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       Ancient Canal Systems in the Americas:

Ancient canal system in Louisiana.The realisation of extensive ancient canal systems, harbours, quays and other (now underwater) earthworks in Florida and Louisiana has certainly raisede a few eyebrows and has inspired debate as to their origin. Some of the canals are 5ft underwater, leading to claims of their being onwards of 7,000 years old (1), which is a considerable way from the first serious attempts to build American canals in recent times at around 1780, following independence from Great Britain. (6), but is supported by discoveries of burials of humans in Florida at the same time, as evidenced by the remains of the 167 Windover 'Bog-people' bodies dated c. 7,000 BP (3). The examples below show that canal building was something that was understood in the Americas long before the arrival of Europeans. Of most interest however, are those canals that are reported as being underwater, as they suggest the existence of ancient and unknown culture.


   Analysis of the Underwater Canals:

'There are many underwater harbours, channels and canals in Florida and Louisiana, as well as other areas, that are covered with vestiges and remnants of a very sophisticated, enormously large aquatic based culture or civilization that existed BEFORE current sea level rose an average of 5 feet'. (1)

Sea level rise based on data from Fleming et al. 1998, Fleming 2000, & Milne et al. 2005. The 5ft level in the region of Jamaica has been ringed at just under 7,000 BP, supporting the suggestions by Jensen that the submerged sites are potentially thousands of years old.

Image Credits:

We know from the public record that canal systems weren't in use in the Americas until at least 1780, so anything from before then is a relic of a previous culture. The question then is, what were they used for and by whom.? The pictures of harbours and sea ports, Quays etc suggest that the canal systems were used to transport things to the then existing coastline. The size and complexity of some of the canal systems suggests that they were in use for some time, and with much time and effort invested on them.


The Ortona Park canal system, Florida. An Example.

Following a GPR Ground Penetrating Radar survey of the area, evidence of an ancient canal system that has been documented since the 1800's was confirmed. It is known that native Americans populated the area as far back a 300-400 AD, and that they built a large man-made canal system to circumvent traffic from a nearby river and take them from the surrounding area to their 'town' centre. The canal system is several miles long and is 'too large to excavate in its entirety'. Although the area is being considered for development and the canals are all but silted over, the site has been recognised for its historical importance and sections of the canal system will be likely retained for posterity. (7)



   Other Examples:

The Peruvian Andes:

Image Credits: canalsperuview.htm

New discoveries in the Peruvian Andes have pushed back the earliest discovery of canals (for irrigation) in the Pre-Columbian Americas by thousands of years.  In the Andes researchers have found three canals that date to at least 5,400 years ago buried by sediment layering. A fourth possible canal was also found, which special radiocarbon dating techniques revealed to be 6,700 years old. (2) The canals were shallow and quite narrow. They were lined with pebbles and larger stones and measured anywhere from less than one mile to more than two miles long.


Grand Terre Island, LA.

This is a section of double lane canal which rises above the water table as it traverses the Delta from East of Golden Meadows to the circle complex at the salt mounds west of Venice. The underwater section is over twelve miles to the west and more than sixteen miles underwater to the east.


The Hohokum Rover canal system. Phoenix, Arizona.

The map above is based on work done by Omar Turney in 1929.  According to him, the system encompassed "the largest single body of land irrigated in prehistoric times in North or South America, and perhaps in the world".  The system utilized at least 1000 miles (1600 km) of canals and irrigated over 100,000 acres (40,470 hectares) of land. The area shown measures about 50 miles (80 km) West to East, by 40 miles (64km) North to South, and encompasses approximately 2000 square miles (5200 km). It was built c. 500 - 1,500 AD By the 'Hohokum' people. (4) Arizona has a tradition of ancient canal building that dates back almost 3,000 years, although the earliest ones found are on a smaller scale, archaeologists have uncovered a complex canal system that dates between 1,200 and 800 B.C. Known as Las Capas ("the layers" in Spanish), it was the earliest large-scale system of its kind in the Southwest, and was built by people belonging to what archaeologists call the San Pedro Phase Culture. "It is the best exposure of an early canal system of just about any pre-Columbian time period in North America to date," said project director James Vint. (5)


Satellite images of ancient canal systems in Peru.: 

Satellite images of ancient canal systems in Bolivia:



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