Relict Shoreline Identification using Lidar in the Lesser Slave Lake Region

I’ve submitted a poster for the upcoming CAA conference in Whitehorse, Yukon in May. Check out my abstract and check back for research updates on our blog!

Advances in remote sensing technologies and industry-driven initiatives have precipitated the wide scale production of lidar-derived digital elevation datasets in Alberta. These high-precision terrain models have been instrumental for cultural resource management strategies and the identification of new archaeological sites in the province. Lidar has proven to be extremely useful in targeting of distinct landforms and topographic features present on the landscape, and in the development of archaeological predictive models. While most lidar analyses for archaeological site predictions are focused on the modern landscape, these datasets can also be used to identify ancient landforms that may have been more suitable for human habitation in the distant past. Review of lidar data from the Lesser Slave Lake region in northern Alberta revealed numerous strandlines, meltwater channels, and relict beaches related to changing levels of proglacial lakes in the lake basin. These previously unmapped topographic features reveal a fluctuating landscape during the early period of human occupation in the province, and provide an opportunity to identify potential locations of ancient sites around the Lesser Slave Lake basin. A combination of reconstructions of proglacial lake levels using strandline elevations and current predictive modeling techniques was used to identify locations reflective of this past landscape with high archaeological potential for sites. This information will be used to direct future surveys in the region, to identify archaeological sites that might otherwise have been missed by cultural resource management programs.

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Picture of the Week

Today’s picture comes from the Ahai Mneh site on the shores of Lake Wabamun, west of Edmonton, AB. This archaeological site has a long history of human occupation, from earliest hints of people in Alberta using Clovis technology, right up to the Late Precontact and Historic Periods. Featured here is a Scottsbluff point, made of classic Alberta quartzite. This projectile point type is part of the Cody Complex, which was present across North America between 9 000 and 7 000 years ago. Point such as this one are famously associated with large communal kills, where the hunters dispatched dozens of giant Ice Age bison in natural and built traps.

Picture of the Week

Today’s picture comes from the Ahai Mneh site on the shores of Lake Wabamun, west of Edmonton, AB. This archaeological site has a long history of human occupation, from earliest hints of people in Alberta using Clovis technology, right up to the Late Precontact and Historic Periods. Featured here is a Late Precontact side-notched arrowhead, made of a fine-grained black siltstone, that likely dates between 1000 to 300 years ago.

Picture of the Week

Today’s artifact is an endscraper, a tool used to remove the flesh and hair from an animal hide. The person who made this tool took a small pebble, split it in half, and then chipped fine flakes off the one end to create a steeply beveled edge. The stone blade would then be attached to a handle, and dragged across a stretched hide to scrape the unwanted flesh and hair away. This artifact was found at the Quarry of the Ancestors site near Fort McMurray, and is made of a high quality chert.

 

Picture of the Week

Featured picture this week is a bifacial knife, with fine retouch along the right margin to create a sharp edge. This knife is made from Knife River Flint, a stone material that can only be found in North Dakota, USA. Today’s artifact was found 70 years ago in Manitoba, Canada.

What is a Borden Number?

The Borden System is used to provide each archaeological site in Canada with a unique identifier, called a Borden Number. These identifiers consist of two parts – four letters (formatted AaBb) and a number separated by a dash. The letters represent the Borden block which is the geographical location of the site and the number indicates the sequence when it was identified.

The Borden System was invented by Charles E. Borden with the help of Wilson Duff in 1952 at the University of British Columbia. Charles E. Borden is sometimes referred to as the “grandfather of British Columbia archaeology” despite not having a background in archaeology. He was born in New York City in 1905 and then moved to Germany as an infant where he lived until at 22 he discovered that he was an American citizen. He returned to the United States and went to university in California to study German literature. Continue reading “What is a Borden Number?”

Why is Archaeology Important?

Archaeology provides us with the opportunity to learn about past cultures through the study of artifacts, animal bones and sometimes human bones. Studying these artifacts helps to provide us with some insight about what life was like for people who left behind no written record. In the case of historical archaeology the artifacts can help us to recognize that historic documents often don’t speak for all the people and can provide us with a picture of what life was like for people who are seldom responsible for the written record such as illiterate peasants in medieval Europe and pre-civil war era slave populations in the southern States of the USA.

In Canada and around the world archaeology has been used as evidence in court in the cases of Aboriginal land title claims to corroborate oral histories and to document land and resource use over time. Archaeology can be used to learn about the successes and failures of past cultures and societies. Knowing what has been tried in the past can help us to make better decisions about the future. Learning about archaeology and past lifeways can help to give us perspective about how life was compared to how it is today; this helps us to remember the hardships of people of the past and to recognize and respect that the technologies we take for granted today have been hard won by our ancestors.