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A Journey to a New Land

Eagle and Raven
Multimedia Library

Dr. John Clague

Department of Earth Sciences, Simon Fraser University

Landscape of the McCallum Site

We’re looking south across the upper Fraser Valley here at the McCallum Site. Off in the distance we can see the mountains rising into the US, the Cascade Mountains. In the foreground is the Fraser Valley proper. This is a very interesting landscape. It’s a landscape that has been affected by glaciers during the ice ages. The ice here as recently as about 15,000 years ago was about 2 km thick. So if we were here 15,000 years ago, we would be under two kilometres of ice, which is absolutely amazing.

Of course all that ice has disappeared - the climate warmed at the end of the ice ages and the ice melted away. But there are little remnants of that period when the ice was melting in the landscape.

Interestingly, the McCallum archaeological site, which is directly below us, sits on one of those little remnants of the ice ages. It’s an area of sand and gravel that sits up against the valley wall that we are standing on. It drops down – it’s a terrace – and it drops downs to the level of the Fraser River floodplain, which is the surface on which you can see the houses in the distance and the farms. It’s the agricultural land which, prior to dyking of the river, was regularly flooded. But the McCallum terrace, the terrace on which people lived thousands of years ago, is elevated above that surface. It is probably partly for that reason that people actually chose that surface to live on.