4 December 2022 The Future is the Product of the Past

In a Wisconsin lake, archaeologists discover a 1,200-year-old dugout canoe

Maritime archaeologists from the Wisconsin Historical Society have discovered a dugout wooden canoe in Lake Mendota, Wisconsin, USA.

Carbon analysis dates the canoe to roughly AD 800, centuries before Europeans arrived on the continent. It was discovered with net sinkers showing that it was used for fishing in the lake. The canoe could be the oldest water vessel known in the state that is still completely intact.

The canoe was located at a depth of 30 feet in June 2021, and divers from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the Dane County Sheriff’s Office worked together to recover it from the lakebed.

“The dugout canoe found in Lake Mendota is a significant artifact of the continuum of canoe culture in the Western Great Lakes region,” said Christian Overland, the Ruth and Hartley Barker Director & CEO for the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Wisconsin Historical Society
Photo: Wisconsin Historical Society

“The canoe is a remarkable artifact, made from a single tree, that connects us to the people living in this region 1,200 years ago. As the Society prepares to open a new history museum in 2026, we are excited about the new possibilities it offers to share Native American stories and culture through the present day,” said Overland.

The canoe was moved to Wisconsin’s State Archive Preservation Facility in Madison, where it was placed in a custom-built storage tank, according to officials. To assist preserve the boat from physical degradation, the vat includes water and a bio-deterrent. The vat will eventually be filled with a chemical solution that will replace the water in the wood’s cellular structure. It is predicted that the preservation procedure will take three years.

Cover Photo: Wisconsin Historical Society

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