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A Journey to a New Land

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Dr. Michael Wilson

Geology Department, Douglas College

Pre-Clovis Evidence in the Ice Free Corridor

The proof of the pudding, so to speak, would be that we would find very early archaeological sites in the corridor area and those sites would be measurably older than sites in the American mid-continent region. There, of course we have wellknown material of Clovis age that dates in radiocarbon years around 11,200 years before present. So we’d be looking in the ice free corridor for material that is older than 11,200 years, hoping that we’d have something that is older than Clovis. So the real search has been for pre-Clovis material in the Ice Free Corridor. Unfortunately, that material has proved very, very elusive. In fact, completely elusive.

The Ice Free Corridor area has now yielded Clovis-age material – the Wally’s Beach site in southern Alberta for example is a site, actually a complex of sites, an area of old wind-blown deposits now being re-excavated. Within that region there have been discoveries of Clovis points, of extinct fauna, extinct animals such as mammoth and camel, horse and large bison. All of them in a context that suggest a reasonable association, shall we say, between Clovis hunters and these animals.

There are sites such as the Vermilion Lakes site in the region close to Banff in the upper Bow Valley, but Vermilion Lakes doesn’t date back earlier than about 10,900, perhaps, in archaeological terms. There were some wood samples that were dated to just over 11,000 - almost Clovis age, but they are probably the burning of old wood, actually deadfall wood being burned in a campfire, so there would be a few hundred years of difference there.

Other sites in the Ice Free Corridor region include the Charlie Lake Cave site in northeastern British Columbia. That is a very tantalizing site because fluted points were discovered - the sort of projectile points, perhaps spear points, that suggested a linkage with Clovis, but there the dates were younger again. We are looking at people probably occupying the site around 10,500 – 10,600 years ago. Others sites – there is an early level at the Niska site in southwestern Saskatchewan. Again, it dates to between 10,000 and 11,000 years ago.

So thus far we haven’t managed to recover any compelling proof for archaeological sites that are older than Clovis in the Ice Free corridor.