| 6 September 2010
4,500 year old settlement discovered in Canada
Archaeologists have discovered a 4,500 year old settlement on the Ausable River, near the shore of Lake Huron in Ontario (Canada). The find proves that people were living a sedentary lifestyle at that time, even though they lacked agriculture and pottery.
Among the discoveries is a 4,500 year old house - the oldest ever found in the province. "It's semi-subterranean - it's dug partially down into the ground," said Professor Chris Ellis of the University of Western Ontario, who led the team that made the find. After the house was abandoned it was hit by flood waters. Garbage was piled on top of it - something that helped the archaeologists reconstruct what the structure looked like. "Because we have the garbage lining the bottom of it we get an idea of the shape of it," said Professor Ellis. "Also we have the stains left by the posts (that) supported the roof."
"The house was basically circular," said Ellis. "It had an entrance on one side - there's sort of a narrow sloping entrance that faced the river and went down into the actual house pit." The house pit was a meter deep and five meters in diameter. This pit would have provided insulation, helping the inhabitants survive the Canadian winter. "A wooden roof with wooden roof supports would be put over top," he said. "You had this circular bench all the way around," said Ellis, extending half a meter off the ground. "We also found some remnants of what apparently are partitions and things like this that divided the house up into different sections."
Ellis said that the house would have been used as a single family dwelling and took a considerable amount of time and resources to build. The settlement is about two hectares in size - but only a tiny portion of it has been excavated so far. The rest of the settlement is known only through magnetic surveys and artefacts found on the surface. From the magnetic survey "We know that the site is just covered with buried features of one kind or another," said Professor Ellis. In one section of the site, a ploughed field, "There are literally millions of artefacts over the surface."
Artefacts found at the site include spear-points, bifaces, fire cracked rock and even a net sinker. The team has also found abundant organic remains including deer and fish bones, black walnuts and raspberry seeds. These finds suggest that the site may have been used year round. To the north of the 4,500 year old house the team found a storage area, a meter deep and 1.5 meters across. This is further evidence that, despite living a hunting/gathering lifestyle, people were here to stay. The site also had extensive areas for disposing of garbage.
Another house, found at the site, dates back to about 3,000 years, just before pottery was introduced into Ontario. An additional structure is even stranger - it doesn't seem to be a house at all. It, "was like a platform dug down into the ground," said Ellis. "It was full of deep pits that seem to be earth ovens that were used over and over and over again." It "could be a cook house or something like this."
Source: Heritage Key (31 August 2010)
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