June 6, 2002
ORTONA, Fla., June 6 — Archaeologists said Thursday they have discovered the longest and oldest canals ever found in North America, a sophisticated system of channels dug by Indians with wood and shell tools 1,800 years ago.
THE ANCIENT CANAL system was discovered along with a sacred pond in this rural community near Lake Okeechobee in southern Florida.
The two canals, 7 miles in length altogether, represent the longest and oldest canals in North America and show evidence of greater complexity in native American society than previously suspected, said Robert S. Carr of the Archaeological and Historical Conservancy.
The canals were used for fishing and for transportation around rapids that used to exist in the Caloosahatchee River, which runs from the lake to the Gulf of Mexico at Fort Myers in southwestern Florida, archaeologists said.
Carr estimated that hundreds of Indians lived in this area and used tools of wood and shell to dig out millions of yards of sand and soil.
“This suggests one level of technological achievement that really has never been honored before,” Carr said.
Previously archaeologists believed the canals were hundreds of years more recent.