Tag Archives: pleistocene

ASBC Victoria Talk: Dr. Duncan McLaren on Late Pleistocene Intertidal Archaeology on the Central Coast of BC


Footprint (left) enhanced in purple right from the intertidal zone excavations at Calvert Island. Photo and enhancement: Joanne McSporran

This months Archaeological Society of BC monthly lecture in Victoria should be excellent.  Sorry for the short notice but it is tomorrow, Tuesday 18th, at 7.30, at UVIC.  Details below or on this PDF.  It is free and open to the public.

Hakai Institute Scholar and UVIC Anthropology Assistant Professor Dr. Duncan McLaren will be outlining some of the incredible finds from his Hakai Ancient Landscapes Archaeological Project (HALAP). Duncan set out to find early period sites on an area of the coast with relatively little long-term sea level change, following on from his highly successful UVIC dissertation research in the Dundas Group.  The area chosen for the new project was the Hakai Pass / Northern Calvert Island area, not far from the well-known archaeological site of Namu. Duncan will present some of his results, including newly investigated sites with more than 11,000 years of continuous occupation, intriguing lithic and other finds from the intertidal zone, and most intriguingly perhaps, a series of footprints from the intertidal zone which may well be terminal Pleistocene in age – perhaps more than 13,000 years old.

The research was carried out under the generous funding of the Hakai Institute and their Calvert Island research station, and with the active participation of the Heiltsuk and Wuikinuxv First Nations.

Details: Tuesday, Oct 18th , 7:30, Cornett B129, UVic Campus, Victoria. Map.

Duncan takes notes while Daryl Fedje works in the intertidal zone at the footprints site. Photo credit: Joanne McSporran

Duncan takes notes while Daryl Fedje works in the intertidal zone at the footprints site. Photo credit: Joanne McSporran

A cool new cave site near Tumbler Ridge?

Inside of Cave near Tumbler Ridge with members of Saulteau First Nation. Source: Mark Hume, Globe and Mail.

Inside of Cave near Tumbler Ridge with members of Saulteau First Nation. Source: Mark Hume, Globe and Mail.

Tumbler Ridge is a small coal-mining town on the eastern flanks of the Rockies, where British Columbia starts to resemble Alberta. It’s not a million miles, in distance nor in generalized setting, from Fort St. John (map), where Charlie Lake Cave remains one of BC’s most significant archaeological sites.  Charlie Lake Cave has radiocarbon dates of up to 10,500 years old (PDF), or possibly as old as 12,750 calendrical years or thereabouts. With interesting finds such as a basally-thinned projectile point reminiscent of a fluted point, and the deliberate burial of two ravens from the lower layers (PDF), combined with it’s location in the “ice free corridor” has made this site really significant for regional cultural history (PDF) as well as for larger issues in the peopling of the Americas debate.  (And see the new introduction/context to the Raven paper by Driver here).  The Cave was recently purchased by local First Nations, which is an interesting development with the goal of protection and developing a cultural tourism site.

Anyway, this post is not actually about Charlie Lake Cave, just to introduce the archaeological potential of caves in this general part of the province, a potential that is not really been realized yet. It’s cool then to see pictures of a newly discovered cave with some superficial archaeological findings near Tumbler Ridge, as pictured above and outlined in this good article by Mark Hume in the Globe and Mail.

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More on Manis Mastodon

Image from the Mammoth Trumpet. Source: CSFA. Click to enlarge somewhat.

While we wait patiently for the definitive word on the rumoured exciting new developments regarding the 14,000 year old, pre-Clovis Manis Mastodon site near Sequim, Washington, I thought it was worth a new post to pass on an article a regular reader of this blog brought to my attention.

The Center for the Study of the First Americans, the same organization who is now re-analysing Manis Mastodon, have for many years published a very informative newsletter they call the Mammoth Trumpet.  Some of the early issues are online, including one which has a 1987 report on the Manis site(PDF).  I had not seen this before (the whole archives are worth a post on their own) and the article has some interesting information, including the picture above.

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More on Puget Sound Clovis

From near Seattle, the Yukon Harbor Clovis Point. Source: LeTourneau 2010

Some time ago, I made a post illustrating that Clovis projectile points are known from a number of undated contexts in Puget Sound.  Most of these are surface finds, though a couple were buried in or under wetland deposits.  These were largely under the archaeological radar until Croes et al. briefly summarized the data within a book chapter on Puget Sound Projectile Points.  One of the wetland finds was from Yukon Harbor on the Kitsap Peninsula, across Puget Sound from Seattle, of which I previously posted a low-quality photo.  A short article describing this artifact has recently been published in the journal Current Research in the Pleistocene, and the author, Phil LeTourneau of Seattle’s Burke Museum, was kind enough to send me a copy.

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Big Bucks for Early Coast at OSU

Screenshot of PSAL Web Page.

It looks like big Northwest Coast projects on old sites are in the works at Oregon State University.  I came across a new blog which is the public face of something called the Pacific Slope Archaeological Lab with the mission of “Discovery, recovery, and interpretation of First Americans archaeology in the New World’s Far West.”  The blog points to a large number of projects which have been initiated or are planned under this research umbrella.  How is such a wide-ranging and ambitious research project possible?  A million dollar endowment making a fund under the direction of OSU Associate Professor Loren Davis isn’t hurting.

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Mammoth Wenas

Mammoth Wenas. Source: CWU.edu; painting by Bronwyn Mayo.

For the past few years, students and faculty from Central Washington University have been excavating terminal Pleistocene fauna, including a partial mammoth skeleton, from the Wenas Creek area just north of Yakima (map), and they have a nice website documenting their work.  Radiocarbon dates on the mammoth came back at 13,400 and 14,000  radiocarbon years ago, or about 16,000 calendar years ago.  Too old for archaeological interest!  Right?

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Speaking of Clovis

Michael Collins' Licence Plate - Just needs a "pre" fix.

Michael Collins' Licence Plate - Just needs a "pre" fix.

The Gault Site in Texas is a classic Clovis site, though one which awaits full and complete recording.  The site was purchased by old-school Clovis archaeologist Michael Collins to protect it – the previous owners would rent out digging time to pothunters.  Collins  then donated it to an archaeological trust – a stunning example of putting your money close to your mouth!  It has always been on my radar as a big site down in Texas with tons of Clovis stuff but frankly I had never looked into it that closely – other than indirectly through Collins’ excellent studies of Clovis blade technology, and an awareness that it had produced some of the earliest art known in the Americas (2, 3).  Any Clovis site is of interest, not just because Clovis is an unusual archaeological phenomenon, but also because the history of the discipline will see “Clovis First” archaeology as a classic example of a paradigm that got shifted, reluctantly.  And anyone working on the early periods in BC Archaeology is profoundly influenced by Clovis — whether that be the northeastern Ice Free Corridor sites, or on the coast where Clovis ages of 11,000 radiocarbon years ago are a benchmark for first peopling.

So I was interested to learn that there is 400 years of Clovis occupation here — pretty much the whole span of the Clovis Culture as now understood.  That’s not very overkill-and-move-on-ish.  Then I find out the dominant resources at Gault include frogs, small mammals, and turtles — not very big-gam-hunterish.  Now I read the Collins is reporting pre-Clovis deposits at the Gault Site — certainly not very Clovis-Firsty.  As  this article from a local newspaper in Waco states:

The latest evidence to debunk this theory may come from the Gault site. In the dig site now covered by the big white tent, archaeologists took a core sample in 2007 and found something startling: what appear to be manmade stone artifacts that differ from Clovis technology. That could mean Gault was inhabited some 14,500 years ago, Gault School officials said.

“That would be the nail in the coffin of Clovis First,” said Collins, the University of Texas archaeologist who has been the site’s chief excavator.

Collins, 68, said that when he started in archaeology in 1960, almost nobody questioned the Clovis First theory. Collins grew to doubt it, based on new discoveries in Chile and elsewhere, but it took a long time for alternative theories to gain traction in the world of archaeology.

“What I despised most among my colleagues was that they would simply dismiss your argument when they didn’t know anything about it,” he said. “Or they would ignore it.”

Today, the question of the first Americans is a wide-open debate, with scientists such as Collins suggesting Asian and even European colonization by boat between 15,000 and 24,000 years ago.

“When I first started doubting Clovis First a long time ago, maybe 2 percent of professional archaeologists considered the possibility of an earlier date, Collins said. “Now, that number is probably 95 percent.”

Maybe I haven’t been paying attention but, wow.  Gault Site has pre-Clovis and Michael Collins slams the “Clovis Police.  It’s a good day.