Uncovered by a group of teenagers in 1965, Weymouth’s aboriginal dugout canoe, or mishoon, was found partially buried in the shoreline at Great Pond during a drought. The canoe was carved from a white pine log and measures approximately 11 feet long and two feet wide. Carbon testing dates the artifact back to as early as the mid-1400s.
The recovered mishoon is thought to have belonged to a local Native American tribe from the Blue Hills. Tribe members would return to Great Pond in the spring, using the pond as a launch site to traverse Weymouth’s waterways and catch fish. Before returning to the Blue Hills in the winter, it was not uncommon for fishermen to bury mishoons in the shallow parts of ponds, thus keeping the canoes safe until next spring. The teenagers who discovered the mishoon turned it over to the Weymouth Historical Commission, which loaned the artifact for display at the Tuft Library where it has remained ever since.
Back in 1965, polyethylene glycol (PEG) was used to preserve the canoe after it was unearthed and dried out. PEG has been used worldwide on objects that have been salvaged from underwater, including the viking warship Vasa in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2014, the Town allocated $9,185 in Community Preservation funds to stabilize the artifact, repairing its cracks and building an airtight custom display to prevent further erosion. The preservation work was completed by Found Legends Restoration, a conservation firm operated by two Weymouth High School metal shop teachers.
Work on the mishoon is expected to preserve the artifact for at least another 150 years. Found Legends Restoration used a special glue to seal the canoe’s crevices. The artifact has been encased inside an airtight argon gas container to prevent mold and give protection from dryness, humidity, and insects. Argon gas is currently used by the National Archives in Washington, D.C. to preserve the United States Constitution and Declaration of Independence.