It need hardly be said that water is essential to human life and that the earliest settlements and civilisations developed close to a copious water supply. The rivers Tigris and Euphrates, Nile, Jordan, Indus, Yellow River and Yang-tzi watered the earliest civilisations and without them, it is doubtful that such civilisations could have developed. The importance of water is manifest. Given this affinity for water it is hardly surprising that water transport developed very early, and the ease with which heavy loads could be moved, when floated, gave water transport a permanent advantage over land transport. It was, and remains, the most efficient means of moving loads, particularly heavy loads.
Early evidence of human activity in and around water is provided by late Palaeolithic inventions such as the barbed harpoon, the fishhook and the fish-gorge. Very fine fishhooks carved out of bone, or made of flint by pressure flaking, were in use during the Mesolithic period when the hunter-gatherer was giving way to the farmer. More direct evidence of water transport, namely the paddle and canoe, are not found until 7500 b.c. and 6000 b.c. respectively, Collins (1975, 122). [dates given as b.c. refer to radiocarbon dates, which need to be corrected to give calendar dates]. At Star Carr, a few miles south of Scarborough, Yorkshire, the remains of a lakeside village from 7500 b.c. has been excavated and amongst many finds was a fragment of a wooden paddle. A dugout canoe was found at Pesse, Holland, and has been dated using radiocarbon methods to about 7000 b.c, see Fig. 11.1. Another early community seems to have lived by fishing from the banks of the Danube in Lepenski Vir, Yugoslavia, about 6000–5000 b.c.
During the Mesolithic period the British Isles was connected to the continent by a substantial land bridge covering much of the southern part of the North Sea and the English Channel. Sea levels increased during the seventh millennium B.C., and by the Neolithic,