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Prehistoric Boats: Rafts

written by: Raunekk • edited by: KennethSleight • updated: 11/6/2009

Rafts are one of the very ancient boats that are still used extensively. It is just because of their simplicity and usefulness that rafts are still used in the present times. Find out the journey of rafts from prehistoric time to the present day in the article inside.

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    Introduction

    We have a lot to hear on the new ships and their advanced technology in the news these days. However, for the time being, let’s take a look through the pages of history to find more about the prehistoric boats that acted as the germinal seeds for the huge floating vessels that we see in news today.

    There are only a few types of boats whose history though dates back to thousand of years are still used extensively in the present times. Raft is one such type of prehistoric boat that is not only extremely famous in the present time but also has variety of applications. Apart from water rafts, you can also find articles on skin boats, coracles and so forth at this site.

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    History

    It is strange that there is no mention in the history as to when exactly the rafts were first built. Leave rafts aside, there is no precise date as to when exactly the first boat was built. If we talk about the prehistoric age, people at that time used wooden logs or rafts for various purposes. Rafts were used for pretty long time for transporting and fishing purposes, before the idea of boats came into being.

    simple raft  

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    Construction & Design

    Technically speaking, a water raft is any floating structure with a flat top. Though it is characterized as a boat, water rafts do not have a proper hull attached to it. It is just because of the buoyant materials that a raft is able to float. Construction wise, raft is so simple that it can be made without even using proper tools.

    In the prehistoric time, rafts were made using wooden logs or bundles of reeds tied together. However, the modern rafts are made of drums, pontoons or other inflated materials. Also, unlike other types of boats, which uses hulls or their bottom section to displace water, rafts floats only because of natural buoyancy of the wooden logs or reeds from which they are made.

    Depending on the type and application of the raft, they are also provided with superstructure, masts and other necessities for navigation and maneuvering purpose.However, as rafts don’t have any specific hull or hull form, they have the least safety features. Especially in sea, raft has the least protection from the tides. Also because of very less keel, the waves wash over the top of the raft, drenching any passenger or cargo.Moreover, as the propulsion is only through the paddles, rafts tend to drift with the water current, making it difficult to control.

    modified raft  

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    Applications

    Unlike other boats, rafts have a shape that cannot move in any particular direction. This means that depending on the currents the raft needs to be constantly paddled to keep it along a course. However, in normal sea conditions they can be paddles to sail a long way across the seas, as a Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl did in 1940s.

    In the earlier times, water rafts were mainly used for transportation and fishing. The main application for rafts was to carry timber logs from one place to another. This was done by arranging and tying the timber logs onto the raft and then pulling the raft down the river.

    Fishing is one more activity where rafts were extensively used in the prehistoric time. However, there are many parts of the world where fresh water fishing is still done using rafts.

    In the present time, rafts are extensively used as a mode of recreational activity. Recreational rafts are generally made of inflatable and durable material for white water rafting, a famous recreational water sport famous in almost all parts of the world.

    River Raft  

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    References

    http://chestofbooks.com/crafts/scientific-american/sup5/images/FIG-1-COPEMAN-PINHEY-S-LIFE-RAFTS.png

    http://www.zebecboats.com/images/River_Raft.JPG

    http://www.raftplan.com/images/800px-Pine_Creek_Log_Raft.jpg

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