Tiny Minnesota museum's canoe a 1,000-year-old historic find

Thu Apr 10, 2014 7:36pm EDT
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By Kevin Murphy

(Reuters) - For 46 years, a canoe thought to date to the 1700s sat in the back of a display case as a minor exhibit at a small museum run by a volunteer historical group in Minnesota.

But this week, archaeologists who conducted radio carbon tests on the canoe said it was crafted almost 1,000 years ago, making it the oldest canoe in the state and shedding light on early navigation of Minnesota lakes.

"It was a total shock," said Russ Ferrin, president of the Western Hennepin County Pioneer Association museum. "It's been kind of in a background display; not much was made of it."

The association got the canoe in 1960 and placed it in the museum starting in 1968, Ferrin said.

The dugout canoe was hollowed out of a single large tree, said Ann Merriman, nautical archaeologist for Maritime Heritage Minnesota, which researched the age of the canoe and seven others as part of a Maritime History Minnesota project.

Indians made dugout canoes by first burning out the center of a felled tree trunk and then carving the inside, she said.

The canoe was found in 1934 buried in mud in Lake Minnetonka, a large body of water in suburban Minneapolis, by a family building a dock, Ferrin said.

It passed through various museums until the pioneer association acquired it and later put it on display at an old schoolhouse converted to a museum, Ferrin said. The museum is only open Saturdays and by appointment.   Continued...