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A Journey to a New Land

Multimedia Library

Dr. Brent Ward

Department of Earth Sciences, Simon Fraser University

Port Eliza Cave & The Coastal Route Hypothesis

The Port Eliza Cave doesn’t either prove or disprove the coastal migration hypothesis. What it does is give us another piece in the puzzle. It tells us that on Vancouver Island, the ice cover was quite late. This is important because previous studies of the Cordilleran ice sheet have suggested that ice cover was quite early, say as far back as 20,000 years ago, and that it continued up to 12,000 or 13,000, maybe 14,000 years ago. That’s a very long window that glaciers would have covered the outer coast of Vancouver Island. This was one of the main criteria used to basically discount the coastal migration theory.

The radiocarbon analysis that we did indicates that the environment was fairly amenable to people up to at least 16,000 years ago and maybe even later than that. The other piece of the puzzle is the fact that we had an environment that humans could have survived in along the outer coast - that would have provided enough nutrients for them to survive if they could have gotten down to the northern part of Vancouver Island by about 16,000 years ago. It doesn’t really prove or disprove – if we had found some sort of archaeological remains in these deposits that dated to 16,000 – 18,000 years ago then we could have proven that the coast was likely used as a migration route. This just gives us some direct evidence that the environment along the coast would allow people to migrate further to the south.