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14 August 2011
British Columbia village may be 10,000 years old

When Farid Rahemtulla and his anthropology students began to dig in the forest floor on Calvert Island (Canada) he pretty much knew what to expect - lots of clam and mussel shells. "Shell middens are the result of people discarding food remains, building structures, tools, decorative items, and hunting equipment," explained Rahemtulla. "They usually indicate ancient settlements, whether permanent or transitory." Shortly after the team from the University of Northern British Columbia started to sink pits into a shell midden (refuse dump) on the Central Coast, he realized it was much bigger than anyone imagined - so large he now believes it is part of a long-lost, ancient village called Luxvbalis.
     Dr. Rahemtulla works in conjunction with the Heiltsuk and Wukinuxv First Nation bands which claim the dig area as part of their traditional territory. He was drawn to that location because it was known to have an exposed midden. Middens are sometimes signs of village sites, although many are small deposits left by transitory groups that harvested shellfish and then moved on.
     Screening through the old refuse dump, the researchers found ample proof the people who once lived there subsisted largely on a marine diet of clams, mussels, salmon, herring, sea lions and seals. There s also an array of implements made from deer antler bones, rocks used to grind points on hunting tools, and weights for fishing nets. Dr. Rahemtulla said similar bone tools found at another site, Namu, have been dated back 8,000 to 9,000 years but he is still waiting for carbon dates on the new finds.
     "It is indicative of the link between use of land animals as a resource by coastal communities," Rahemtulla said. The large number of bone tools found could also be suggestive of ancient trade links between land and coastal people.

Edited from The Globe and Mail (7 August 2011), The Vancouver Sun (9 August 2011)

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