MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Soon the lakes will be completely ice free, and we will see lots of people out on canoes.
But there is one canoe in the west metro that will definitely not be going back into the water. That’s because archaeologists have just determined it is nearly 1,000 years old.
The rare and valuable canoe is on display in Long Lake, Minn., at the Western Hennepin County Pioneers Association Museum.
The canoe was discovered in Lake Minnetonka in 1934, when Gustave Gunnarson and his sons were extending their dock.
“They went out and started pounding the posts, one post they couldn’t get in. And so they thought, ‘Oh boy we’ve run into a rock or whatever.’ Anyway, they started digging and found a log,” said Russ Ferrin, the museum’s president.
That log looked turned out to be a Native American dugout canoe, likely constructed 600 years before the pilgrims arrived in America.
“It’s kind of funny, all these years, the kids would come in. All these people would come in and handle it and all that,” Ferrin said. “Boy, as soon as we got the word it was that old, it was ‘Keep your hands off of it.'”
The ancient canoe landed at this small museum in 1960.
Several months ago, archaeologists removed a sample of the wood and conducted a radiocarbon analysis.
“We dated it, or somebody dated it to maybe 250 years old,” Ferrin said. “So you can only imagine when they did the carbon testing and came back with a report that it’s a 1,000 years old, that changed things greatly.”
At 11 feet long and 1 and-a-half feet wide, it’s hard to imagine people using it.
“We assume it was used on Lake Minnetonka,” Ferrin said. “They’d go out fishing or whatever and probably knelt in it.”
Over the years, the canoe has moved around to different museums, but Western Hennepin County Pioneers Museum, just off Highway 12, is it’s permanent home.
They are in the process of building a case to protect it.
You can go check it out for yourself. The museum is open to the public every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Are there more like it here in Minnesota?
Yes, but this is considered the oldest one of its kind in the state, and apparently it’s in better condition that the others that have been found. They’re waiting on additional test results that will tell them what kind of tree the wood came from.
The archaeologists who did the carbon test are actually studying seven other ancient canoes that have been discovered around Minnesota.