Lac La Nonne Mitigation

excavation during the mitigation
Excavation during the mitigation
one of the stone points found at the site (front and back view)
One of the stone points found at the site (front and back view)

THE TASK

Tree Time Services was hired by Vandoo Land Inc. to undertake a Historical Resources Impact Assessment and follow-up mitigative excavation on the shores of Lac La Nonne, before the development of the land into an RV Park.

SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS

The development covered the better part of a quarter-section, with a number of landforms that had high archaeological potential. The development is located in the parkland region northwest of Edmonton. Little archaeological work has been done in the area, with almost no large-scale excavation. Going in, no-one knew exactly what to expect. The area was also densely wooded, with poor visibility, increasing the difficulty of surveying, mapping, and excavation.

Because the developer is a small, independent company we had to find a way to complete the project on time and budget without compromising the quality of the recovered data. Cost or time overruns could pose a serious problem for such a client.

OUR SOLUTION

The preliminary Historical Resources Impact Assessment was undertaken early in the spring of 2011. We identified a very large pre-contact archaeological site occupying a significant portion of the development area. Based on the presence of this site, we made a recommendation to the government to conduct a mitigative excavation and the government agreed.

Given the time and budget constraints of the developer we recommended a two stage excavation. The first stage would consist of several small excavation blocks to obtain a representative sample of the entire site and identify the most productive and interesting areas. Based on those results, a second stage could create larger excavations in the areas where it was warranted.

The mitigative excavation took several weeks but our team of archaeologists ensured that the project was completed before the ground froze and the snow fell.

RESULTS

We excavated almost 80 square meters of the site and recovered over 13,000 artifacts. We found archaeological remains providing evidence for the utilization of lake, shore, and land resources around Lac La Nonne from shortly after the glaciers retreated (over 10,000 years ago) right up to the present day.

The presence of various natural resources, such as fish, mammals, birds, firewood, fresh water, and a wide variety of plants and berries, would have made this location a very desirable place to live for the last several thousand years.

During this mitigation we collected a large and representative sample of the range of cultural materials along with excellent provenience data.

Satisfied with the work we'd done, we recommended that the Archaeological Survey of Alberta allow the development to proceed as planned.

scissors found during the excavation

TYPES OF ARTIFACTS FOUND

  • fire-cracked rock
  • animal and fish bone
  • stone flakes and cores
  • 80 stone tools
  • iron tools

ARROW & SPEAR POINTS

The stone tools recovered included 15 arrow and spear points and are probably the most interesting finds of the excavation.

We found six small triangular notched arrowheads commonly called "Prairie Side-Notched" or "Old Women's" points. These date from approximately the last 2000 years. Two of them were very small, and fit the description of toy arrowheads that would have been used by children "practicing" to hunt.

Six of the points are medium sized types that were used on a spear or dart thrown by an atlatl or spear-thrower. This is an older technology than the bow and arrow, used prior to 2000 years ago. Two of these points are of types called McKean and Duncan, and date to the period from 4200 to 3000 years ago.

Two tool fragments appear to be the bases of long, narrow points called the Plano series. These points were probably used on thrown or thrusting spears, before the introduction of spear thrower technology, from 10,000 to 8,000 years ago.