A 1,200-year-old, 4.5m dugout canoe has been taken from Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin, after two divers stumbled upon it while riding underwater scooters.
The vessel was recovered from under more than 8m of water and brought to shore this week.
“This is the first time this thing has been out of the water in 1,200 years,” state archeologist Jim Skibo said.
Christian Overland, director and chief executive of the Wisconsin Historical Society, called the canoe a remarkable artifact, while archeologist Amy Rosebrough told Kenosha News that it was “extraordinarily rare.”
“We really don’t have anything like this from Wisconsin,” Rosebrough said.
Tamara Thomsen, a maritime archeologist, and her friend Mallory Dragt went for an underwater joyride on their scooters in June. In doing so, they noticed what looked like a “log sticking out of the bottom of the lake,” CNN reported.
When Thomsen investigated further, she realized it was a canoe. Weeks later, carbon dating revealed the vessel to be more than 1,000 years old.
Ancestors of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Native Americans, known as People of the Big Water, built dugout canoes in the area by burning the inside of logs and scraping them out with stone tools.
“Consider cutting down a tree that’s two-and-a-half feet [0.76m] wide with a stone tool and then hollowing it out and making it float,” Skibo said. “It must have taken hundreds of hours and a great deal of skill. You get a new appreciation for people that lived in a time when there were no modern-day tools to do this thing where they could do it quicker.”
Skibo said the canoe was still intact partly because it had not been exposed to the light.
“That’s one of the reasons we have to start preserving it,” he said. “There’s living organisms on it that are chewing away on it as we speak.”
The vessel is to undergo several years of preservation treatment and could end up in a proposed Wisconsin Historical Society museum in Madison.
“I’m an archeologist who tells stories from artifacts, and this is a great one,” Skibo added.
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