The Maya, whose civilization was based in the southern Mexico (including the densely forested Yucatan Peninsula) and parts of Central America depended heavily upon waterborne transport to supply goods to their several urban centers. From within their own culture, goods traveled by river from the interior to coastal areas. Coastwise trade also occurred both among Maya and with neighboring peoples.
Christopher Columbus encountered the Maya in the Yucatan on his fourth voyage to the New World. His son Ferdinand wrote:
"...there arrived at that time a canoe long as a galley and eight feet [2.5m] wide, made of a single tree trunk like the other Indian canoes; it was freighted with merchandise from the western regions around New Spain. Amidships it had a palm-leaf awning life that which the Venetian gondolas carry; this gave complete protection against the rain and waves. Under this awning were the children and women and all the baggage and merchandise. There were twenty-five paddlers...."
The cargo in this single canoe included clothing, tools, weapons, foodstuffs, wine and luxury items. Obsidian was also an important import. The reported width of 8 feet seems unlikely for a logboat.
|This canoe has an even more elaborate raised stem, shown in perspective overlapping two other fancy canoe bows.|
|Two gods fishing from a canoe. The straight sheer and overhanging end platforms are less ceremonial, more appropriate to a workboat.|
- With one exception, all content is from "The Earliest Watercraft: From Rafts to Viking Ships" by Margaret E. Leshikar, in Ships and Shipwrecks of the Americas: A History Based on Underwater Archaeology, George F. Bass, Editor, Thames & Hudson, NY, 1988.
- The content about the Punta Ycacos paddle is from "Finds in Belize document Late Classic Maya salt making and canoe transport," Heather McKillop, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol.102, #15.