Lake Agassiz Archaeology in Saskatchewan
Publication Type:Conference Paper
During 1965, 1966 and 1967, the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, has been conducting an environmentally-oriented archaeological research program involving survey-reconnaissance and test-excavation of prehistoric cultural deposits in areas of Saskatchewan that were contiguous to glacial Lake Agassiz. These studies have been generously supported by the National Museum of Canada and the National Research Council, and carried out under the supervision of Dr. Zenon S. Pohorecky, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon. Developing from Laurentide meltwater ponding with the late Wisconsin retreat stage about 12,000 years ago, glacial Lake Agassiz reached its maximum extent about 2000 years later, inundating a considerable area of Manitoba, and lesser areas of Saskatchewan, Ontario, Minnesota, North and South Dakota. During this maximum period (10,000 years ago), a channel of the lake literally cut Saskatchewan in half, extending from the Porcupine Hills in the east to the Clearwater River in the west. By 8000 years ago, Agassiz flood waters had receded from most of Saskatchewan, leaving remnants of its past in the form of beaches, shore scarps and other lacustrine deposits, The geographical area of our interest involves approximately one-third of the land area of Saskatchewan, and includes not only the actual lacustrine deposits, but drainage basins relatable to Lake Agassiz. To the end of the 1967 field season the focus of our archaeological activities has been toward east-central Saskatchewan. In the south, survey-reconnaissance and test-excavation has been conducted in the following regions: Kamsack, Porcupine Hills, Hudson Bay, Pasquia Hills, Porcupine Plaine-Bjorkdale, Tisdale, Melfort, Carrot River, Nipawin, Cumberland House andPrince Albert. Brief investigations of more northerly areas have resulted inthe excavation of the single-component Kitsakie Site on Dominion Island inLac La Ronge and the recording of several other ceramic sites on DeschambaultLake. These regions have yielded some 600 archaeological sites, includingflint quarries and primary lithic industrial centers (located on the outer shorelines of Lake Agassiz), secondary workshop sites (usually located outside the Agassiz lake basin), temporary and semi-permanent campsites of a seasonal nature, and what we have termed 'Prehistoric Highways' or local migration routes. A relatively rich historic Indian burial was salvaged from a site located along the Red Deer River east of the town of Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan. The palaeo-cultural materials that have been derived from 3 seasons of investigation of the lake shorelines and areas peripheral to the outer lake margins are complex and involve a considerable temporal span. No less than 25 cultural complexes appear to be represented, tentatively spanning the period from approximately 12,000-11,000 years ago to the present. From its initiation, this research program has been environmentally oriented. It is our view that a sound interpretation of the palaeo-cultural record is dependent in large part on the eventual reconstruction of the correlative palaeo-environments. Through such a correlation, it may be possible at least partially to determine the 'cultural choices' that were available to these early aboriginals, and to understand more fully the cultural dynamics of the human groups who inhabited this area.