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article imageHeiltsuk village site on BC's Triquet Island is 14,000 years old

By Karen Graham     Mar 30, 2017 in Science
Some rare finds by archaeologists on Triquet Island on B.C.'s Central Coast are lending credence to the oral history of the Heiltsuk Nation that talks of a land that never froze, where their people have lived since "time immemorial."
One journalist described Triquet Island and its environs in 2012 as being reminiscent of a "giant's Bonsai garden." Located on B.C.'s Central Coast, Triquet Island has beautiful beaches, unlike many of its island neighbors with rocky shores. It is remote, accessible only by boat or seaplane. Over time, Triquet Island has become host to sphagnum vegetation along with peat bogs and bog forests.
Archaeologists from University of Victoria have been working sites on Triquet Island since 2012. Traditionally, scientists have assumed that the Central Coast island groups were used as corridors to somewhere else as mankind migrated out of Asia to the Americas. The central coast was basically a service area on the turnpike heading south.
Map showing Triquet Island.
Map showing Triquet Island.
MapCarta
First Nation oral histories have quite often proven to be based on fact. Passed down from one generation to the next, the stories are an important reminder of a people's history - Such is the case with the Heiltsuk Nation's oral histories. The Heiltsuk Nation's oral history talks of a place their ancestors found during the last Ice Age, a place that never froze, allowing them to survive.
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So archaeologists have been looking for some sort of proof that people not only used this region as a corridor but more importantly, used it as a place where people settled down and called home. One archaeologist Alisha Gauvreau, a Ph.D. student from the University of Victoria and a scholar with the Hakai Institute, along with her team, have been excavating several sites on the island for the past several years, searching for human habitation, according to the National Post.
The team has found a number of artifacts that date to over 14,000 years ago, during the last ice age where glaciers covered much of North America. Gauvreau says the site — which is one of the oldest sites of human occupation on the Northwest coast of North America — gives a new meaning to the First Nations concept of "time immemorial."
William Housty, a member of Heiltsuk Nation, says, "This find is very important because it reaffirms a lot of the history that our people have been talking about for thousands of years.
A very careful excavation produces results
The village site found on Triquet Island is three times as old as the Great Pyramid at Giza. Can you imagine that? The early inhabitants used a wooden projectile-launching device called an atlatl, compound fish hooks and hand drills used for lighting fires. We know this because these are some of the artifacts found at the site.
the conjoined ice sheets from the Rockies (the Cordillera ice sheet) and eastern Canada (the Laurent...
the conjoined ice sheets from the Rockies (the Cordillera ice sheet) and eastern Canada (the Laurentide ice sheet) blocked Alaska
University of Maryland
Archaeologists were able to date the site using a few tiny charcoal flakes they were able to isolate from a hearth-like feature they uncovered in a thin horizontal layer of soil called a paleosol, after digging down through layers of peat and soil. The charcoal flakes were sent off for carbon dating; In November last year, the dating results came back, revealing the site was over 14,000 years old, older than the Roman Empire.
The broader implications of the find
The findings from Triquet Island's archaeological site indicate early humans traveled the North American coast in a region that remained ice-free during the last Ice Age. The villagers were also adept at hunting, going after large marine mammals like walrus and seals in their early history.
It is interesting that the sea levels remained fairly constant over the millennia, however, this helped in recreating a linear history of continuous habitation on Triquet Island. It also allowed scientists to better record and understand finding that detailed what the early inhabitant's diets were like.
Eating habits changed with the villagers about 5,700 years ago. Their diet shifted to fin fish, while evidence of shellfish processing is found throughout the village’s history, right up to very recent times. The beaches on the island have the remains of fish traps and clam gardens, common to the early marine cultures of the west coast of North America.
Gauvreau presented her findings at the annual meeting of the Society for American Archeology on Thursday in Vancouver. The five-day meeting began March 29 and will go through April 2. The annual meeting usually attracts over 3,000 archaeologists from around the world.
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