A small stone artifact : University of Northern British Columbia
Since Time Immemorial. It’s a phrase often used by First Nations to describe the length of time they have lived on their traditional lands. For First Nations and UNBC students participating in a recent archaeological dig west of Fort St. James, the phrase has new meaning.
Students participating in the field course have unearthed more than 200 artifacts and may have found an “earth oven” used for curing a kind of rock useful for making tools and weapons. This kind of earth oven is believed to be the first ever found in the Northern Interior.
The archaeological excavation had been occurring on the south shore of Stuart Lake, near the Paarens Beach provincial park.
Students Theo Ericksen and Jessica Oystryk.
The site was selected by the Nak’azdli Band based on oral histories that indicate the area was the site of an ancient village.
In fact, a key component of the field course has been to integrate oral histories with archaeological science and half of the 13 students participating in the course are members of the Nak’azdli Band.
“It’s important to actually get involved with our past and for the young people to understand where we came from and what we’re all about. In digging, we learn a little bit about our past,” says Carrier student Walter Tylee. “Even finding something as small as a flake is exciting. It might be just a little flake of rock but to think that someone was here maybe thousands of years ago and chipped that flake out to make an arrowhead or something like that is really exciting.”
Professor Farid Rahemtulla examines two of the artifacts found during the dig.
Highlights of the excavation:
- Students unearthed dozens of stone tools and more than one hundred stone flakes that indicate the manufacture of tools on site.
- Pieces of charcoal were found at various locations, providing an opportunity to use radiocarbon dating to precisely determine when the site was being used. The type of artifacts found indicates that the site was used from a few hundred to several thousand years ago.
- A number of cultural depressions dot the site. These may have been used for cooking, food storage, or heating rock. The largest earth oven was excavated to a depth of more than four feet. Soil samples will be analyzed for the microscopic remains of plants/animals.
“This excavation has been a remarkable success, both from the perspective of what we found as well as how we used this course to train local members of the Nak’azdli Band and UNBC students. This kind of experience is very unusual in North America for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students alike,” says UNBC Anthropology professor Farid Rahemtulla, who led the excavation.
“The northern and interior regions of BC have largely been ignored by archaeologists and the last excavation on Nak’azdli land took place in the 1950s. These students have become immersed in history and have gained great personal knowledge, but their work is also making a major contribution to our collective knowledge about the people who lived here thousands of years ago.”
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