Thursday, September 25, 2014

Big history underwater

This is archaeology?  Yup.
It has been sorta plausible for some years now that the Americas were peopled by migrants who began by moving down the coastline of western North America, possibly employing small craft, but surviving on the rich resources of the oceanic glacial edge at a time when it is unlikely that there was any habitable "ice-free corridor" in the heavily glaciated centre of northern North America.

Trouble is, most of the archaeological evidence for those early coastline people would be at least a hundred metres underwater, given the way glacial melting raised the sea levels and drowned the old shorelines. I recall hearing west coast archaeologist Knut Fladmark, an early exponent of this theory, speak years ago in almost science-fictional terms of the kind of submarine archaeology that would be required to test it.

Now it's happening.  On the theory that the best thing to search for deep underwater would be, not faint habitation traces or kill sites or human burials as you might on land, but substantial human-made changes to the landscape, some archaeologists and Parks Canada started reviewing sonar maps for the remains of fish weirs, places where people might have built up substantial rock structures to trap fish in falling tides.

Found 'em, maybe. There is a lot yet to be confirmed here.  But it seems that one of the large puzzles about how the human species went out and occupied the whole habitable planet seems well on the way to have a good evidence-based explanation.

The guy who said the finding of the Franklin ships was the biggest archaeological news in a century... maybe he will need to broaden his horizons.
Follow @CmedMoore