1,200-year-old canoe pulled from lake: ‘A remarkable artifact’

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(Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society)

MADISON, Wis. (WFRV) – A 1,200-year-old canoe was pulled from a Wisconsin lake on Tuesday.

the Wisconsin Historical Society says Maritime archaeologists recovered a wooden canoe from the bottom of Lake Mendota on Tuesday. The canoe is estimated to be 1,200 years old and was in use around 800 AD. The canoe may be the oldest known watercraft in the state that is still completely intact.

Carbon dating would have been used to determine the age of the canoe. The Dane County Sheriff’s Office dive team helped raise the canoe from a depth of about 30 feet.

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

“The canoe is a remarkable artifact, made from a single tree, that connects us to the people who lived in this area 1,200 years ago. As the Society prepares to open a new history museum in 2026, we are excited for the new opportunities it provides for sharing Native American stories and culture through the present,” Overland said.

Officials say the canoe was transported to the Wisconsin State Archives Preservation Center in Madison and placed in a custom-made storage tank. The tub contains water and a bio-deterrent to help protect the canoe from physical deterioration.

A chemical solution will eventually be added to the tank, which will replace the water in the cellular structure of the wood. The conservation process is estimated to take around three years.

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