Skip to page content

A Journey to a New Land

First people
Multimedia Library



Archaeological Site

Any location where human activity took place in the past. Archaeological sites range in size and complexity. Some sites, like pyramids or villages, are large, elaborate and complex, while others, like short-term camping sites and woodland trails, are very small and contain only a few artifacts.


A person who studies past human cultures through the objects they have left behind. A professional archaeologist usually has a university degree and is trained in how to collect and study archaeological data in a scientific way.


The study of past human cultures based on the material objects they left behind.


An object that was made or modified by humans. The most common types of artifacts found by archaeologists are made of stone or pottery, because those materials usually preserve the longest in the ground.


Bering Land Bridge

A large area of land that connected Siberia to North America during the ice age when sea levels were very low.


A stone tool that has been flaked on both faces.


A chisel-like implement used for carving or engraving.



A meat-eating animal.



A type of stone spear point made by people who lived in central and southern North America about 11,500 years ago. This term is also used to describe the people who made and used the spear point.


Composite Tools

Any tool that is made of more than one type of material, such as an axe that consists of a wooden handle and a stone blade.

Cordilleran Ice Sheet

The mass of ice that covered British Columbia and northern Washington State during the last ice age. It extended from the Pacific Ocean in the west to the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, and from northern Washington to southern Alaska.


The piece of stone from which tools such as blades and flakes are produced.



To gradually change or develop, often from a simple form to a more complex form.


Digging into the ground to explore an archaeological site. Many archaeological sites get buried over time by sediments, soils, leaves and plant material, and are located well below the present-day ground surface. Archaeologists must carefully remove the earth to reach the buried archaeological material.



A fixed, non-portable object that was made by humans, such as a fire hearth or a stone wall.

Flake tool

A piece of stone that has been removed from a larger stone core and then used as a tool. It may be further shaped or sharpened, or used as is.



The science that studies Earth – the materials it is made of, the processes that shape those materials and the changes Earth has undergone over time.

Glacial till

A mixture of boulders, rocks, gravel and sand that is carried and then deposited by a glacier.


A large, slowly moving mass of ice and compact snow. Today glaciers are found in the polar regions and in high mountainous areas.


Haida Gwaii

A chain of islands off the northwest coast of British Columbia. These islands are also called the Queen Charlotte Islands.


A piece of hard stone used to remove flakes from a stone core.


A possible, but not proved, explanation for something. Scientists develop hypotheses based on known facts, and then use them as a basis to further investigate a topic.


Ice age

A period of time during which glaciers covered much of the earth’s surface. The last ice age occurred between about 27,000 – 10,000 years ago. When used as a proper noun (Ice Age), this term refers to a geologic time period scientists call the Pleistocene (1.8 million years ago to 10,000 years ago). During the Pleistocene, a series of ice ages occurred, interspersed with warmer periods.

Intertidal Zone

The area along the ocean shore that is covered by water at high tide and uncovered at low tide.


Laurentide Ice Sheet

The mass of ice that covered most of Canada (except British Columbia) and the northern United States during the last ice age. At its maximum, this very large ice sheet covered an area of more than 13 million square kilometres.


A composite plant consisting of a fungus and an alga. Lichens are small and slow-growing and often grow on rocks or trees. They are usually grey, green or yellow in colour and are hardy enough to survive in harsh Arctic environments.



A very small narrow stone tool.



A glassy volcanic rock that is formed from rapidly-cooling molten lava, usually black to grey in colour. It was frequently used for stone tools because it produces an extremely sharp cutting edge.


Anything that is alive, or was once living. For example, wood and animal skins (and any objects made from them) are organic, but stones and minerals are not.



The science that studies extinct animals and plants. For example, scientists who study dinosaurs are called palaeontologists.

Pleistocene Epoch

A geologic time period from 1.8 million years ago – 10,000 years ago. Also see Ice Age


The period of time before written records were kept.


Radiocarbon Dating

A method used to find out the age of organic objects. The method is based on the fact that during life all plants and animals absorb a type of carbon known as 14carbon. After death, the 14carbon starts to slowly decay. Scientists know the rate at which 14carbon decays, so they can measure the amount left in an object and then calculate the amount of time that has passed since death. This method can only be used on organic materials such as wood or bone.

Radiocarbon years are not exactly the same as calendar years, because the levels of 14carbon in the atmosphere have changed over time. So, for example, 12,000 radiocarbon years is roughly equal to 13,500 calendar years.


Areas of land along the Pacific Northwest Coast that were not covered by glaciers during the ice age. Scientists have found evidence that plants and animals survived in these areas while nearby regions were buried beneath glaciers.

Retouched flake

A stone flake which has been thinned or sharpened by the removal of small flakes along the cutting edge.




A cool, grassy, treeless plain.


To inspect or look over an area of land to find out if any archaeological sites are present.



A cold treeless area with permanently frozen subsoil. The ground is usually marshy, and vegetation is limited mostly to mosses, herbs and small shrubs.