|30 September 2014
Earliest sign of human habitation in Canada
Researchers using a robotic submarine off British Columbia's northern coast believe they may have found the earliest evidence of human habitation in Canada. The site, which could date back almost 14,000 years, lies beneath hundreds of metres of water in the ocean around the Haida Gwaii archipelago, south of Ketchikan, Alaska.
Archaeologist Quentin Mackie from the University of Victoria has studied the area for 15 years, and believes ancient residents would have harvested salmon near the coast of what was then a single island that stretched well across the strait toward the mainland. At the time, the sea level was about 100 metres lower than it is today, and the main island twice as large. He and his team used an autonomous underwater vehicle to scan 25 kilometres of what were once riverbeds. "We're not quite ready to say for sure that we found something," Mackie said.
Mackie is hopeful the images show at least one stone weir - a man-made channel used to corral fish. The scan suggests a wall of large stones in a line at a right angle to the stream - a fishing technique used by many other ancient cultures. Based on radiocarbon dating from another archeological site on the island, the weir could date back 13,800 years.
A geologist will now study the images to ensure the rocks are not a natural formation, then the team will return next summer to take samples of the sediment near the site and to look for stone tools.
Ernie Gladstone, the superintendent of Gwaii Haanas, says Mackie's theory matches up with the oral history of the First Nations.
Edited from CBC News (23 September 2014)
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