Ancient artifacts: 11,000 years ‘o history

By Laura Glick

University of Calgary archeologists have unearthed two spear points, believed to be 10,000 and 11,000 years old, from the shore of Lake Minnewanka north of Banff.

A team of field school students, along with supervising graduate student Alison Landals, have excavated the site for more than three weeks and made multiple discoveries.

“The site has been known for years,” explained U of C Archeology Field Studies Director Dr. Dale Walde. “But it was previously unexcavated.”

During this dig, U of C students found a Plainview spear point base dating back approximately 11,000 years. This particular artifact was found next to a prehistoric campfire, leading archeologists to speculate about its use.

According to Walde, the spear base is especially significant because it provides new information about a poorly documented time period in Alberta’s history.

“At the Plainview time level we’re starting to address questions about how people arrived in North America,” said Walde.

The second spear point excavated is 1,000 years younger and referred to as an Agate Basin point because of its age. There have been other Agate finds and the rough environment at that point in history is being mapped out.

“The find expands our knowledge of what Agate Basin people were doing,” said Walde. “Each site adds greatly to our knowledge.”

“The Plainview point tells what people
were doing 1,000 years earlier in the area,” he added.

The two points (the Plainview in particular) draw awareness to Alberta’s ancient history and inform residents that Alberta’s roots stretch farther back than most people realize.

“More people will get a better understanding that people were actually here about 10,000 years ago,” says Matt Moors, the second-year Archeology student who unearthed the Plainview spear.

Undisturbed finds at the Lake Minnewanka site are especially unlikely because of wind and water erosion that ravages the area annually. Key geological markers such as red soils become meshed with various types of debris making contextually correct digs difficult.

“It’s a miracle the site has survived,” said Walde. “Every year there’s the danger of erosion and destruction of information.”

A partial skull from an extinct Bison species, whose disappearance dates help confirm the dates of the spear points, was also found at the excavation site. Specific carbon dating results should be in by October.

The next move for the U of C team is to investigate in Fish Creek Park for three weeks. The timeline in the park ranges from 6000 bc to 1700 ad, presenting new challenges in the form of different excavating techniques.

“There are around 70 known sites in Fish Creek,” said Walde, who is thrilled the students have the opportunity to increase knowledge about Alberta’s ancient past.

“It gives students experience in excavating throughout the whole timeline of Alberta, from 1700 ad to 11,000 years ago,” he added.

For non-students, the Archeology department runs Public Archeology programs which give everyone a chance to visit a site and participate in the excavation process. For more information call 220-5228 or 220-5227 or visit their website.

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