|30 November 2008
The enigma of Lake Ontario's 11,000-year-old footprints
In the fall of 1908, while building a waterworks tunnel east of Hanlan's Point in Toronto Bay (Canada), a work crew came across 100 footprints in a layer of blue clay. The prints appeared to have been left by people wearing moccasins – 11,000 years ago. It was an astounding discovery, perhaps the first evidence of human habitation on Lake Ontario, but few recognized its significance.
"It looked like a trail ...," city inspector W. H. Cross said about what he saw that November day. "You could follow one man the whole way. Some footprints were on top of the others, partly obliterating them. There were footprints of all sizes, and a single print of a child's foot, three and a half inches..." He went on to describe the way the clay had shot up under the imprints of the heels, how the prints appeared to be heading north, and how he had tried to lift a piece of the clay to preserve the prints, but it broke away in his hand.
The group – likely a family, judging by the different sized prints – could have been walking from a hunting camp on the shore of Lake Ontario to what is now downtown Toronto. Back then, the shoreline would have been more than a kilometre further south. The story is told in a new book, 'Toronto: A Short Illustrated History of its First 12,000 Years'.
Tragically, the prints were not preserved. The tunnel workers were in a hurry to complete the job, and simply poured concrete over the clay. "If they were found to be authentic, it would have been the only discovery of footprints of the first people of Ontario," says archaeologist Ron Williamson, who edited the book and wrote the chapter on pre-European contact. "It would have been amazing." Though it seems shocking that a find of such potential importance was unceremoniously buried, a similar attitude toward the archaeological history of First Nations people prevails, he says. Without seeing the prints, it's difficult to evaluate their authenticity, Williamson says, though there's no reason to believe that Cross and company were exercising a hoax.
Source: The star.com (23 November 2008)
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