Speaker Series: Flooded Landscapes

  • Aug. 10, 2011 8:00 a.m.

Submitted by Jordie Laidlaw, Gwaii Haanas Youth Reporte–Parks Canada archaeologist Daryl Fedje and his team have been researching the presence of ancient humans on Haida Gwaii for the past two decades. One of the most significant discoveries was a woven spruce root cord, a wooden wedge and a basket handle, each preserved in sediment, radio-carbon dated as 10,700 years old. To put this into context, these items were made 5,500 years before the first Kingdom of Egypt formed.Fifteen thousand years ago, Huxley Island, north of Burnaby narrows, would have been considered a mountain jutting out of the broad grassy plains that extended towards Prince Rupert. Over time, sea levels rose about 165 metres, changing the landscape dramatically by flooding the plains and submerging the village sites. The once massive mountain range became engulfed in seawater, forming the island archipelago that we know as Haida Gwaii. Years ago, dives near Huxley Island revealed what used to be a lake that is now 50 meters under the water, surrounded by a scattering of stone tools. Deeper, at 145 metres, the remains of an ancient forest were found, with parts of trees sticking out of the ground.While deep water archaeology in the past has shown us some of the history of Haida Gwaii during the Stone Age, intertidal archaeology this year has revealed even more signs of human habitation around Heater Harbour, from a few hundred years ago. The remains of fish traps constructed across streams, numerous culturally modified trees (CMTs), hand tools and a large stone structure indicate that there may have been a thriving community living there. The boulders have been removed from a large strip of the beach there for an unknown purpose, one possible explanation put forward is the people who did this may have been attempting to increase clam production by enhancing the clams natural habitat, but at the moment, why hundreds of metres of beach was cleared remains a mystery and an archaeological challenge that will keep Parks Canada archaeologists coming back for more.

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