Caves reveal thousands of years of history

By Charlotte Tarver-While scrambling around on Huxley Island doing an archeological survey in August, grad student Jenny Storey made an exciting discovery - a new cave under the roots of a blown down tree. Upon entering the cave she found an ancient stone knife blade lying on top of bare rock. "A drip of water coming down from the cave roof had washed away the dirt and exposed the knife blade," said Daryl Fedje, Parks Canada coastal archeologist and leader of a team working on a project to uncover evidence that people inhabited Haida Gwaii more than 14,000 years ago. "It is in an area that was surveyed before but a tree blew down and under the roots was the cave." The team explored the new cave and on their way out they made another exciting discovery when they noticed a spear point sitting on the surface. It is rare for archeologists to find artifacts without digging and sifting through thousands of years of dirt and debris. Spear points, knife blades and stone flakes previously found in two Haida Gwaii caves - one on the west side of Moresby Island (Cave 1) and the Gaadu Din cave on Huxley Island - are now dated to be 11,400 to 13,000 years old. Mr. Fedje thinks radiocarbon dating will show the newly-found bi-facial knife blade and spear point to be about 12,000 years old. "We don't know yet... the spear point, in terms of character, is very similar to Cave 1." "The oldest clear evidence for archeological remains (on the islands) is 10,600 BP (about 13,000 years ago) from material obtained from the two caves," said Mr. Fedje.
In the two caves, archeologists have also found bones, skulls, and teeth of ancient grizzly bears, fox, deer and dogs. Grizzly bears, deer and fox went extinct on the Islands over 9,000 years ago due to environmental changes such as rising sea levels and higher temperatures. In the Gaadu Din cave, thousands of salmon bones were found. DNA testing on the salmon bones show they were sockeye. This summer more archeological and paleontological material was collected on Huxley Island including a grizzly bear skull and five artifacts. "An analysis is underway, we are putting together the story now... there are so many little stories," Mr. Fedje said. Mr. Fedje believes sea levels were 100 metres lower 13,000 years ago and that Section Cove off Huxley Island was once a lake. He and other Parks Canada archeologists are presently doing underwater surveys of Section Cove to get detailed imagery of the ocean floor and next year they will do underwater excavations there.