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Stratigraphy, Radiocarbon Dating and Culture History of Charlie Lake Cave, British Columbia

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Three seasons of fieldwork at Charlie Lake Cave, British Columbia, have revealed a sequence of stratified deposits that spans the Late Pleistocene and entire Holocene. Analyses of sediments, radiocarbon dates, faunal remains, and artifacts show that the site was first occupied by people at about 10 500 B.P., when local environments were more open than today. By 9500 B.P., boreal forest had moved into the area, and human use of the site was minimal until about 7000 B.P., when a brief occupation of the site probably included a human burial. Use of the site intensified after about 4500 B.P., possibly because the cave became more accessible. The site was used both as a residential base camp and as a more temporary hunting station or lookout. Article Summary by Jonathan C. Driver, May 2015 After we had completed our excavations in 1991 we decided that we should focus on writing up what we had excavated, and not undertake further excavations at the site. This paper was written to summarize our state of knowledge about the archaeological remains at the site, and focused on describing the stone tools, the overall stratigraphy, and the dating. The stratigraphic summary replaced earlier work based on the 1983 excavations, and we were able to refine our dating of the site as a result of more radiocarbon dates. The different cultural periods were based mainly on the work done by Martin Handly for his M.A. thesis at Trent University.The long list of authors reflects the need for a team approach to archaeological work, and include the project directors (Knut Fladmark and Jon Driver), stone tool analysis and development of the cultural sequence (Martin Handly), animal bone analysis (Randall Preston and Jon Driver), sediment analysis (Greg Sullivan and Knut Fladmark), and radiocarbon dating (Erle Nelson).The most important aspect of the site is that it preserves a very rare record of humanly made artifacts dating from the end of the last ice age (at least 10,500 BC) to very recent times. The many layers at the site allow us to separate the different cultural periods. Good preservation of bone allowed us to submit radiocarbon dates that provide approximate ages for the various cultures that used the site.The artifacts that exhibit the most change through time are projectile points – the sharp stone tips for spears, darts and arrows. In much of western Canada it is difficult to date archaeological sites, because many of them are found in shallow soils where radiocarbon dating is difficult for two reasons. First, animal bone is often not preserved due to the acidic nature of the soils. Second, although charcoal is often found, it cannot be reliably associated with human activity, because natural forest fires also produce charcoal. As a result, archaeologists look at the style of the projectile points to assign approximate ages. Tse’K’wa provides an opportunity to link artifacts of different styles to radiocarbon dates in a site with many distinct layers. So Tse’K’wa is a foundation for understanding the sequence of different cultures in the region.The article also discusses the possible early presence of microblade technology. Microblades are the most efficient way of producing a cutting edge when the base technology is chipped stone. A small piece of high-quality raw material (known as the core) is shaped in such a way that numerous parallel-sided slivers of stone can be removed. These “microblades” can then be hafted in wood or antler to form knives or arrow barbs. The concept is rather like our utility knives that have replaceable blades. This technology allows people to carry small quantities of high quality stone with them, ensuring that they always have a sharp blade available. Not all archaeologists agree that the early microblade core from Tse’K’wa is part of this technology, because it doesn’t conform to the classic methods of core manufacture. However, we argue that evidence for the removal of microblades is very obvious, and the lack of classic core preparation is because of the tabular nature of the raw material.The paper also introduces some information about animal bones, including the raven burials, evidence for environmental change, and the presence of collared lemming. These topics were subsequently explored in more detail in other papers.
This item is part of the Tse'K'Wa (Charlie Lake Cave) Collection in Summit, the SFU Research Repository. We kindly thank the publisher, Arctic Institute of North America, for permission to reproduce this work in Summit.
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Driver, J.C., Handly, Martin, Fladmark, Knut R., Nelson, D. Earle, Sullivan, Gregg M., and Preston, Randall. Stratigraphy, Radiocarbon Dating and Culture History of Charlie Lake Cave, British Columbia. Arctic 49(3):265-267.
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Stratigraphy, Radiocarbon Dating and Culture History of Charlie Lake Cave, British Columbia
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Copyright is held by the Arctic Institute of North America. Reproduced with permission of the Arctic Institute of North America.
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