Tag Archives: James Skibo

August 3: Dr. James Skibo, WI State Archaeologist, Describes Humbling & Thrilling Discovery, Recovery, and Preservation of 1200 Year-Old Mendota Dugout Canoe

–submitted by Sharyn Alden

James Skibo, PhD. Wisconsin State Archaeologist at the Wisconsin Historical Society, easily mesmerized Rotarians at the August 3 meeting. He described the amazing find in Madison’s Lake Mendota waters, the now world-famous “Mendota Dugout Canoe” discovered underwater last year.

The canoe has been selected as one of the top ten archaeological discoveries in the world in 2021. The largest and oldest boat ever sailed in Wisconsin waters attracted media attention from around the world.

The canoe was found buried in a slope in 27 feet of water about 200 yards offshore near Shorewood Hills.

Tammy Thomson, marine archaeologist for the Wisconsin Historical Society who dives year-round, found the canoe during a pleasure dive. She first thought the 15-foot long dugout canoe looked like a buried stick. During Skibo’s program he showed an underwater photo of Thomson recording the find on her underwater notebook.

The 15 foot-long canoe probably carried two people along with a catch of fish, Fishing artifacts –‘net sinkers’ were found in the boat. Skibo said it likely took hundreds of hours to carve the canoe from the hard wood of a white oak tree. After discovery, the team had only about six weeks before winter set in to figure out to carefully extract the canoe from its resting place. Members of local tribes including the Ho-Chunk Nation, were among those consulted.

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On a cold day last November, it took about four hours to bring the intact canoe to shore.

“There were about 100 people on shore clapping and cheering,” said Skibo.”It was a humbling, thrilling experience.”

The canoe will be undergoing preservation efforts in the next two years before eventually going on display.

If you missed our meeting last week, you can watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gb1DNPwEOQ0