Who invented the First Boat? (Invention Timeline Explained)

Traveling through bodies of water is something that most people take for granted nowadays. You can take boat rides, or even a cruise if your budget allows it. It wouldn’t be a surprise if most people thought mankind has always had boats in some shape or form.

However, just like any other invention that exists today, there was a time when boats didn’t exist. Someone had to take the plunge and work not just on the very first boat, but the concept of the boat. It’s a fascinating little rabbit hole, and one you’re free to tackle with us as we look into the history and evolution of boats!

Who invented the first boat?

The interesting thing about the first boat is how the earliest known record of boats came from the New Stone Age, courtesy of the Neolithics. As far as who gets the credit however, the ancient Egyptians share the distinction, having made boats out of papyrus reeds. While the first ship might be credited to the Egyptians, the Neolithics undoubtedly built the first boat.

The boat’s key contributors (and evolution)

  • Mesolithics
    Known to be the earliest record of boats

    When it comes to the invention of the first boat, it would have to be the Mesolithic people of the Middle Stone Age.

  • Egyptians
    Followed the trend and made their mark on history with the first ships

    While not necessarily the inventor of the first boats, the Egyptians still did a fantastic job. They built boats out of papyrus reeds.

  • Austronecians
    Conquered the open sea

    While the ones who came before invented the first boat as well as the ship, the Austronecians have the distinction of being the first to conquer the open sea.

  • Indus Valley Civilization
    Used boats for trade and commerce

    Boats back in the day were instrumental, especially when it came to the Indus Valley Civilization as they focused primarily on trade.

  • Mesopotamians
    Traded with the Indus Valley Civilization

    Thanks to the evolution of boats, the Mesopotamians were able to trade freely with the Indus Valley Civilization.

  • Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach
    Invented the first motor boat

    Fast-forward to 1886, and the invention of the first motor boat rocked the world. It was developed by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, primarily to test their “longcase clock” engine.

When was the first boat invented?

The world’s oldest known boat, the Pesse canoe, is dated around 8000 BC. That places it in the Mesolithic age, the Middle Stone Age.

A brief history of the first boat

It’s understandable to assume that humanity has always had the common sense to build boats. It can be argued that while the very first boat was dated around 8000 BC, humankind has always had the common sense to build boats. While we can’t know for sure, what we do know is that boats have been around for a very, very long time. Even the Pesse canoe is incredibly old, and just goes to show humanity’s penchant for innovation and creation. The reason why humanity needed boats to begin with sparked from the need to travel bodies of water.

Eventually, such a thing grew into something much more than that. The ancient Egyptians were credited as the very first ship builders, and they would use their boats primarily to travel the Nile and trade with neighbors. During such a time period, trade was extremely important. The Indus Valley Civilization traded with Mesopotamia with the use of boats and ships. The Austronesians found their home in the open sea, finding ways to make long voyages.

While the boat had many uses indeed, it was used primarily as a means for trade. Things would change slowly, but surely, and over the years humanity’s penchant for innovation would help the boat evolve. Sail boats were commonplace, but the invention of the first motorboat breathed new life into the invention. In 1886, the invention of the first motor boat rocked the world. It was developed by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, primarily to test their “longcase clock” engine.

Boats have always had a long-standing relationship with mankind, and it’s a trend that will likely never die.

The first boat timeline

  1. 8200-7600 BC
    The first boat’s discovery

    Found in the Netherlands, the first boat is the Pesse Canoe.

  2. 4000 BC
    Egypt following in the footsteps of boat builders

    Egypt’s very first boat was developed around 4000 BC, and was used primarily for trade.

  3. 2500–1700 BC
    The Indus Valley Civilization and the Mesopotamians

    Boats were used heavily by both the Mesopotamians and the Indus Valley Civilization for trade.

  4. 1519-1522 AD
    Fernão de Magalhães (Magellan) sails around the world

    Many people are well aware of the story of how Magellan sailed around the world. It’s undoubtedly a pivotal moment in history.

  5. 1886 AD
    Development of the first motor boat

    The very first motorboat was invented by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach.

Where was the first boat invented?

The very first boat, the Pesse canoe, was found in the Netherlands. Other early examples of boats were found in Egypt.

The importance of the first boat

  • The more straightforward advantage of sea travel

    If not for the first boat, mankind would be unable to travel through the sea. The most obvious benefit of boats is undoubtedly why it’s considered the most important.

  • Opens up trade between civilizations

    The inability to travel through bodies of water would also render civilizations unable to trade in many ways. In the modern era, large ships are among the primary machines that help with trading.

  • The stepping-off-point for discovery

    Most people of the early ages used boats as a means of travel to discover new places. It was undoubtedly a stepping-off-point for discovery.

  • A fantastic hobby

    Aside from the many crucial reasons why boats are so important, there’s also the fact that it makes for a fun hobby these days. Sailing around and fishing can be quite a lot of fun!

Boats by the numbers

  • 10,000A rough estimate of the age of the very first boat, the Pesse canoe. If the canoe were a person, they’d probably be very sick of birthday celebrations.
  • 3It took Ferdinand Magellan a total of 3 years to circumnavigate the globe. Considering this was in the tail end of the 16th century, it was quite an achievement.
  • 1578The year 1578 was when William Bourne wrote up the idea of the submarine. The first one was actually built around 1620!
  • 900,000The estimated age of how long humankind has likely used boats. It’s a mind-boggling number to be sure.

Five facts about boats

  • The boat’s different sides

    The boat’s left side is referred to as the port, while the right side is referred to as starboard. That’s why when you watch films with captains and boats, they often call for starboard or port, especially during battle scenes.

  • The houseboat

    Surprisingly enough there are people out there that make boats their homes. Such a thing is called a houseboat, and it’s not really used for travel. In most cases, it stays in a single spot for years at a time, only moving when it needs to.

  • Creation of the earliest canoes

    Native Americans would make their canoes by hollowing out a log. It was certainly one of the more creative ways to make a canoe, and it’s likely the Pesse canoe was fashioned the same way.

  • Sinking into the Baltic

    In 1994, a ferry sank in the Baltic Sea. The ship held 852 passengers, and no one made it out alive. It’s currently illegal to dive to the ferry ship.

  • The origin of quarantine

    Interestingly enough, the origin of quarantine came from the 40 days that ships had to wait in the dock as a result of the plague. The term quarantine refers to the number of days, and the meaning stuck throughout history.

FAQ about boats

  • Are there any interesting supernatural stories about boats?

    While there are likely plenty of stories out there, one of the most interesting involves an abandoned Russian cruise ship. The ship’s been roaming international waters for many years, starting 2013. It sounds like a made up story, but reality can often be stranger than fiction!

  • Who were the first sailors?

    While we know the very first boats likely came from the Middle Stone Age, the first sailors came from ancient Egypt. They were one of the first to develop a proper sailboat, and they used the invention to travel the Nile and trade with neighbors. Eventually, the neighbors learned to harness the same inventions and tackle trade in an entirely new way.

  • Which came first – the boat or the wheel?

    Funny enough you would think that the wheel probably came first. However, the wheel was invented around 2500 BC. People have been using boats for far longer, much longer than the Pesse canoe, but there’s no concrete evidence to show for it.

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