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20 October 2010
9,000-year-old British Columbian site under threat

Since 1969, scientists have dug deep into earth of the Glenrose Cannery archeological site in North Delta (British Columbia, Canada), and discovered artifacts and other remains that confirm that ancient First Nations peoples were using this location as a temporary summer food-gathering place as long as 9,000 years ago.
     It's certainly one of British Columbia's oldest heritage sites and it's also well known internationally, but as important and priceless as it is, that's still not going to stop the British Columbia government from building the $1.2-billion South Fraser Perimeter Road over it. And that's why a small gathering of concerned citizens and community groups assembled recently to hear R.G. Matson, a professor emeritus in archeology from the University of B.C., explain the site's importance and why it should be protected. "When I started work on this site in 1973, it was the first piece of West Coast archeology that I did, but ultimately, it may be the most important," he said.
     Previous archeological excavations show evidence of human habitation such as stone and bone spear points, knives and other tools, as well as animal remains including elk, deer, harbour seal, shellfish and salmon. Matson says the oldest traces have been found more than eight metres below the current surface and represent the Old Cordilleran period, which is between 5,000 and 9,000 years old.
However, from an artifact point of view, the site's most productive layers were found between about five and six metres deep, which represents the St. Mungo Period from between 3,500 and 5,000 years ago. The Glenrose site is unique because its deepest parts are much older than similar archeological sites farther downstream on the Fraser river, Matson says. "Some of the questions that future archeologists will have can only be answered by having this site preserved," he warns.
     Richelle Giberson, a nearby neighbour who is organizing a campaign to save the site, is particularly frustrated by a lack of information from the Gateway Project group, the B.C. government agency building the four-lane, 40-kilometre SFPR that will connect Deltaport with Highway 1 in Surrey. "Nobody at Gateway has any answers, other than to tell me there will be an impact on it," Giberson says. "Why are we building a freeway though this site?" A Ministry of Transportation spokesperson said Thursday that steps are being taken to minimize impacts on the archeological site, but declined to go into details.

Edited from The Province (1 October 2010)

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