Written by Ashton Snyder on
 May 30, 2024

Historic Discovery Of Ancient Canoes In Wisconsin

A groundbreaking archaeological discovery in Lake Mendota has left Wisconsin historians in awe. The Wisconsin Historical Society has uncovered a collection of at least 11 ancient canoes in Lake Mendota, with the oldest dating back to 2500 BC.

Fox News reported that the 4,500-year-old canoe, built around the same time as Stonehenge, discovered in a US lake has left experts astonished.

Unearthing Hidden Treasures Underwater

The discovery, made public by the Wisconsin Historical Society on May 23, represents a significant discovery for understanding the lifestyle of Indigenous peoples in the Great Lakes region. Two ancient canoes were initially unearthed in 2021 and 2022, prompting further exploration.

Dr. Amy Rosebrough, a prominent historian involved in the excavation, emphasizes that these findings provide a window into the past.

The historians located additional canoes along an ancient submerged shoreline, a testament to the extensive fishing, travel, and trade activities of the region's early inhabitants.

Despite the discovery's excitement, not all canoes will be extracted from the lake due to their delicate nature. Radiocarbon dating has confirmed that the oldest canoe dates back to approximately 2500 BC, around the era of Stonehenge’s construction.

Challenges Of Exploring Lake Mendota

Dr. Rosebrough points out, "Lake Mendota is a hard lake to work in." The discovery process is complicated by limited visibility for diving missions, necessitating the use of non-destructive remote sensing techniques for further investigation.

The youngest canoe recovered is from 1250 AD, highlighting a long history of canoe usage in the region. Among the artifacts recovered, stone tools identified as net sinkers were found within the first canoe, offering clues about the fishing practices of the time.

There is ongoing speculation about an ancient village site beneath the lake, although it has yet to be located. "Even without finding the village, these canoes and tools remind us of the long-standing human presence along Lake Mendota," Dr. Rosebrough remarks.

Preservation And Future Exploration Efforts

The hypothesis that canoes were intentionally stored in water during winter to prevent freezing and warping adds intrigue to the find, suggesting advanced maintenance knowledge by ancient inhabitants.

Smaller bodies of water like Lake Mendota, often overshadowed by the Great Lakes, hold unique stories crucial for comprehensive historical understanding, as emphasized by Dr. Rosebrough.

The Wisconsin Historical Society collaborates with Native Nations to ensure respectful and accurate representation of these discoveries, aiming to uncover and share the intricate histories of the regions they explore.

The upcoming Wisconsin History Center, set to open in early 2027, will feature exhibits on these discoveries, educating the public about Wisconsin's Indigenous peoples and their enduring legacies.

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