A new study by a team of archaeologists has found a site dating back 13,800 years, now underwater in the Juan Perez Sound off British Columbia in Canada.
The team, led by archaeologist Quentin Mackie of the University of Victoria, found the site earlier this Fall while studying the subject near the Haida Gwaii Archipelago. They found a fishing weir, which is a stone channel structure that was probably used to catch salmon, as reported by the CBC.
The archaeologists used an unmanned, robotic vehicle to examine under the waters around the islands. The weir they found is under 400 feet of water. The researchers say the area under water was dry land at sea level about 14,000 years ago, from the islands to what is now the British Columbia mainland. The area has been underwater since after the last Ice Age ended and a warming period began about 11,000 years ago. The archaeologists saw other formations on the sea floor that they also think may have been camps from around the same time. The area is said to be once inhabited by the Haida people.
The Haida have an old flood tale on Frederick Island that tells of how the peoples became dispersed in the “New World”.
A Haida story from the book American Indian Myths and Legends by Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz tells of a great flood that force people to move. An excerpt from the book:
“… the old people told them to stop laughing at the stranger. At that moment the tide was at low ebb, and the woman sat down at the water’s edge. The tide began to rise, and the water touched her feet. She moved up a little and again sat down. The water rose again, and again she moved back. Now she sat down at the edge of the village. But the tide kept rising; never before had it come so high. The villagers grew frightened and awe-struck. Having no canoes, they did not know how to escape, so they took big logs, tied them together into a raft, and placed their children on it. They packed the raft with dried salmon, halibut and baskets of spring water for drinking.”
The story goes on to say that as the woman kept sitting on higher and higher ground, the water just kept climbing. Waters covered their island and hundreds of survivors were adrift without anchors.
Therefore, stories like this may be actually be told history.
The waters and lands where the Haida people lived were apparently rich with fish and game and they had a social structure more like advanced agricultural societies. They had private property, ranked social classes and a rich history of culture and art.
The oldest artifact ever found previously in Canada came from near the same weir site in Gwaii Hanaas National Park Preserve from 12,700 years ago, so this latest finding constitutes the oldest ever evidence of human habitation in Canada.
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