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A Journey to a New Land

Osprey

Ancient Coastlines

If the first people did travel down the Pacific coast of North America, the coastline along which they traveled looked very different than the Pacific coastline today. At the time when they would have been making their journey, much of the earth's water was trapped in ice, and sea levels around the world were as much as 100 – 150 metres lower then they are today. Large stretches of coastal land emerged from the ocean floor off the coast of the Pacific Northwest. As the glaciers melted and sea levels rose, the ancient coastline was drowned, along with any archaeological evidence that early people may have left behind. So in order for archaeologists to find this evidence, they must first look for the ancient coastline.

Haida Gwaii sea floor

Archaeologists have used specialized equipment to map the sea floor off Haida Gwaii. They can identify ancient riverbeds and forest floors, providing more clues as to the possible location of archaeological sites.

© Daryl Fedje
Used with permission

 
Stone Tool

Archaeologists use special "grabbers" to pull up material from the ocean floor. In some places, they have found ancient tree stumps, proving that the land was once above the sea. In one grab, they found this stone tool! It is important because it could provide evidence that people were present on the coast at an early date.

© Daryl Fedje
Used with permission

 

But before archaeologists can say for certain that this tool is evidence that people were present on the coast, they have to make sure that there is no other explanation for the presence of the tool on the ocean floor. Can you think of any other way the tool might have reached the ocean floor if it wasn't left there by people who were living on the land long ago? (It could have been dropped out of a boat at a much later time).