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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

German to Attempt 'Stone Age' Voyage

NEW YORK -- A German mariner set sail Wednesday from New York, bound for Spain, in a reed boat designed to replicate ocean voyages that he believes were taking place 12,000 years before Christopher Columbus' famous trip.

Dominique Gorlitz, 40, a former teacher from Chemnitz, Germany, said he wanted to prove that ancient sailors could have crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a boat similar to his 12.5-meter, reed-and-eucalyptus craft, dubbed Abora 3.

"We are trying to retrace the ancient waterways to prove that prehistoric people crossed the ocean both ways," Gorlitz said at a press conference.

His vessel was towed Wednesday to the Statue of Liberty, where crew members would hoist their sail for the voyage, expected to last two months.

Gorlitz's journey mimics the 1947 journey by Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl, who sailed a balsa wood raft nearly over 8,000 kilometers from Peru to Polynesia in 101 days to prove his theory that ancient mariners could have migrated across vast stretches of ocean.

Gorlitz said traces of tobacco and cocaine were found in the tomb of Egypt's pharaoh Ramses II, evidence of trans-Atlantic commerce during the Stone Age. He also believes cave drawings in Spain show that people living 14,000 years ago understood ocean currents.

Scholars have expressed doubt about Gorlitz's assertions.

"I wish them well, but for a proper replicative experiment in archaeology, the culture has to be consistent," said Kenneth Feder, an anthropology professor at Central Connecticut State University.

"How can they replicate the past accurately by using evidence from thousands of years ago in Egypt and a boat similar to those built 800 years ago in South America? These are completely different periods," Feder said.

He said there were other possible ways for nicotine and coca to have turned up in ancient Egypt -- possibly from now-unknown plants in Africa, or even from "mummy unwrapping parties," popular in 19th-century England.

"This trip proves that if you are brave and foolhardy you can sail a primitive boat across the Atlantic, but that's all it proves," Feder said.

Gorlitz's boat, partly built by Aymara Indians in Bolivia and assembled at a New Jersey marina, is based on what Gorlitz says is a North African sketch dating back thousands of years. It has a crew of 11 in addition to the owner, and will take advantage of such modern amenities as a GPS satellite navigation system.