Historical Archaeology

, Volume 52, Issue 4, pp 666–683 | Cite as

Durham Boat––Defining a Vernacular Watercraft Type

  • Ben FordEmail author
  • Timothy Caza
  • Christopher Martin
  • Timothy Downing
Original Article


Durham boats were a vital part of eastern North American inland transportation during the 18th and 19th centuries, but are underrepresented in the archaeological record. The discovery of a 19th-century shipwreck in Oneida Lake, New York, that closely resembles historical Durham-boat descriptions allowed for an analysis of this vernacular vessel type. The Oneida Lake shipwreck is fully described and compared to primary historical accounts to establish it as an archaeological example of the Durham-boat type.


inland waterways ship construction 19th century New York Great Lakes 


Los barcos Durham fueron una parte vital del transporte interior del este de Norteamérica durante los siglos XVIII y XIX, pero están subrepresentados en el registro arqueológico. El descubrimiento de un naufragio del siglo XIX en el Lago Oneida, estado de Nueva York, que se parece mucho a las descripciones históricas de barcos Durham, permitió realizar un análisis de este tipo de embarcación vernacular. El naufragio del Lago Oneida se describe por completo y se compara con los datos históricos principales, para establecerlo como un ejemplo arqueológico del barco tipo Durham.


Les Durham étaient des bateaux constituant une part essentielle du transport continental de l’Amérique du Nord aux 18e et 19e siècles. Ils sont malgré cela sous-représentés dans les relevés archéologiques. La découverte, dans le lac Oneida à New York, d’une épave du 19e siècle ressemblant de près aux descriptions historiques des Durham, a donné lieu à l’analyse de ce type de bâtiment vernaculaire. L’épave du lac Oneida est intégralement décrite et comparée aux principaux récits historiques à disposition pour déterminer qu’il s’agit d’un exemple historique d’un type de bateau dit Durham.



Excavation of the shipwreck was permitted under New York State Museum Permit No. 3118, New York Office of General Services Inquiry No. I-1833, New York Department of State File No. F-2014-0156, New York Department of Environmental Conservation Permit Application No. 7-3526-00202, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Permit Number 2014-00225 with New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation recommendation. Susan Anagnost, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, identified the wood samples. Charles Ver Straeten (New York State Museum), Julieann Van Nest (New York State Museum), and Carlton Brett (University of Cincinnati) went well beyond the expected to identify the origin of the stone cargo. Aquatic World of North Syracuse provided expedited and reduced-cost air fills, and Tammy Caza assisted with dive logistics. Dana Ashdown and the staffs of Chittenango Landing Museum Archives, the David Library of the American Revolution, and the Bucks County Historical Society Library were instrumental in identifying and accessing historical sources. Doug Ford is currently building a model of the Oneida Lake Durham boat and offered several useful observations on the hull construction. Christopher Morris and three anonymous reviewers provided useful comments on an earlier draft of this article.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest Statement

On behalf of all the authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Society for Historical Archaeology 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyIndiana University of PennsylvaniaIndianaU.S.A.
  2. 2.West MonroeU.S.A.
  3. 3.ConstantiaU.S.A.
  4. 4.West MonroeU.S.A.

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