In case you didn’t know, there is a list of 100 objects that reveal the history of Ireland. One of the objects on the list is a very, very large and long oak canoe. It was highlighted in an article in the Irish Times this weekend along with a striking photograph (below). Dated to 1902, the photograph shows the canoe on its way to the National Museum of Dublin.
The canoe was discovered in a bog in County Galway the previous year.
Anthropologyworks contacted a local expert, Bob Maguire, who is of Irish descent. He is also a cultural geographer and associate professor of international affairs at Trinity Washington University, D.C. He gave these exclusive comments about the canoe and its environmental implications to aw:
I always knew that the Irish were not tree huggers. I imagine this ancient scene: “Ok, lads, let’s cut down this last of our mighty oaks and make it into a boat that will never be used for anything practical.”
The story of Ireland’s mighty oaks and their disappearance leads one to think of the section in Jared Diamond’s book, Collapse, describing how the Easter Islanders likely logged out their forests to facilitate the transportation and placement of the giant stone totems for which the island is known today.
Similarly, in building ceremonial canoes from the island’s giant oaks, did the early Irish contribute significantly to the disappearance of their island’s majestic trees, perhaps at a time when climate change was just beginning?
Possibly. But they had no idea.
Next time I raise a glass, I’ll toast those amazing ceremonial canoe makers, who may even have added stabilizers so they could float safely after having tilted a few glasses themselves!