A sample of Terminalia wood recovered from an ancient Polynesian canoe thought to be approximately 1000 years old, was examined by light and electron microscopy to determine the extent and pattern of degradation. A chemical analysis was also carried out. The secondary walls of fibres, vessels and parenchyma cells were extensively degraded but the compound middle lamella remained relatively intact. Vestures in intervascular pits were preserved, presumably by virtue of their high lignin concentration. Plasmodesmata were also preserved by infiltration with extractives thought to be tannins.