Category Archives: CANADA

Discovery of 1,000-year-old Viking site in Canada could rewrite history

Discovery of 1,000-year-old Viking site in Canada could rewrite history

The possible discovery of a 1,000-year-old Viking site on a Canadian island could rewrite the story of the exploration of North America by Europeans before Christopher Columbus.

Where: Point Rosee, Newfoundland What: the stones appear to be the foundations of a furnace

The uncovering of stone used in ironworking on Newfoundland, hundreds of miles south from the only known Viking site in North America, suggests the Vikings may have travelled much further into the continent than previously thought. 

A group of archaeologists has been excavating the newly found site at the Point Rosee, a narrow, windswept peninsula on the most western point of the island.  

The only known Viking site to date in North America is located on the northern tip of the Canadian island of Newfoundland

To date, the only confirmed Viking site on the American continent is L’Anse aux Meadows, a 1,000-year-old way station found in 1960 on the northern tip of Newfoundland.

That settlement was abandoned after just a few years of being inhabited and archaeologists have spent the last fifty years searching for any other signs of Viking expeditions to the other side of the Atlantic. 

American archaeologist Sarah Parcak, who has utilized satellite imagery to locate lost Egyptian cities, temples and tombs, applied the similar technology to explore the island, seeking for traces of lost Viking settlements. 

She was drawn to this remote part of Canada after satellite imagery uncovered ground features that appeared to indicate human activity.

Ms Parcak looked at modern-day plant cover to discover places where a possible Viking settlement had altered the soil by changing the amount of moisture in the ground. This was the method she had previously used in Egypt. 

After identifying a potential site, archaeologists discovered a hearth-stone, which was used for iron-working, near what appeared to have been a turf wall. 

“The sagas suggest a short period of activity and a very brief and failed colonisation attempt,” Douglas Bolender, an excavator specialising in Norse settlements, told National Geographic magazine.

“L’Anse aux Meadows fits well with that story however is only one site. Point Rosee could reinforce that story or completely change it if the dating is different from L’Anse aux Meadows.

We could end up with a much longer period of Norse activity in the New World.

“A site like Point Rosee has the potential to reveal what that initial wave of Norse colonization looked like, not only for New foundland but for the rest of the North Atlantic.” 

But there is not enough evidence for archaeologists to prove the Vikings settled on the site, as other populations also lived on Newfoundland after them. 

If the site is confirmed as a legitimate Viking settlement, this could lead to further search for other settlements, built 5 centuries before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World. 

Man Discovers Mysterious ‘Face’ On Canada Cliffside After 2-Year Search

Man Discovers Mysterious ‘Face’ On Canada Cliffside After 2-Year Search

According to Parks Canada, a man from whom he has searched for the face for over two years recently rediscovered a mysterious large face on the cliff of one Island inside the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

Hank Gus from the First Nation of Tseshaht, an Aboriginal tribe in the area, learnt about the face of the rocks in Reeks Island, part of Broken Group Islands for the first time.

2 years ago, when someone told him a kayaking tourist spotted the face in 2008, said Parks Canada First Nations program manager Matthew Payne. He added that Gus was not able to find the face until just a few weeks ago.

The strange face was spotted on Reeks Island in British Columbia, Canada

“Gus and some Tseshaht beach keepers recently discovered it a few weeks ago, and they were very excited to share it with us and the archaeologist we work with,” Payne told ABC News today. “We went out to see it recently, and it’s remarkable. It really is a face staring back at you.”

The face, believed to be about 7 feet tall, is similar to a wooden carving on the door of the Tseshaht administration office, Payne said.

“The Tseshaht has lived in the area for thousands of years, so we’re working with the First Nations to find out if there are any oral histories the face could link back to,” he added.

Now the Tseshaht First Nation and Parks Canada are trying to figure out if the face is a man-made or natural marvel, he said.

“Mother Nature is capable of creating all sorts of amazing things, though the face is very striking,” Payne said. “But we still can’t definitively say if the face is man made or not.”

Though the Tseshaht and Parks Canada would like to examine the face up close, the face’s cliff is treacherous, he said.

“The island has a rocky shoreline with lots of hidden rocks, and it can be dangerous, depending on sea conditions,” he said. “You need to know what you’re doing to go and look at it.”

The Tseshaht First Nation did not immediately respond to ABC News’ requests for additional information.

Iroquoian Woodland Village Site Discovered in Ontario

Iroquoian Woodland Village Site Discovered in Ontario

Excavation of an Iroquoian village site in southeastern Canada ahead of a road construction project has yielded more than 35,000 artefacts, according to a Kitchener Today report.

Representatives of the Six Nations of the Grand Reserve, the Haudenosaunee Development Institute, and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation have been working with archaeologists throughout the process. Archaeologist Barbara Slim said the village has been dated to between A.D. 1300 and 1600. 

The village site has yielded over 35,000 to date in the 400 square units that have been excavated. Those one-by-one metre squares of hand sifted soil have included evidence of permanent settlement, ceramics used for cooking and food preparation, stone tools and more.

A collection of example artifacts found in Fischer-Hallman excavation.
An archaeologist hand sifts soil
Archaeologists work to uncover artifacts on Fischer-Hallman.
A dig feature containing pieces of ceramic.

Associate Archeologist with Wood PLC Barbara Slim said that the company is working closely with the Region of Waterloo as part of the Fischer-Hallman road redevelopment. She said the site was initially uncovered in 2017 in the western end of the property, eventually found to extend to the East through construction monitoring.

“Usually in archaeology when you have a roadway you assume that… that extent of disturbance would completely have removed the site…” said Slim. “… in this case, it did the opposite; it capped it under one-point-eight metres of fill with four layers of asphalt – so we’re in the process of excavating that.”

According to their findings, Slim said the site being excavated is a late woodland village, dated to be from around 1300 to 1600. The investigation has found a permanent settlement with several longhouses, as well as a broad range of artefacts and bone material.

Some of the more interesting items from the excavation include carbonized evidence of bean and corn – a unique find dated to that time period. Also uncovered was a chalcedony projectile point, made from a material not found in Southern Ontario.

“… we know there were a number of different villages within the area – at least four or five that we know of. It is quite important to understand that time period in Ontario archaeology, and to get a better sense of how long we’ve been here,” said Slim. “I should mention we also found an artefact that dates to 4,000 years ago – that just goes to show this was a very important resource area where people were coming back (…) to utilize the resources available.”

Slim said an important part of the work of archaeologists is to work with local indigenous communities to do the work alongside them. The project is accompanied by several Indigenous field liaison representatives – including those from Six Nations of the Grand Reserve, Haudenosaunee Development Institute and Mississaugas of the Credit.

Matthew Muttart is the field director with Wood PLC and has experience working closely with these groups in the excavation process. He said that First Nations groups have brought traditional and cultural perspective to the artefacts being unearthed.

“I’m very fortunate to have them with me in the field because we look at the site and how to proceed together. We discuss our methodology and how we’re going to proceed – and that’s very useful for me,” said Muttart.

Due to the volume of artefacts found, the archaeological work is set to continue for the rest of this construction season, with additional work needing to be completed next year.

It’s expected that excavation costs will be higher than originally estimated, with additional costs for completing road construction work that will now need to be completed later. Excavation staff will be providing an updated report to Regional Council in the new year.

Slim said she’s optimistic that Fischer-Hallman Road will be reopened as planned by the end of 2020 with a 2-lane temporary road cross-section.

In the offseason, Muttart said artefacts will be cleaned, catalogued and analysed to see if they can find any patterns or answer any questions to get a better understanding of the inhabitants of the site.

“We try to engage with the general public with the First Nations groups and try to have the artefacts tell a story, educate people and give a perspective…” said Muttart. “We’re in this part of the world that have been occupied for at least 10,000 years; it has a very rich history and a history that Canadians don’t get a lot of opportunities to learn about…”

“We’re writing the last chapter of this site… so it’s really important that we’re doing it meticulously, giving it the respect and care that the site deserves – as archaeologists, we’re stewards to that’s our charge.”

Archaeologists on site are operating with a modified protocol due to COVID-19 – with teams of three now working separately with masks in order to ensure safe physical distancing. Slim said the important measure has slowed the operation down, but not enough to make a significant dent in the team’s schedule. Local students were also originally set to join the dig team – that measure has been postponed to the Spring should the COVID-19 pandemic be more under control.

“Every day here has been really exciting – every component of the site has evolved in a very unique way. It’s been a very challenging project from the beginning, but very interesting to work with the communities, to work with this great team we have here to unearth what’s preserved…”

Village in Canada: 8,000 years‘older than Egyptian pyramids’

Village in Canada: 8,000 years‘older than Egyptian pyramids’

Archaeologists on British Columbia’s Triquet Island have excavated an ancient settlement dating back some 14,000 years, to the last ice age.

Archaeologists working with the support of the Hakai Institute began excavations on Triquet Island last summer.

Since then, they have uncovered a number of artifacts linked to an ancient human settlement on the island, including fish hooks, a hand drill used to ignite fires, and a wooden device used to launch projectiles, called an atlatl.

Buried some 2.5 meters underground, beneath layers of soil and peat, they discovered something even more intriguing.

From the charred remains of an ancient hearth, the scientists used tweezers to painstakingly extract a few tiny flakes of charcoal.

In November, carbon dating of the flakes revealed the hearth was some 14,000 years old—thousands of years older than ancient Rome or the Egyptian pyramids. In fact, the Triquet Island village dates back to the period of the last ice age, making it one of the oldest settlements ever discovered in North America.

Alisha Gauvreau displays one of the artifacts from the site.
Researchers from the Hakai Institute and the University of Victoria, with local First Nations members, unearthed revealing artifacts on Triquet Island, around 310 miles northwest of Victoria, Canada. They’ve found fish hooks, spears, and tools to ignite fires. Thanks to the discovery of the ancient village last year, researchers now think a massive human migration may have happened along British Columbia’s coastline.

The newly discovered settlement is about as old as the spear tip found in a mastodon skeleton on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula in 1977. That notable discovery pushed back estimates of the earliest human occupation on the western coast of North America to around 13,800 years ago (about 800 years earlier than previously thought).

Discovery of the settlement may well impact our understanding of ancient human migration patterns, as it challenges the traditional story of how the first humans arrived in the Americas.

That theory argues that the earliest arrivals came to the region by crossing a land bridge connecting modern-day Siberia to Alaska some 13,000 years ago.

But according to more recent research, the land bridge route may not have offered enough resources to support the earliest migrants during their crossing. Instead, humans may have traveled via boat, and entered North America along the coast.

The find fits right in with the oral history of a First Nations government in British Columbia, the Heiltsuk Nation.

Alisha Gavreau, a Ph.D. student at the University of Virginia and a researcher with the Hakai Institute, told the CBC that the Triquet Island settlement “really adds additional evidence” to the coastal entrance theory. “Archaeologists had long thought that…the coast would have been completely uninhabitable and impassible when that is very clearly not the case,” she notes.

Evidence from the site also shows the people who settled there were “rather adept sea mammal hunters.”

Gavreau presented her team’s findings at the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology. Some 3,000 scientists from around the world attended the five-day conference, held in Vancouver.

In addition to its impact on current thinking regarding human migration to North America, the discovery of the settlement is a key development for the Heiltsuk Nation.

“This find is very important because it reaffirms a lot of the history that our people have been talking about for thousands of years,” said William Housty, a member of Heiltsuk Nation.

Such an affirmation will likely help the community going forward, as it negotiates with the Canadian government about territorial rights.

This Canadian Lake Hides an Underwater Ghost Town

This Canadian Lake Hides an Underwater Ghost Town

The Prairies are home to tons of hidden treasures, some of which are hiding right under our noses. Even though this lake is super popular and is located in a huge national park, few could ever guess a ghost town lies just beneath the waters.

The sunken city under Lake Minnewanka is a hidden treasure that few have seen and it’s waiting to be discovered.

Deep below the surface of the lake’s pristine waters is the sunken resort town of Minnewanka Landing. While it used to bustle with tourism and life, according to Parks Canada, its only residents are now trout and the occasional scuba diver.

Beneath the surface of Lake Minnewanka, located in Alberta, Canada, rests the remains of a former resort town.

The village was built way back in 1888 when the water levels were much lower. Soon, cottages sprung up, restaurants and hotels were built, and even a boat tour started ferrying travellers around the scenic lake. For a little while, life was great at Minnewanka Landing.

Over the years the town grew to include four avenues, three streets, dozens of cottages, numerous hotels and restaurants, and multiple sailing outfits that would take guests on boat excursions around the (much smaller) original lake.

It wouldn’t be until 1912 that the area’s landscape would start to evolve with the construction of a new dam—part of a Calgary Power Co. hydroelectric plant operation being set up downriver—resulting in the flooding of a good portion of Minnewanka Landing.

But while the town continued to thrive over the next two decades (42 lots were built to make way for additional cabin sites), it would finally meet its fate in 1941 with the building of a new dam, which raised the reservoir’s waters by 98 feet, engulfing everything in its wake.

“It was during the Second World War and everyone was hungry for power,” Bill Perry, an archeologist with Parks Canada, tells Smithsonian.com. “Calgary and the surrounding area were growing substantially during that point in time and required more power, so Lake Minnewanka was seen as an easy end.”

Today the reservoir hides a secret that many people will never get the chance to experience—unless they’re scuba divers, that is. Thanks to Lake Minnewanka’s glacier-fed, ice-cold waters, many structures of the former resort town still remain intact, including house and hotel foundations, wharves, an oven, a chimney, a cellar, bridge pilings, and sidewalks. (A full list of sites is available here.) Even the footings from the town’s original dam, built by the federal government in 1895, along with the footings from the dam built in 1912, remain visible.

Another notable site nearby is a native campsite that dates back thousands of years.

In recent years, archaeologists have uncovered spear points, arrowheads, ancient weapons known as atlatls, stone tools, and other implements used by indigenous tribes who once lived there.

“What is particularly interesting about that for me is looking at the whole area as a cultural landscape,” Perry says. “The area’s 13,000 years of continuous use absolutely fascinates me.”  

And Perry isn’t alone. He estimates that approximately 8,000 divers descend into the lake each year to explore its hidden past.

“Because of the cold, clear water, wood actually survives quite well down there,” he says. “That’s why it has become such a popular diving place for local scuba diving clubs. There’s just so much left to see.” 

3,800-year-old Underwater Potato Garden Uncovered in Canada

3,800-year-old Underwater Potato Garden Uncovered in Canada

Hundreds of blackened potatoes were pulled out of the ground at a prehistoric garden in British Columbia, Canada. Dating back to 3,800 years before the present, the garden was once under water, in an ecologically rich wetland.

Submerged rock pavement (shown here) would have allowed the indigenous people to control how far their tubers grew, making for easier harvesting.

And it shows sign of sophisticated engineering techniques used to control the flow of water to more efficiently grow wild wapato tubers, also known as Indian potatoes.

Archaeologists led by Tanja Hoffmann of the Katzie Development Limited Partnership and Simon Fraser University in British Columbia excavated the garden during roadwork on Katzie First Nation territory just east of Vancouver, near the Fraser River.

The site had been waterlogged for centuries, resulting in good preservation of plant and other organic materials like wooden tools that would have normally disintegrated over time.

In all, the researcher counted 3,767 whole and fragmented wapato plants (Sagittaria latifolia). Today, these plant are found in wetlands across southern Canada and the United State.

The ancient garden was found during roadwork on Katzie First Nation territory just east of Vancouver, near the Fraser River.

Though they were not domesticated, the chestnut-sized roots had long been important to indigenous peoples, and they are mentioned in some of the 1st ethnographic accounts of the Pacific Northwest.

Explorer Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, for example, were offered wapato roots at a native village near present day Portland, Oregon.

Clark wrote in his diary that the plant resembled a “small Irish potato,” and after being roasted, had “an agreeable taste and answers very well in place of bread.”

The ancient tubers that were discovered in British Columbia had turned dark brown to black in color, and some still had their starchy insides preserved.

Ancient wapato tubers from the underwater garden site.

The garden had been covered in tightly packed, uniformly sized rock, leading the researchers to conclude that this was a man made deposit.

Wapato plants can grow far underground, but an artificial rock “pavement” would have controlled how deep the roots could penetrate.

This would have allowed the harvesters to more easily find the tubers and pull them out of the muck, Hoffmann and her colleagues wrote in their study.

Besides this waterlogged garden, the archaeological sites also had a dry area where people would have lived. The researcher also found about 150 wooden tools that would have been used to dig out the plants.

Radiocarbon dates from the burnt wood found at the site suggest it dates back to 3,800 years ago and was abandoned 3,200 years ago.

The site could represent the 1st direct evidence of wetland plant cultivation in the prehistoric Pacific Northwest, according to the report on this discovery.

Miners Unearth 50,000-Year-Old Caribou Calf, Wolf Pup From Canadian Permafrost

Miners Unearth 50,000-Year-Old Caribou Calf, Wolf Pup From Canadian Permafrost

A mummified wolf pup and caribou believed to have walked Earth over 50,000 years ago were discovered with tissue and fur intact — a remarkable find, Canadian authorities say.

The caribou was found at the site of an 80,000-year-old volcanic ash bed and officials believe it’s among the oldest mummified mammal tissue in the world, according to a release.

It was discovered by gold miners, the wolf pub was remarkably well-preserved remains of a caribou calf and wolf pup that each lived more than 50,000 years ago.

The Ice Age specimens were found in the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Traditional Territory, a First Nation territory in Yukon.

Officials say the ancient caribou dug up from a site containing an 80,000-year-old volcanic ash bed now stands as one of the oldest examples of mummified mammal tissue in the world.

Gold miners in Canada have discovered the remarkably well-preserved remains of a caribou calf and wolf pup (shown) that each lived more than 50,000 years ago. The wolf pup’s remains were complete, with its head, tail, paws, skin, and hair

After miners first discovered the mummified animals in the Klondike region, researchers with the Yukon Paleontology Program recovered and conducted analyses of the remains.

With each still containing hair, skin, and muscle tissue, the experts say the discoveries are extremely rare.

The 50,000-year-old caribou and wolf pup could help to ‘shed light on Yukon’s fascinating Ice Age history and will help us understand how these long-gone creatures lived in the environment they inhabited,’ said Premier Sandy Silver.

Both of the mummies were discovered back in 2016.

The caribou calf was found on Tony Beets’ placer gold mine on Paradise Hill June 3 of that year. Beets are best known from Discovery’s show, Gold Rush.

The mummified wolf pup was found the following month.

Officials say the ancient caribou dug up from a site containing an 80,000-year-old volcanic ash bed now stands as one of the oldest examples of mummified mammal tissue in the world. Only the front half of its body remained intact

While the caribou carcass is missing some parts of its body, with only the front half still intact, the wolf pup was found to be complete, with its head, tail, paws, skin, and hair.

‘We found the caribou and our neighbours, the Favron’s found the wolf pup,’ Beets wrote on Facebook.

‘Such amazing things to be found here under the midnight sun.’

The discoveries hold special significance to the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, upon whose land they were discovered. Both animals will be on display for the rest of the month, before being moved to the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre in Whitehorse. The mummified wolf is shown

The two Ice Age specimens were unveiled at the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre last week.

And, they hold special significance to the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, upon whose land they were discovered.

‘For Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, wolf and caribou are very important and interconnected,’ said Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Chief Roberta Joseph.

‘The caribou has fed and clothed our people for thousands of years. The wolf maintains balance within the natural world, keeping the caribou healthy.’

Both mummified animals will be on display for the rest of the month, before being incorporated into an exhibit at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre in Whitehorse.

‘These specimens will help scientists learn more about the ancient mammal species that roamed Beringia, increasing our knowledge and ability to share the stories of this lost, ancient land,’ said Minister of Tourism and Culture Jeanie Dendys.

A Lost Japanese Village Has Been Uncovered in the British Columbia Wilderness

A Lost Japanese Village Has Been Uncovered in the British Columbia Wilderness

In 2004, archaeology professor Robert Muckle was alerted to a site within the forests of British Columbia’s North Shore mountains, where a few old cans and a sawblade had been discovered. He suspected the area was once home to a historic logging camp, but he did not anticipate that he would spend the next 14 years unearthing sign after sign of a forgotten Japanese settlement—one that appears to have been abruptly abandoned.

Brent Richter of the North Shore News reports that Muckle, an instructor at Capilano University in Vancouver, and his rotating teams of archaeology students have since excavated more than 1,000 items from the site.

The artifacts include rice bowls, sake bottles, teapots, pocket watches, buttons, and hundreds of fragments of Japanese ceramics. Muckle tells Smithsonian that the “locations of 14 small houses … a garden, a wood-lined water reservoir, and what may have been a shrine,” were also discovered, along with the remnants of a bathhouse—an important fixture of Japanese culture.

Dishes and bottles found at the site in the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve.

The settlement sits within an area now known as the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve, located around 12 miles northeast of Vancouver.

Muckle has in fact uncovered two other sites within the region that can be linked to Japanese inhabitants: one appears to have been part of a “multi-ethnic” logging camp, Muckle says, the second a distinctly Japanese logging camp that was occupied for several years around 1920. But it is the third site, which seems to have transitioned from a logging camp to a thriving village, that fascinates him the most.

“There was very likely a small community of Japanese who were living here on the margins of an urban area,” Muckle tells Richter. “I think they were living here kind of in secret.”

In approximately 1918, a Japanese businessman named Eikichi Kagetsu secured logging rights to a patch of land next to where the village once stood, making it likely that the site was once inhabited by a logging community.

The trees would have been largely harvested by around 1924, but Muckle thinks the village’s residents continued to live there past that date.

“The impression that I get, generally speaking, is it would have been a nice life for these people, especially in the context of all the racism in Vancouver in the 1920s and ’30s,” he tells Richter.

The first major wave of Japanese immigration to Canada began in 1877, with many of the new arrivals settling in the coastal province of British Columbia. From the start, they were met with hostility and discrimination; politicians in the province prohibited Asian residents from voting, entering the civil service, and working in various other professions, like law, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia.

Anti-Japanese prejudices boiled over during the Second World War, in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Days later, Japanese troops invaded Hong Kong, killing and wounding hundreds of Canadian soldiers who were stationed there.

Back in Canada, authorities began arresting suspected Japanese operatives, impounding Japanese-owned fishing boats, and shutting down Japanese newspapers and schools. By the winter of 1942, a 100-mile strip of the Pacific Coast had been designated a “protected area,” and people of Japanese descent were told to pack a single suitcase and leave.

Families were separated—men sent to work on road gangs, women, and children to isolated ghost towns in the wilderness of British Columbia. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, more than 90 percent of Japanese Canadians were uprooted during the war, most of the citizens by birth.

No records survive of the people who lived in the North Shore camp, and Muckle has yet to find an artifact that can be reliably dated to after 1920. But given that the inhabitants of the village seem to have departed in a hurry, leaving precious belongings behind, he tells Smithsonian that he suspects they stayed in their little enclave in the woods until 1942, when “they were incarcerated or sent to road camps.”

Eventually, per the CBC, the Greater Vancouver Water District closed off the valley where the settlement was located, and the forest began to take over.

Speaking to Richter of North Shore News, Muckle notes that, after nearly 15 years spent excavating at the site, he will likely not return again.

But he hopes to share his records and artifacts with several museums and archives— including the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre in Burnaby, British Columbia, which seeks to preserve Japanese Canadian history and heritage—so the forgotten settlement in the woods will be remembered for years to come.