3000 Years Old

In late June, 2013, the Xinyang government unearthed an ancient canoe near a river delta in Xi County. Believed to be nearly 3,000, the canoe would have come from the Shang dynasty. A sister canoe found in 2009 which was longer and larger proved to help date this new discovery. Meng Qi was able to participate in the restoration and preservation of this canoe during her internship.

As described by Meng, the canoe was square on one end and pointed on the other. Made from one solid piece of wood, it is one of the only complete canoes found and preserved in China. The canoe was tested at Peking University in China in which carbon dating verified that it was of the late Shang Dynasty. Due to her previous work with Peking University, Meng was able to help with all communications regarding the canoe and the C14 or carbon lab.  Samples of the timber were also taken and sent to the Archaeological Research Institute of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences for tree species identification. It was found that the canoe was made from a tree called the Musheng tree which is the 

same as sister canoe. This is particularly interesting as the tree is not native to Xinyang city or Henan Province, but instead native to Xishuangbanna city of Yunnan and Hainan Provinces. According to Chinese literature, the original meaning of Yu was the elephant’s trunk. The natural habitat of the elephant is subtropical and tropical area, which is to say, a long time ago, Henan area once had subtropical plants and animals. With the supporting of other evidences that subtropical plants, like palm were excavated in Xinyang area before, it all reflected that both the climate at that time and the ecological environment was subtropical. So this canoe is very meaningful.

The canoe was so large that it was stored in a hallway of the museum office building while restoration and data analysis was being completed. In order to preserve the canoe in this setting, distilled water was sprayed on it two or three times a day. This was done in an attempt to prevent the canoe from being damaged by the uncontrolled air quality. Meng was able to help out with this as well. This was her first experience dealing with a cultural relic, mind you one that was 3,000 years old and the equipment used by those handing the canoe. Meng, having little experience with cultural items and lacking the proper uniform to deal with it, could not give up a chance to help preserve the canoe. Although this was a great experience, she declared that due to the lack of uniform, she was covered in mosquito bites in less than 20 minutes as the damp canoe became a breeding ground for these insects. Nonetheless, Meng had an interest in helping to maintain the quality of the canoe as it seemed to be disintegrating before her eyes. This was not due to inadequate care, but solely because the canoe had been submersed in the watery earth for thousands of years and so quickly unearthed and dried after.


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