Late Pleistocene and Holocene Vertebrates and Palaeoenvironments from Charlie Lake Cave, Northeast British Columbia

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Driver, Jonathan C. Late Pleistocene and Holocene Vertebrates and Palaeoenvironments from Charlie Lake Cave, Northeast British Columbia.  Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 25:1545 - 1553.

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Charlie Lake Cave
British Columbia

Excavations outside Charlie Lake Cave, Peace River District, British Columbia, revealed deposits dating from 10 700 BP to the present. The earliest fauna (10700 - 10000 BP) was deposited when the newly deglaciated landscape was largely unforested and included bison (Bison sp.), ground squirrel (Spermophilus sp.), a large hare (Lepus sp.), snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus), and a variety of birds, including the Cliff Swallow (Hirundo pyrrhonota). By 10000 BP snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) was the most numerous mammal, indi cating the development of forested conditions. By 9000 BP the fauna resembled the modern Peace River fauna prior to European settlem ment, typical of a largely forested landscape, with wetland areas indicated by aquatic avian species. Subsequent Holocene climatic fluctuations are not evident in the faunal record.


Article Summary by Jonathan C. Driver, May 2015


            This article provides a historical interpretation of the animals and natural environment of Tse’K’wa and surrounding regions. The animal bones from Tse’K’wa are special for a number of reasons. This is one of the few sites in northern BC or Alberta that preserves a complete record of animal bones from the end of the last ice age to modern times. As a result, we have a glimpse into the local and regional environment around the site. Furthermore, the bones and teeth are preserved very well, especially in the earliest (oldest) layers.

            Because the animal bones tell us a lot about past environments, I decided to publish a description and interpretation in an earth sciences journal.  The paper complements the 1988 paper in American Antiquity that focused on the early archaeological materials. These are the two main journal articles that resulted from the 1983 excavations.

            There are two major environmental periods represented. During the late glacial and early post-glacial period the landscape was less forested than today, and there do not seem to have been wetlands near the site. Animals present include an extinct form of bison, quite a large number of ground squirrels, and a few bones of a large hare that is not the common snowshoe hare found in the region today. These all indicate a largely treeless environment. However, this period was relatively short-lived, and the second period at the site reflects many thousands of years in which the landscape was mainly forested, and included nearby wetlands. The mammals and birds of the second period are typical of the region and, with the exception of passenger pigeon that became extinct in the 19th century, could all be found within a few kilometres of the site today.


This item is part of the Tse'K'Wa (Charlie Lake Cave) Collection in Summit, the SFU Research Repository. We kindly thank the publisher, NRC Research Press, for permission to reproduce this work in Summit.

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Copyright belongs to the NRC Research Press. Reproduced with permission of the NRC Research Press.
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NRC Research Press
British Columbia
Charlie Lake Cave