Thursday, June 21, 2018

Ocala boy finds dugout canoe while scuba diving

OCALA — A 7-year-old boy may have uncovered a piece of history while scuba diving with his grandfather at Owen Lake near Ocala.

Koen Ergle saw a piece of wood in about 8 feet of water a couple of weeks ago and pointed it out to his grandfather, former Marion County Sheriff Ken Ergle.

His grandfather wanted to keep moving, but Koen was persistent.

"He was on my secondary respirator and I could hear him making noises and pointing to the wood," Ken Ergle told the Ocala Star-Banner. "I started fanning the sand off and still wasn't quite sure what it was."

He thought it was an old stump or a piece of a dock, but his grandson said it looked like a canoe. And, after two weekends of digging, they found out he was right. A nearly 20-foot canoe emerged from the lake bed.

"This is very complete, this is in good shape," said Julia Byrd, a senior archaeologist for the Bureau of Archaeological Research, Division of Historical Resources said Thursday. "These are ones we can really learn from."

Byrd was among the officials who came to the site near Ocala to see the canoe. It will be slowly dried and eventually put on display at the Marion County Museum of History and Archaeology.

Byrd took samples to carbon date the canoe, which some believe could be several hundred years old, and to find out what kind of wood was used to build it.

"Many of the canoes found in Florida turn out to be made of pine, rather than cypress," Byrd said. "It's really hard to tell if they are prehistoric or historic. We use to think that the more refined canoes came later, but that is not always the case. People have been living in this area for thousands of years, so that is why we are doing carbon dating."

The process will take several months.

The family donated the canoe to the museum.

"We just moved here two months ago," said the boy's father, Nick Ergle. "It's amazing to think all the history that has gone on in this area."

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