3,000-year-old canoe found in Wisconsin lake: NPR


A Ho-Chunk Nation woman smiles as she touches the canoe. Maritime archaeologists with the Wisconsin Historical Society recovered a 3,000-year-old canoe from Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin on Thursday.

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3,000-year-old canoe found in Wisconsin lake: NPR

A Ho-Chunk Nation woman smiles as she touches the canoe. Maritime archaeologists with the Wisconsin Historical Society recovered a 3,000-year-old canoe from Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin on Thursday.

Wisconsin Historical Society

Tamara Thomsen was teaching a scuba diving lesson in Lake Mendota, Wisconsin, when she noticed a piece of wood sticking out of the sand. His student didn’t think much of it, but Thomsen, who is a maritime archaeologist by trade, knew exactly what it was.

“It’s not a joke. I found another dugout,” she texted her boss.

The boat discovered in May was the second artifact Thomsen accidentally came across in the past year. In November 2021, Thomsen spotted a 1,200-year-old canoe while swimming in the same lake on her day off.

Archaeologists from the Wisconsin Historical Society — where Thomsen works — have determined that the most recent find is even older — about 3,000 years old, the group said Thursday.

Thomsen said that when the radiocarbon dating results came back, she wrote “1000 BC” on a Post-it note and watched in disbelief.

“It just makes you think of people who were in this landscape where I live, and imagine they were here hunting, gathering, fishing,” she told NPR.

The canoe is approximately 14.5 feet long and is carved from a single piece of white oak. It is believed to be the oldest canoe discovered in the Great Lakes region around 1,000 years ago.

The two boats were about 100 meters apart. Experts said the location and proximity of the boats suggest ancient villages may have existed where Lake Mendota is located and the shoreline may have changed over time.

3,000-year-old canoe found in Wisconsin lake: NPR

Wisconsin Historical Society staff and volunteers remove the canoe from its transport trailer and transport it to the State Archives Preservation Facility in Madison.

Wisconsin Historical Society


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Wisconsin Historical Society

3,000-year-old canoe found in Wisconsin lake: NPR

Wisconsin Historical Society staff and volunteers remove the canoe from its transport trailer and transport it to the State Archives Preservation Facility in Madison.

Wisconsin Historical Society

The 3,000-year-old canoe is thought to be the earliest direct evidence of water transportation used by native tribes in the Great Lakes region.

Members of the Ho-Chunk Nation and Bad River Tribe joined the Wisconsin Historical Society in recovering the canoe last spring.

“The recovery of this canoe built by our ancestors provides further physical evidence that the natives occupied Teejop (Four Lakes) for millennia, that our ancestral lands are here and that we had a developed society of transportation, trade and commerce. trade,” Marlon WhiteEagle, the chairman of the Ho-Chunk Tribe, said in a statement Thursday.

The two boats discovered by Thomsen will undergo a two-year conservation process.

Thomsen said archaeologists plan to work with the Ho-Chunk Nation to conduct the first systemic search in Lake Mendota and possibly uncover more canoes this winter.


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