Knife River Flint Dart Base

In the summer of 2013, Tree Time Services surveyed cutblocks for Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries in the Logan River area north of Lac La Biche and found an artifact protruding out of exposed sediment along a previously constructed oil and gas access road.exposure_resized - Copy

When we find artifacts in disturbed areas it is unfortunate because these artifacts have lost much of their informational value. By finding the artifact in situ – or in its original context – there is much more information that can be gathered about the site, such as an association with other artifacts or organics, which can be informative of the age of the artifact. If the artifact is a single stone chip or flake from making a tool the loss is minimal; however, in this case the artifact recovered was an atlatl dart base made from Knife River Flint.artifact

The artifact is an atlatl (or spear thrower) dart based on the width of the base (The neck widths of arrowheads tend to be a lot narrower and are typically corner or side-notched). The artifact could date to anywhere between 7,000 to 9,000 years ago based on the timeframe that atlatl technology was prominent and stylistic preference of stemmed points. The style of the projectile point is similar to the Scottsbluff style which is usually associated with spear points rather than darts. Based on this style we believe it to be dated to the early period of the spear thrower technology

The artifact is also interesting for reasons other than its age. The artifact is made of caramel-coloured rock called Knife River Flint which is found mainly in streams in North Dakota which means people were either trading for the material or travelling great distances to obtain it. For context, the location of the knife river flint quarry and the location of the artifact find were loaded into google maps:google

The story of the artifact: The stone this artifact was made from traveled over 1300 km through trade and migration. Upon arrival in Alberta the stone was crafted into an atlatl dart by an expert flintknapper. The dart was likely used several times to hunt game and was retouched or reworked to sharpen the point. Eventually the tip was broken off and the dart could not be salvaged resulting in the dart being discarded. The artifact sat where it was discarded for possibly thousands of years and was buried by sediment not to be seen again until it was exposed by a bulldozer and spotted by an archaeologist.

Archaeology on Deer Mountain

On Friday, April 15th at 7 PM Tree Time Services Sr. Project Archaeologist Kurtis Blaikie-Birkigt will be presenting  at the High Prairie and District Museum on ongoing research on Deer Mountain, Alberta.  On the weekend, Tree Time will be at the High Prairie Gun & Sportsmen’s show with a display of artifacts and replicas to help identify your finds.

DeerMountainPoint
Figure 1. Stemmed projectile point found by Darryel Sowan of Swan River First Nation during archaeological survey by Western Heritage Services for Alberta Plywood Ltd. (From Cloutier, 2006. Courtesy of Western Heritage Services)

 

Early archaeological research on northern Alberta was focused on big lakes. Large campsites were found on major lakeshores and were assumed to be related to seasonal fisheries. It was assumed that past people’s hunting forays into the hills and hinterlands wouldn’t have left much of an archaeological trace. When we started doing archaeological surveys for forestry cutblocks in 2001, we didn’t expect to find very much. The typical sites we’d find would be small scatters of stone chips and flakes left from making stone tools like arrowheads. Even those sites were almost always very close to major streams or other waterbodies.

Deer_Mouintain
Figure 2. Location of Deer Mountain. Note the distance from major waterbodies.

In 2005, I was part of a crew that did some pre-harvest archaeology surveys for Alberta Plywood on Deer Mountain (Figure 2). Earlier surveys had found a few sites there, more than would be expected in a place so far from major waterbodies. Even knowing there were sites there, our findings in 2005 surprised us. We found quite a few sites, they were richer than expected, included a unique local stone called Grizzly Ridge Chert (Figure 3), and we found a spear point similar in style to ones that date to 8000 years ago (Figure 1). Deer Mountain was an unusual place, archaeologically speaking, and was very eye opening to me.

GfPt-28-41_GrizzlyRidgeChertflake_cropped.jpg
Figure 3. Grizzly Ridge Chert retouched / utilized flake found on Deer Mountain in 2015.

Last year, I got to revisit some of the same areas for Alberta Plywood, with the benefit of another 10 years of experience, high resolution LiDAR imagery, and significant improvements in survey and site evaluation methods. We found more sites, bigger sites, and more interesting sites in places we didn’t even think to look in 2005. I came away with an even greater appreciation for how interesting Deer Mountain is, and for how much I’ve learned over the intervening years.

In this talk, I’ll touch on careers in archaeology, archaeological methods, how industry and government manage risks to archaeological sites, and a really interesting area in Alberta archaeology that’s barely been studied.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Figure 4. View to significant site GfPt-3 on Deer Mountain.

 

References:

Cloutier, Riel

2006      Heritage Evaluation of West Fraser Slave lake (Alberta Plywood Ltd. Division) 2005/2006 Annual Operating Plan Forest Harvest Developments, Slave Lake, Alberta. Archaeological Research Permit No. 2005-378. Report on file, Archaeological Survey of Alberta, Edmonton.

 

Radial Biface

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 large radial biface, made of a fine-grained siltstone. This artifact was found in a field adjacent to the site, having been turned up by a plow. While not exclusive, radial bifaces such as this one are commonly associated with the Clovis tool kit, dating back to 13 000 years ago in Alberta.

Biface from Slave Lake

This week we feature a picture of a biface found near Slave Lake, AB, a common stone tool in Alberta. The term biface is a generic stone tool classification, and simply refers to any thin piece of worked stone that has been flintknapped on both sides, or faces, of the artifact. So it can include tools like knives, arrowheads, and spear points, and certain types of cores.  This biface is made of a fine-grained quartzite, and has been extensively worked around the margin to create a sharp cutting edge. The artifact exhibits a waxy luster, or sheen, that may indicate that it was heated to improve the quality of the raw material.  Similar bifaces have been found in the foothills region and argued to be diagnostic of, or firmly associated with, the early middle period (5000 to 7500 BP) and referred to as Embarras Bipoints (Jason Roe, 2009, “Making and Understanding Embarras Bipoints: The Replication and Operational Sequencing of a Newly Defined Stone Tool from the Eastern Slopes of Alberta”).

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.

Scottsbluff Point

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.

Late Precontact Arrowhead

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.

End Scraper

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.

 

Long distance trade

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.

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.