research on the technologies involved and look at the composition of the type of wood that the canoe was made up,” she said.
“You can imagine something beneath the ground to stay that long period without decay”, she added.
The German Archaeologist, Peter Breunig, after studying the Dufuna canoe, says the canoe outranks in style European finds of similar age. According to him, “The bow and stern are both carefully worked to points, giving the boat a notably more elegant form”, compared to “the dugout made of conifer wood from Pesse in the Netherlands, whose blunt ends and thick sides seem crude”.
To go by its stylistic sophistication, he reasons, “It is highly probable that the Dufuna boat does not represent the beginning of a tradition, but had already undergone a long development, and that the origins of water transport in Africa lie even further back in time.”
Nigerians should be interested in archaeological findings to learn about their past as most were not documented and most stories about the past lack proof. Also, the findings have shown that there are more early achievements in Nigeria than we are made to believe. knowledge of these achievements can be used to change the psyche of Nigerians and Africans in general toward more self-respect and self-belief.
The Dufuna Canoe was discovered a few kilometres from the village of Dufuna in the Fune Local Government Area, not far from the Komadugu Gana River, in Yobe State, Nigeria. The studies of the find also linked the site where the discovery was made to Lake Chad. The canoe is now preserved at the National Museum in Damaturu, the Yobe State capital.