Low Water Levels Reveal Riverboat Artifacts in Canada
These days, take a walk along the Yukon River in Whitehorse and you may spot things you rarely see — historical objects and structures typically well hidden under water or ice.
“Like, here is a log cradle, or a crib, used to support sternwheelers when they were pulled out of the river in the winter,” archeologist Ty Heffner of the Yukon government said as he walked along the river bank.
Water in the Yukon River system is very low this spring. Vast gravel bars flank the stream in many areas, and Heffner says lots of artifacts can now be seen in the mud and rocks.
That might include anything from old rusty nails and wooden logs and planks, to iron fixtures. “If you think about all the activity that happened here, there were sternwheelers that were built here, there were sternwheelers that burned here.
There were warehouses and wharves and all kinds of activity — and the historical evidence here just relates to that,” Heffner said.
“People can come down here and have a look at these items, and it just provides that tangible link to the past.” Murray Lundberg, an amateur historian in Whitehorse, says there’s a lot to see.
Most of what he calls the “good stuff” — things made of copper or brass — has likely been removed over the years, but there’s a lot of wood and steel all over the place.”
Anywhere there’s a calm spot, there’s a pretty impressive deposit of artifacts, still,” Lundberg said.”One of the problems we have right now is that nothing’s ever been cataloged because we’ve never seen the river this low — so it all has potentially significant historical interest.”
Lundberg says that’s why it’s best if people don’t pocket the things they find. “Collectors have done a lot of damage to sites like this — not just here, but everywhere,” he said.
According to Heffner, removing an object could also be an offense under Yukon’s Historic Resources Act.
“People, you know, might not really think about that or realize that these are protected heritage resources and that they should not take it away,” Heffner said.”These pieces of our heritage are best left where they currently are.”
Toppled Trees in Florida Reveal 19th-Century Fort where 270 escaped slaves died
A post overlooking the Apalachicola River, 200 years ago, housed what historians say was North America’s largest community of freed slaves at the time.
Hurricane Michael has given archaeologists an unprecedented opportunity to study its story, a significant tale of black resistance that ended in bloodshed. The site, also known as Fort Gadsden, is about 70 miles southwest of Tallahassee in the Apalachicola National Forest near the hamlet of Sumatra.
British lived at Prospect Bluff with allied escaped slaves, called Maroons, who joined the British military in exchange for freedom, along with Seminole, Creek, Miccosukee, and Choctaw tribe members.
The Negro Fort, which was built on the site by the British during the War of 1812, became a haven for escaped slaves. Inside, 300 barrels of gunpowder were stored, and defended by both women and men. Wary of the group of armed former slaves in Spanish Florida living so close to the United States border, U.S. soldiers began to attack.
On July 27, 1816, U.S. forces led by Colonel Duncan Clinch ventured down the river and fired a single shot at the fort’s magazine. It exploded, killing 270 escaped slaves and tribes people who were inside. Those who survived were forced back into slavery.
Managed by the U.S. Forest Service, which purchased it in the 1940s, the site has been preserved as a National Historic Landmark and park. Because of that, it was never excavated for artifacts, except in 1963 by Florida State University, mainly to identify structural remains.“It’s a really intriguing story. There’s so much new ground there that historians of the past never really got into,” said Dale Cox, a Jackson County-based historian.
In an ironic way, Hurricane Michael has changed that — an isolated upside of the devastating storm. The October Category 5 hurricane caused extensive damage to the site, toppling about 100 trees.
Most of the debris has been cleared, but under the remaining massive roots, archaeologists began this month to dig and sift through the soil, uncovering small artifacts and documenting archaeological features revealed by the upturned trees.
The effort is funded by a $15,000 grant awarded from the National Park Service and is in partnership with the Southeast Archaeological Center.”The easy, low-hanging fruit is European trade ware that dates to that time period.
But when you have ceramics that were made by the locals, it’s even more unique and special,” said U.S. Forest Service Archaeologist Rhonda Kimbrough. “For one thing, there’s not much of it, and we don’t have a whole lot of historical records other than the European view from what life in these Maroon communities was like.”
So far, Kimbrough and others have found bits of Seminole ceramics, shards of British black glass and gun flint and pipe smoking fragments. They’ve also located the area of a field oven, a large circular ditch that surrounds a fire pit.
The fort was recently inducted into the National Park Service’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.”It’s like connecting the sites, pearls on a string,” said Kimbrough, “because these sites, even though they’re spread all over the place, they’re connected by one thing, which is resistance to slavery.”
Historian Cox has been tracking down the former slaves who died at the fort and the descendants of the few who made it out alive, like Polydore, who escaped and was recaptured to work for Andrew Jackson. Cox found his descendants who now live in Louisiana.
It’s been a slow process of sifting through Census records, which are private for 72 years before release, international archives of Great Britain as well as Spanish archives in Cuba. But Cox is on a quest to name as many as possible.
The people who lived in the Maroon community were very skilled, he said. Many were masons, woodworkers, farmers. They tended the surrounding melon and squash fields, but little is known precisely about their day-to-day lives.
The area has always been ideal for settling, given its higher elevation and clearings amid the river’s mostly swampy perimeter, said Andrea Repp, a U.S. Forest Service archaeologist. Prior to European occupation, the site was sacred to natives and was named Achackweithle, which resembles the words for “standing view” in Creek, according to the Florida Geological Survey. Matthew Shack, a Panama City historian, praised the archaeological effort.
Shack, 76, is a descendant of Maroons. His great great grandfather escaped a North Carolina plantation, married a part-Native American woman and settled in Marianna. He remembers his grandmother’s stories about the Prospect Bluff community.
“I remember her telling us about the ‘Colored Fort’ and all the colored folk who died,” he said. “A lot of black history wasn’t taught. A lot of our history is lost, and some of it we won’t get back. I’m glad that there’s a renewed interest in capturing the history that I thought was lost.”
Angry Alaskans burned a village to the ground and executed 28 inhabitants by tying them up and knifing them in the head ‘in a feud over a darts game’ in the mid 17th Century
Archeologists have uncovered in Alaska a 350-year-old massacre that took place during a war that might have started over a game of dart. The discovery reveals the gruesome ways in which people were executed in a city and confirms part of a legend passed down by the Yup’ik people over the centuries.
A recent excavation in the town of Agaligmiut (which today is often called Nunalleq) has uncovered the remains of 28 peoples who died during the massacre and 60,000 well-preserved artifacts.
Agaligmiut had a large interconnected complex designed to facilitate defense, said Rick Knecht and Charlotta Hillerdal, both archeology lecturers at Aberdeen University in Scotland who lead the site excavation team.
“We found that it had been burned down and the top was riddled with arrow points,” Knecht told Live Science. Some of the 28 people found “had been tied up with grass rope and executed,” said Knecht, adding that “they were face down and some of them had holes in the back of their skulls from [what] looks like a spear or an arrow.”
When exactly the massacre occurred is not certain, though Knecht said the complex was constructed sometime between A.D. 1590 and 1630. It was destroyed by an attack and fire sometime between 1652 and 1677, he added.
The start of war?
The massacre occurred during what historians called the “bow and arrow wars,” a series of conflicts in Alaska during the 17th century. According to one Yup’ik legend, the conflict started during a game of darts when one boy accidently hit another in the eye with a dart.
The father of the injured boy knocked out both eyes of the boy who caused the injury, the story goes. Then, a relative of the boy who had both eyes knocked out retaliated, the conflict escalating as other family members of the two boys got involved.
The dart-game melee eventually resulted in a series of wars across Alaska and the Yukon.”There’s a number of different tales,” Knecht said, adding that “what we do know is that the bow and arrow wars were during a period of time [called] the little ice age, where it went from quite a bit warmer than it is now to quite a bit colder in a very short period of time.” The colder weather may have caused a food shortage that could have triggered the conflict, Knecht said.
Massacre at Agaligmiut
Stories passed down over the centuries tell how the people of Agaligmiut, led by a man called Pillugtuq, put together a war party and went to attack another village that went by various names, including Pengurmiut and Qinarmiut.
The people of this other village had prior warning of the war party, and they ambushed the fighters, killing or scattering all their warriors.
There are a number of stories about the ambush. In one story, women from the other village dressed up to look like men and participated in the ambush, using bows and arrows to attack the war party. Another story says that, shortly before the war party left Agaligmiut, a shaman warned Pillugtuq that Agaligmiut would be reduced to ashes, a warning that Pillugtuq ignored.
After the ambush, warriors from the other village proceeded to Agaligmiut, killed its inhabitants and burned Agaligmiut down. Since most of the men of fighting age were with the war party that had been ambushed, the slaughter consisted of mostly women, children and old men.
Archaeological discoveries confirm this, as the 28 bodies consist mostly of women, children and older men. “There was only one male of fighting age,” Knecht said.
Before the massacre
About 60,000 well-preserved artifacts tell what life was like at Agaligmiut before the massacre. The artifacts include dolls, figurines, wooden dance masks and grass baskets.
The permafrost kept the artifacts exceptionally preserved, Hillerdal said. “It’s amazing, a lot of these things could just be used today. Sometimes, we find the wood still bright and not even darkened by age,” Knecht said.
Wooden dance masks are some of the most interesting artifacts. “Oftentimes they depict a person turning into an animal or an animal turning into a person,” Knecht said.
The figurines and dolls were used for a variety of purposes, including religious rituals and as toys. A team from the 3DVisLab at the University of Dundee in Scotland has been using an Artec Space Spider scanner, which they acquired from Patrick Thorn & Co, to create highly detailed 3D scans of the artifacts.
The scans will be digitized into an education package to help students learn about the artifacts at Agaligmiut and what life was like at the site before the massacre occurred.
Research at Agaligmiut is supported by Qanirtuuq Inc., an Alaska Native Village Corporation in Quinhagak.
7,000-year-old Native American burial site found off Florida
The site was discovered by an amateur diver who was looking for shark teeth but stumbled on an ancient jawbone.
Archeologist Ryan Duggins noticed a worn – down molar tooth attached to the jawbone in a picture sent from the diver. This suggested it belonged to a prehistoric person.
State officials in Florida called finding an “unprecedented discovery.” The site began to be investigated by Duggins and his team from the “Archaic Period” located 900 ft (275 m) from the shore.
The burial grounds are expected to cover about 32,000 sq feet (3,000 sq meters) off the coast of Manasota Key.
Underwater, the team discovered densely packed organic remains, human bones, and sharpened wooden stakes and textile fragments, according to National Geographic.”
Seeing a 7,000-year-old site that is so well preserved in the Gulf of Mexico is awe-inspiring,”
In a Florida State Department press release, Mr. Duggins said, “We are truly humiliated by this experience.
“The site is believed to have been preserved in a freshwater pond thousands of years ago when water levels were 30ft (9m) lower, according to the press release.
The pond had a bottom covered in peat, which reportedly slowed the process of organic decay and allowed for the preservation of human remains.
“Our hope is that this discovery leads to more knowledge and a greater understanding of Florida’s early peoples,” said Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner.
The state said they are working closely with Native American tribes to ensure the proper treatment of the bones.
“We are happy to be working, shoulder to shoulder, with the Bureau of Archaeological Research and the residents of Manasota Key to identify a preservation plan that will allow the ancestors to continue to rest peacefully and without human disturbance for the next 7,000 years”, the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s historic preservation officer Paul Backhouse told the Bradenton Herald newspaper.
“The highest priority of all involved is to honor tribal beliefs and customs with respect to this ancestral resting place,” said the Florida Department of State.
Florida archaeologists have discovered other evidence of the Archaic period but say this discovery is remarkable because the site survived offshore through hurricanes and erosion.
“The vast majority of underwater archaeological projects have historically been focused on shipwrecks,” Mr. Duggins told National Geographic.