Saturday, December 17, 2011

Researcher Finds Ancient Tools Deep Below the Waters of Lake Huron

Earlier this year an anthropologist found a pointy stick a hundred feet down at the bottom of Lake Huron, dating back to 8,900 years. University of Michigan anthropologist John O’Shea. He found a stick likely crafted by human hands. Perhaps a stick to pitch a tent or hang meat. Something. But a relic of humanity.

Photobucket (photo from the Detroit Free Press)

The 5 1/2-foot long pole, tapered and pointed, is positively prehistoric — 8,900 years old based on carbon dating — and evidence of human activity along a land bridge that once linked northeast Lower Michigan to what today is central Ontario.

“The first thing you notice is that it appears to have been shaped with a rounded base and a pointed tip," said U-M anthropologist John O’Shea, who talks about the discovery and the search for ancient hunting sites in a video.

Before Socrates. Before the Odyssey. Before the Egyptian pyramids, people occupied the coast of Lake Huron. Ten thousand years ago, when Lake Huron and the upper Great Lakes were much smaller, prehistoric human beings lived along their coasts.

Underwater archaeology in the Great Lakes is a relatively new field, producing some exciting finds of human existence in North America. The most recent research is coming as a result of recent, detailed underwater mapping of the water bodies. The detail has helped scientists determine where the shallower coastline used to be, and then predict where human populations were likely to have been hanging out.

Two years ago University of Michigan researchers found evidence of ancient drive lines at the bottom of the lake; long rock structures that people would chase caribou toward, and as the caribou formed a single file line people at the end of the drive line would kill the week's meals.

Surveying an underwater ridge with side-scan sonar and remote-operated vehicles, John M. O’Shea of the university’s Museum of Anthropology and Guy R. Meadows of the Marine Hydrodynamics Laboratory discovered stone features that resemble those used today in the Canadian Arctic to hunt caribou. The submerged features date from about 7,500 to 10,000 years ago, when the lake’s level was much lower and the ridge was a narrow causeway that ran from present-day Michigan to Ontario, dividing the lake in two.

It's easy to forget, sometimes, that we inhabit an ancient land, storied and rich with human history going back thousands of years.

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