An Enormous 2,500-Year-Old Canoe Was Just Recovered From A Swiss Lake In Remarkable Condition

Published September 20, 2023
Updated September 22, 2023

The canoe was discovered during an aerial archaeological scouting survey of Lake Neuchâtel in 2021.

Swiss Canoe Recovery

Cantonal Archaeology of VaudThe ancient canoe being recovered from a Swiss lake by archaeologists.

A huge and mostly intact canoe was just retrieved from the bottom of Lake Neuchâtel in Switzerland.

In 2021, archaeologists were surveying the lake using a small plane when they noticed an unusual shape in the water, later finding that it was an ancient canoe.

Now, they’ve pulled up the large canoe that’s estimated to be 2,500 years old.

The canoe was constructed from an oak trunk and measured about 42 feet long by three feet wide. Archaeologist Jean-Daniel Renaud said the canoe would have likely been used for fishing and transporting goods or people.

But after thousands of years at the bottom of the lake, Renaud said the canoe “is a very sickly old lady,” according to Swiss Info.

Parts of the sides of the canoe were damaged, likely by storms, and the end of the canoe that was buried in sediment at the bottom of the lake was badly cracked.

Swiss Canoe Closeup

Keystone SDA / Laurent GillieronThe canoe pulled from Lake Neuchâtel dates back 2,500 years and is in shockingly good condition.

Even still, the canoe found at the bottom of Lake Neuchâtel is one of the largest and most complete of its kind discovered in Switzerland.

“This is an archaeological discovery of considerable importance for our understanding of the prehistory of the region. Its radiocarbon analysis dates it to between 750 and 520 B.C., a time when there were no villages on the shores of the lakes. It is one of the very few boats from this period in Switzerland that has been preserved almost in its entirety,” archaeologist Nicole Pousaz said at the conference.

The canoe has been brought to a lab for analysis, where archaeologists will use photogrammetry and laser measurements to create a 3-D rendering of the canoe to see what it would have looked like when it was fully operational.

Lake Neuchâtel in western Switzerland has been home to many different ancient civilizations over thousands of years. The area’s strategic location led it to become a cultural exchange center, and many Neolithic and Bronze Age artifacts have been found along the shores.

Lake Neuchâtel

Wikimedia Commons Lake Neuchâtel has been home to many ancient communities over the last two millennia.

The lake was the site of the famous “La Tène Boat” discovery, a similar canoe pulled from Lake Neuchâtel in the 19th century.

And in 2015, geologists found what they dubbed “crazy craters” (Chez-le-Bart craters) at the bottom of the lake. They were looking for evidence of earthquakes or tsunamis in the area and instead found four huge craters below the surface; the biggest one was 525 feet wide and almost 100 feet deep.

“I never expected anything like this,” said lead study author Anna Reusch according to Live Science. “The craters were so interesting that we simply had to take a closer look at this phenomenon.”

The Swiss Alps have often caused earthquakes of up to magnitude 6, and scientists are researching the impact of earthquake- and landslide-caused tsunamis in Alpine lakes. Researchers discovered that tsunamis had wiped out villages on the shores of Lake Lucerne and Lake Geneva.

But the “crazy craters” were not caused by earthquakes or tsunamis. The team of geologists believe the craters were caused by erupting groundwater connected to an underground system of limestone caves and cracks.

Archaeologists hope these findings at Lake Neuchâtel will give them an even clearer picture of life in the area millennia ago.

After reading about the incredible intact canoe found in Switzerland, read about the 3,000-year-old sunken village found at the bottom of another Swiss lake. Or, read about the nearly millennium-old Native American canoe found in North Carolina.

Hannah Reilly Holtz
Hannah Reilly is an editorial fellow with All That's Interesting. She holds a B.A. in journalism from Texas Tech University and was named a Texas Press Association Scholar. Previously, she has worked for KCBD NewsChannel 11 and at Texas Tech University as a multimedia specialist.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Holtz, Hannah. "An Enormous 2,500-Year-Old Canoe Was Just Recovered From A Swiss Lake In Remarkable Condition.", September 20, 2023, Accessed May 28, 2024.