Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Some Archaeology News from Alberta

A number of years ago I did a post about a Pleistocene horse-kill site that had been found in Alberta. This was the first Paleoindian horse-kill site ever found. A few years later a Paleoindian camel-kill site, also the first ever found, was located near by. The first assessment by Brian Kooyman, who excavated the sites, was that they were of Clovis age.

However, a new radiocarbon assay taken from the camel-kill site, indicates that the site is actually older than Clovis. Funding for the new study came from the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Texas A&M. (H/T Walter Hingley)

The second bit of news from Alberta concerns a bison-kill site that dates to about 2,500 years ago. The site is unusual for a couple of reasons. First, most Plains bison kills come in two varieties:

1. Jumps - where the animals are stampeded over a cliff and are killed or seriously injured in the fall
2. Traps - where the animals are trapped in a natural feature like a small box canyon, or in a man-made feature like a corral and then later dispatched

This site is apparent a very rare variety of trap, where the animals were caught in a bog or marsh.

Second, after the bison were butchered, some of the bone was treated rather strangely. The archaeologists found  eight arrangements of bison bones standing on end, perched in precise, almost sculptural patterns. I frankly had never heard of anything quite like that.

The projectile points shown above are mostly Besant corner-notched dart points that look similar to what we have in the same time period here in Colorado. The article talks about many of them being made of a type of stone found only in North Dakota, hundreds of miles away. Looking at this photo, it must be Knife River Flint, which was traded all over the Plains from Paleoindian times on. Archaeologists' colloquial description of the appearance of Knife River Flint is that it looks like frozen root beer. 

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