Archaeologists conducting surveys of retreating ice patches in northern British Columbia, Canada, have uncovered over 50 perishable artifacts associated with ancient mining activities.
The findings, published in the Journal of Field Archaeology, offer a distinctive perspective on the intersection of ancient technologies and human activities in the region.
The artifacts were discovered near Goat Mountain and the Kitsu Plateau. The perishable items include stitched containers made from birch bark, wooden walking staffs, intricately carved and beveled sticks, an atlatl dart foreshaft, and a boot crafted from stitched hide. Such items are usually lost to decay when exposed to the elements, but advanced survey techniques allowed researchers to locate and recover them.
The study revealed a wide range of materials used in crafting these artifacts, with wood being a predominant element. Birch bark containers, projectile shafts, and walking staffs were among the items, many showing signs of being worked or used. Animal remains, such as a stitched hide boot and tools carved from antler and bone, were also discovered.
Carbon dating of the artifacts indicated varying timelines for the ice patch sites. Site HiTq-13 suggested a date between 3000–1500 years ago, while site HiTq-17 indicated a date of 6200–5300 years ago, and site HiTq-18 suggested a date of 6900–6750 cal BP. The artifacts’ association with a landscape rich in obsidian nodules, flakes, cores, and various tools suggests a connection with ancient mining activities in the Mt. Edziza area.
Obsidian, a naturally occurring volcanic glass, holds significance for Stone Age cultures due to its hardness and sharp edges, making it valuable for tool and weapon manufacturing. The study’s authors noted, “The vast obsidian quarries and the radiocarbon dates on the associated perishable objects provide evidence that obsidian mining has been practiced repeatedly in the Mt. Edziza area for multiple millennia.”
The importance of the discoveries goes beyond the artifacts alone, illuminating the connection between ancient mining practices and everyday life. The presence of obsidian artifacts alongside perishable items hints at the economic and cultural importance of the region, challenging previous assumptions about its historical use.