The discovery of the prehistoric canoes in Newnan's Lake was the largest of its kind in the United States, Secretary of State Katherine Harris said Wednesday in announcing the results of radiocarbon testing.
The Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research confirmed the canoes range from 500 to 5,000 years old, with most built between 3,000 and 5,000 years ago.
The wooden canoes had remained hidden and preserved at the bottom of the lake for centuries until water levels dropped during a dry spell. They were discovered in April by high school students working on an environmental project.
Archeologists performed radiocarbon tests on 53 of the canoes, while recording their length, width, depth and where they were found.
The canoes, likely used as fishing boats, were up to 22 feet long. Many had rounded sterns and bows. Tests on six canoes showed they were made of pine.
After the find was documented, the canoes were reburied in the lake bottom. Otherwise, they would have crumbled in a matter of days if left exposed to the air and sun.
State archaeologist James Miller said the documentation will be added to earlier data related to more than 300 canoes, including the oldest canoe found in Florida, a 6,000-year-old craft.
Seminole Indian Chief James Billie said the lake's original name was Pithlachocco, a Seminole word meaning "place of long boats."
"This may have been a factory where boats were made," he said.
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