Discovered artifact could come from ancient hunters
It wasn’t exactly a needle in a haystack, but a leather strip on an ice patch comes pretty close.
Archaeologists working on the border of Jasper National Park and B.C.’s Mount Robson Provincial Park are cautiously optimistic that a knotted strip of leather will prove to be thousands of years old.
“We have pretty good reason to believe it’s prehistoric,” said Todd Kristensen, from Alberta’s Archaeology Survey.
In August, researchers visited Jasper’s Tonquin Valley and neighbouring Barbican Pass, just over the provincial border. As reported by The Jasper Local last month, Kristensen’s team was using caribou movement data from Parks Canada and the 2009 discoveries of 2,500-year-old wooden shafts in hopes they would uncover any significant artifacts which may give them clues as to who was using the area and what they were doing there.
“We’re trying to figure out where people were hunting caribou by going to the areas the caribou target,” Kristensen told the Local August 15.
And now, with the discovery of a leather strip, it seems they may have done just that.
“We feel really lucky,” he said. “It could be from a snare or a moccasin.”
Or it could be something dropped by a European 100 years ago. Interesting, perhaps, but not significant for archaeologists trying to find answers about thousand-year-old First Nations cultures. Still, even if the strip is determined by carbon-dating to be “young,” other discoveries the team made are rich in possibilities for related scientific fields. Ancient caribou antlers and petrified wood found above treeline could provide clues for biologists, climatologists and those who study the paleo-environment, Kristensen said..
“If we can start to get a handle on what’s happened in the past we can start to get an idea of what’s going to happen in the future,” he said.
The leather strip was spotted by researcher Courtney Lakevold while combing the edges of an ice patch which the team knew was frequented by caribou. Based on similar explorations in the arctic, the scientists were following the ancient movements of caribou in hopes they’d find information about the people who may have hunted them. Kristensen knows, however, that in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, often times years can go by without any new discoveries.
“To find an artifact right away here is very exciting,” he said.
Adding to the potential excitement, the team discovered what they think could be a spiritual “vision quest” site in the same general area. At the site, a distinct, human-fashioned rock wall faces the Ramparts. It’s possible that the wall could represent a spiritually-important place to local First Nations cultures, however, more work needs to be done to verify the age of the wall’s geological features and attached lichen life. Like the leather strip, the feature could be thousands of years old and represent a part of First Nations culture science knows very little about...or it could be nothing. Kristensen hopes to consult with First Nations groups to “see if we can connect those communities’ oral history with some of the things we found.”
Stay tuned to The Jasper Local as this story develops.