3,000-year-old canoe recovered from lake: ‘Truly incredible’

A 3,000-year-old canoe was recovered from Lake Mendota, according to the Wisconsin Historical Society. (Source: WMTV)
Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 2:52 PM CDT|Updated: 20 hours ago
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV/Gray News) - Officials in Wisconsin say a dugout canoe dating back to 1000 B.C. was recovered this week from Lake Mendota.

Wisconsin Historical Society maritime archeologists and partners from Wisconsin’s Native Nations pulled the canoe from the lake Thursday morning.

WMTV reports that radioactive tests estimated the dugout canoe to be about 3,000 years old. The team said it is the oldest canoe found in the Great Lakes region by 1,000 years.

According to historical society members, the 14.5-foot canoe was made from a piece of white oak sometime around 1000 B.C. An archeologist found it in the lakebed during a recreational dive in May.

Thursday’s recovery follows another canoe that was found in the lake in November 2021. Experts estimated that canoe dated back to the year 850.

“Finding an additional historically significant canoe in Lake Mendota is truly incredible. It unlocks invaluable research and educational opportunities to explore,” said Wisconsin Historical Society State Archaeologist Dr. James Skibo.

The team said where the canoes were discovered could offer an image of the past.

“Since it was located within 100 yards of where the first canoe was found, the find has prompted us to research fluctuating water levels and ancient shorelines to explore the possibility of what could be submerged village sites,” Skibo said.

State officials said archeologists and volunteers hand-excavated the second canoe, with members of the Ho-Chunk and Bad River Tribe present. The team took the dugout canoe to a nearby state archive preservation facility. Tribal members and society staff are planning to clean and preserve it.

“This incredible finding provides an opportunity for us to work with Tribal Nations to study and celebrate the history of the Indigenous people who’ve called this land home long before Wisconsin became a state,” said Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers.