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Footprints uncovered off B.C. coast could be oldest in North America

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« on: June 25, 2015, 12:12:27 am »


Footprints uncovered off B.C. coast could be oldest in North America

MARK HUME

VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail

Published Monday, Jun. 22, 2015 10:08PM EDT

Last updated Tuesday, Jun. 23, 2015 5:38AM EDT



More than 13,000 years ago, two adults and a child walked around a fire pit on Calvert Island, off the coast of British Columbia.

The footprints they left in soft clay near the shore were soon covered with black sand, which hid them until a team of archeologists led by Dr. Daryl Fedje and Dr. Duncan McLaren unearthed them recently, exposing what are believed to be the oldest footprints ever found in North America.
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The find adds to a growing body of evidence that the first people didn’t arrive in the Americas via an ice-free corridor east of the Rockies about 12,000 years ago, but rather followed a route down the Pacific Coast much earlier.

“It makes the hair on the back of your head stand up,” Dr. McLaren said of the moment the archeologists from the Hakai Institute and the University of Victoria made their discovery.

“When we started finding them, the excitement in the air was electric. It was really quite amazing,” he said Monday. “You know there is no doubt in my mind what we were finding. It was just really cool.”

The first find was made by Dr. Fedje last year, but it was an obscure, single print and its age wasn’t known. The pit was closed up at the end of the season before radiocarbon dating was done. Over the winter they got the first evidence they were looking at something extremely old.

“It came back at 13,200 years ago,” Dr. McLaren said.

“This year we decided to go back and open up the same area … and that’s where we discovered a [fire] hearth feature and a dozen footprints … I’m certain there’s more there,” he said. “Some are obscure and some are overlapping. But in some cases you could see individual toes and heels.”

He said the recently discovered prints seem to be focused around the fire pit, which has only been partially uncovered.

“It looks more like a family group hanging out around a hearth. There are several different sizes of footprints, and from what we can tell there are three different individuals represented. A larger adult, a smaller adult and a child’s footprints as well,” he said. “We could see toe prints [in one sample] and that is most likely barefoot, but there could be some kind of a moccasin [on others] … there may have been footwear, but we can’t say for sure.”

In recent years, archeologists have steadily been pushing back the date of the earliest human presence on the Pacific Coast.

Last year Dr. Fedje and Dr. Quentin Mackie of University of Victoria found a stone fishing weir estimated to be at least 13,700 years old submerged in the waters off Haida Gwaii.

Dr. Fedje has described the investigation of ancient coastline sites as “incredibly difficult” because the retreat of the glaciers meant sea levels rose, drowning many of the locations.

Dr. McLaren said the Calvert Island site is below the high-tide mark, which made things harder for the archeologists.

“Unfortunately, we are working in the intertidal zone, so you are racing against the tides when you are excavating there,” he said. “It’s a fairly remote place where you don’t have massive caissons [to hold back the water] or anything like that. So you are torn between these two fields: One that you should go very slowly and excavate very delicately, and the other is that you have to rush because the tide is coming in.”

Dr. Tom Dillehay, of Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, said the Calvert Island discovery is interesting, but more evidence is needed before it is scientifically verified and its importance can be evaluated.

Dr. Dillehay, who led the research that uncovered ancient footprints at Monte Verde in southern Chile, said making such a find is a startling experience.

“When we uncovered the footprint people were just stunned,” he said. “It is nice to have this kind of extra signature associated with an archeological record. … It kind of adds a human element to it that goes beyond just the [stone tool] artifacts.”

Dr. Dillehay didn’t want to speculate, but said it would be interesting to compare the Calvert Island footprints to those from Monte Verde, which in 1997 was confirmed as the oldest known site of human occupation in the Americas, to see if they suggest a link between ancient people in Chile and those in B.C.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/footprints-uncovered-off-bc-coast-could-be-oldest-in-north-america/article25069583/
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« Reply #1 on: June 28, 2015, 07:21:11 pm »


Ancient Human Footprints Found on Canadian Island May Be Oldest in North America
Posted by Blake de Pastino on June 26, 2015 in anthropology, archaeology, British Columbia, Canada, Ice Age, Indians, Native Americans, news, Paleoamericans, Paleocoastal Indians, Paleoindians | 2,866 Views | Leave a response

Tracks left along an ancient shore by a man, a woman, and a child on a remote island off the coast of British Columbia may prove to be the oldest known human footprints in North America, archaeologists say.
Calvert Island BC human footprint
One of the footprints being prepared for transportation. (Credit: Joanne McSporran/Hakai Institute)

The dozen prints, made in three distinct sizes, were discovered by researchers working on Calvert Island, a coastal isle in Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest that has turned up other evidence of human activity dating back to the end of the last Ice Age.

The first of the prints was found last year, filled with black sand and traces of charcoal, a sample of which was radiocarbon-dated to 13,200 years ago.

“If I can duplicate these results, this will be the oldest known archaeological site on the west coast of Canada,” said Dr. Duncan McLaren of the University of Victoria, in an interview.

Moreover, if confirmed, the find would unseat a trackway found in northern Mexico that was recently dated to 10,500 years ago, making it the oldest known set of human prints in North America.
[Read more about the original find: “Oldest Human Footprints in North America Identified“]

Though the newly found prints were unexpected, such ancient evidence of human activity is not unheard of on Calvert Island.

McLaren and his colleagues, including Dr. Daryl Fedje of the University of Victoria, made the find while exploring near the site of an ancient coastal village believed to be at least 10,000 years old.
Daryl Fedje and Duncan Mclaren at Calvert Island
Hakai Institute and University of Victoria archeologists Daryl Fedje (background, in red) and Duncan McLaren (foreground, in orange) at the dig site. Credit: Joanne McSporran

“We were specifically looking for archaeological deposits dating between 14,000 and 10,000 years ago,” McLaren said, noting that they were searching for artifacts like stone tools and bones.

“Based on our sea-level history work, we know that the shoreline was a few meters below the present shoreline during this period.

“So we began testing in the intertidal zone in front of [the] archaeological site … to see if we could find any intact deposits beneath the beach.”

After uncovering the first print in 2014, the team returned in April and continued digging test pits, revealing 11 more prints, along with the remains of a small hearth.

“The impressions are in a gray clay,” McLaren said of the prints.

“It must have been soon after they were imprinted that they were filled with black sand, which is also charcoal-rich.

“We are not certain if this sand and charcoal was blown or washed over the prints.”

McLaren said the prints appear to have three distinct sizes: one set that is 25 centimeters long, another 20 centimeters long, and the last 15 centimeters, about the size of modern child’s size-seven shoe.

“We could see individual toe impressions in the larger two sets of prints,” he said.

“This is not as clear in the smallest set, and Daryl and I have been arguing about whether this is because they were wearing footwear.”
human footprint on Calvert Island
One of the footprints in the waterlogged clay, seen with the toes seen pointing toward the bottom. (Credit: Joanne McSporran/Hakai Institute)

Though still preliminary, these clues seem to at least provide a glimpse into the life of early inhabitants of the Pacific Coast at a time when the Ice Age was just beginning its long thaw.
[See a related discovery: “11,000-Year-Old Seafaring Indian Sites Discovered on California Island“]

In a press statement, Fedje noted that such tangible evidence of daily life from so long ago is exceptionally rare.

“It is new to us in terms of focusing in and seeing the people-part of the picture, the cultural side, the action part, which is something we just do not get to see from this early time,” he said.

For his part, McLaren pointed out that a considerable amount of research remains in order to confirm the dates of the prints.
human footprint on Calvert Island
The same footprint color-enhanced to show the outline. (Credit: Joanne McSporran/Hakai Institute)

“We have lots of sediment samples which I need to work through and process,” he said.

“I hope to have a new batch of dates in the early fall.  It is my intent to date the gray clay, if possible, the interface between the fill and the clay, the fill of several prints, the hearth feature associated with the prints, and upper strata.”

Regardless of their precise ages, the discoveries made on Calvert Island will likely provide crucial insights into the earliest settlement of British Columbia, and perhaps the peopling of the Americas itself.

Along with other island sites, like those found on the nearby archipelago of Haida Gwaii, the newly found features may help scientists determine whether Ice Age migrants moved south from the Arctic along the Pacific Coast, or by a route farther inland, McLaren said.
[See artifacts found along the inland route: “Butchered Bones Found in Yukon Cave Bear Marks of Early Americans, Study Finds“]

“The oldest dated archaeological assemblage known before this is from Haida Gwaii, where a spear point was found in amongst bear bones in a cave, dating to around 12,500 years before present,” he said.

“This may provide some evidence that early peoples in the Americas entered via the coastal migration route.

“As far as I know, archaeological deposits from the ice-free corridor are not known before 12,500 years ago.”
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« Reply #2 on: June 28, 2015, 07:23:57 pm »

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« Reply #3 on: June 28, 2015, 07:24:42 pm »



Daryl Fedje and Duncan Mclaren at Calvert Island
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« Reply #4 on: June 28, 2015, 07:24:58 pm »

http://westerndigs.org/oldest-human-footprints-in-north-america-identified/
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« Reply #5 on: June 28, 2015, 07:25:24 pm »


One of the footprints in the waterlogged clay, seen with the toes seen pointing toward the bottom. (Credit: Joanne McSporran/Hakai Institute)
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« Reply #6 on: June 28, 2015, 07:26:23 pm »

http://westerndigs.org/11000-year-old-seafaring-indian-sites-discovered-on-california-island/

“11,000-Year-Old Seafaring Indian Sites Discovered on California Island“]
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« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2015, 07:26:53 pm »



The same footprint color-enhanced to show the outline. (Credit: Joanne McSporran/Hakai Institute)
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« Reply #8 on: June 28, 2015, 07:27:45 pm »

Regardless of their precise ages, the discoveries made on Calvert Island will likely provide crucial insights into the earliest settlement of British Columbia, and perhaps the peopling of the Americas itself

http://westerndigs.org/category/human-migration/
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« Reply #9 on: June 28, 2015, 07:28:27 pm »

http://westerndigs.org/butchered-bones-found-in-yukon-cave-bear-marks-of-early-americans/

[See artifacts found along the inland route:
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« Reply #10 on: June 28, 2015, 07:29:51 pm »

http://westerndigs.org/oldest-human-footprints-in-north-america-identified/
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