Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lake Huron Produces 8,900 Year Old Artifact

It is always nice to confirm a likely human presence and at the same time confirm the likelihood of human origins for the stone structures observed.   These would otherwise remain forever controversial.

The Great Lakes were a great sea in the world of the surrounding stone age culture and as far as we are able to determine, agriculture was a latecomer although I suspect the possibility would have been investigated locally as early as five thousand years ago.  This is because of the intensive development of the native copper resources about Lake Superior beginning around then.  The progenitors would have had such knowledge and have been inclined to pursue it if it were possible.

Lake bottoms need to be well searched.  They provide natural traps for wood preservation unlike anything on land.   This is a particularly successful study.  The stones on land would have been dismissed as any nineteenth century farmer, everyone of which produced piles of stones.

Lake Huron find raises hopes in search for signs of ancient human activity

By David Runk, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press – 6 hours ago

DETROIT - The recovery of a pole-shaped piece of wood that's 8,900 years old and some 30 metres below the surface of Lake Huron has offered hope that more intact evidence of human activity will be found in the area, a University of Michigan researcher involved in the find said.

The wood, which is tapered and bevelled on one side in a way that researchers say appears deliberate, was found in July near the Alpena-Amberley Ridge, a now-underwater connection across Lake Huron that once linked the area of northern Michigan with Ontario.

The age of the more than 1.5-metre long piece of wood was determined using carbon dating, the school said. It is currently undergoing more detailed analyses to determine whether its shape is due to human modification, which visual examination suggests.

"The first thing you notice is that it appears to have been shaped with a rounded base and a pointed tip," John O'Shea, a University of Michigan anthropology professor, said in a statement. "There's also a bevel on one side that looks unnatural, like it had to have been created.

"It looks like it might have been used as a tent pole or a pole to hang meat."

O'Shea and University of Michigan colleague Guy Meadows, a professor of physical oceanography, began exploring the area in the middle of Lake Huron several years ago with support from the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In 2009, they reported finding a series of stone features that they believe were used by ancient hunters to send caribou to slaughter. The so-called drive lanes were located on the Alpena-Amberley Ridge, which was above water during prehistoric times.

Since 2009, O'Shea and Meadow have worked to identify human campsites. The wood was spotted wedged between boulders by a remote operated vehicle equipped with a video camera. Divers including O'Shea later retrieved the wood from the bottom.

The research was carried out in collaboration with the Great Lakes Division of the U.S. navy's Sea Cadets Corps and NOAA's Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, a 1,160-square-kilometre area off Alpena that contains treacherous waters and more than 50 shipwrecks.

Russ Green, deputy superintendent and research co-ordinator at the sanctuary, said that although the site where the wood was recovered is outside the boundaries of the sanctuary, the search for evidence of ancient human activity adds to current understanding of the region.

"It really helps to round out the maritime history in northern Lake Huron," said Green, whose agency has helped survey and dive in the area.

Researchers have collected other samples from the bottom of the lake that they hope will provide clues about the environment before it was submerged. So far, according to O'Shea said, pine pollen and charcoal have been found. More searches are planned.

"Slowly, the environmental picture is filling in," O'Shea said. "There was a marsh close by this site. It seems we're narrowing in on people, but of course forest fires could have created the charcoal as well as cooking fires. So we need to wait for the analyses to be sure about what we've got here."

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