A 3,000-year-old canoe has been discovered in a Wisconsin lake: “Truly incredible”

A 3,000-year-old canoe has been discovered in a Wisconsin lake: “Truly incredible”

A 3,000-year-old canoe has been discovered in a Wisconsin lake, the Wisconsin Historical Society announced Thursday. The canoe dates back to 1000 BC. C., which makes it the oldest discovered in the Great Lakes region by about 1000 years.

The discovery in Madison’s Lake Mendota comes less than a year after a 1,200-year-old canoe was found, the historical society said in a news release. Both canoes are now preserved with the help of the Wisconsin Native Nations.

The 3,000-year-old canoe was found by a maritime archaeologist during a recreational dive in May. Tamara Thomsen found the canoe in the same area where the first one was discovered. It was hand-dug Thursday and will now be cleaned and cared for by tribal members and the historical society.

The canoe will then be lowered by hand into a large conservation vat, which also contains the 1,200-year-old canoe. The preservation process will take two years and the canoes will be freeze-dried to remove any remaining water.

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The 3,000-year-old canoe was excavated by hand Thursday and will now be cleaned and cared for by tribal members and the historical society.

Wisconsin Historical Society


The 3,000-year-old canoe is carved from a single piece of white oak and is approximately 14.5 feet long. The first canoe was completely intact when it was found. Dating back to AD 800, it is the oldest fully intact vessel ever removed from Wisconsin waters. That ship also had net sinkers on board that were used for fishing.

The canoes may have been left on the shoreline, which changed over time and became much lower, according to Dr. James Skibo, a state archaeologist with the Wisconsin Historical Society.

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The 3,000-year-old canoe was discovered by maritime archaeologist Tamara Thomsen during a recreational dive in May. Dates back to 1000 BC

Wisconsin Historical Society


“Finding an additional historically significant canoe on Lake Mendota is truly incredible and opens up invaluable research and educational opportunities to explore the technological, cultural and stylistic changes that occurred in canoe design over 3,000 years,” Skibo said.

The canoes will also help provide more detail about how the Ho-Chunk and other Native Americans lived in the area thousands of years ago, the society said.

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The 1,200-year-old canoe found in 2021 was completely intact.

Wisconsin Historical Society


The Ho-Chunk Nation is a federally recognized tribal nation based in Wisconsin, formerly known as the Winnebago Tribe of Wisconsin. The Ho-Chunk, which means “People of the Loud Voice,” are not located on a single reservation, but own land throughout Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota.

“The recovery of this canoe built by our ancestors gives further physical proof that the natives have occupied Teejop (Four Lakes) for millennia, that our ancestral lands are here and we had a developed society of transportation, trade and commerce,” Ho-Chunk President Marlon WhiteEagle said. “Each person who harvested and built this caašgegu (white oak) into a canoe put a part of themselves into it. By preserving this canoe, we are honoring those who came before us. We appreciate our partnership with the Wisconsin Historical Society, working together to preserve part of not only the history of our ancestors but the history of our state.”

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