Madison, Wisconsin – The Wisconsin Historical Society revealed Thursday that a 3,000-year-old canoe was uncovered in a lake in Wisconsin. The canoe dates back to approximately 1000 B.C., making it the oldest canoe ever discovered in the Great Lakes region by approximately a thousand years.
The discovery in Madison’s Lake Mendota comes less than a year after the discovery of a boat dating back 1,200 years, according to a news statement from the historical society. The preservation of both canoes is currently being assisted by Wisconsin’s indigenous nations.
A maritime archaeologist discovered the 3,000-year-old dugout canoe during a recreational dive in May. Tamara Thomsen discovered the second canoe in the same location as the first. It was manually unearthed on Thursday, and tribal members and the historical organization will now clean and care for it.
The canoe will then be manually lowered into a massive preservation vat that already houses a canoe that is 1,200 years old. The canoes will be freeze-dried to remove any remaining water and the preservation process will take two years.
The 3,000-year-old canoe is approximately 14.5 feet long and carved from a single piece of white oak. The first canoe was found in complete condition. It is the oldest entirely undamaged watercraft ever rescued from Wisconsin seas, dating back to 800 A.D. This vessel was also equipped with net sinkers for fishing.
According to Dr. James Skibo, the state archaeologist for the Wisconsin Historical Society, the canoes may have been left on the beach, which shifted over time and grew considerably lower.
“The discovery of a second historically significant dugout canoe in Lake Mendota is truly astounding and opens up invaluable research and educational opportunities to investigate the technological, cultural, and stylistic evolution of dugout canoe design over the past three thousand years,” Skibo said.
The canoes will also shed light on how the Ho-Chunk and other Native Americans lived in the region thousands of years ago, according to the group.
Formerly known as the Wisconsin Winnebago Tribe, the Ho-Chunk Nation is a federally recognized tribal nation located in Wisconsin. The Ho-Chunk, whose name translates to “People of the Big Voice,” do not reside on a single reservation and possess territory in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota.
“The recovery of this canoe constructed by our ancestors provides additional physical evidence that Native Americans have inhabited Teejop (Four Lakes) for millennia, that our ancestral lands are located here, and that we had a highly developed society of transportation, trade, and commerce,” said Ho-Chunk President Marlon WhiteEagle. “Each individual who gathered and constructed this canoe from caagegu (white oak) infused a part of themselves into it. By maintaining this canoe, we are paying homage to those who came before us. We value our collaboration with the Wisconsin Historical Society to preserve not only the history of our ancestors but also that of our state.”
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