Archaeology - Saskatchewan River Forks
The Saskatchewan portion of the SCAPE project is focused on sites close
to an area known as The Forks: the confluence of the North and South
Saskatchewan Rivers. Dr. David Meyer has been directing
excavations at four archaeological sites: the Below Forks Site, Intake,
Harper Valley and Fenton Ferry Sites.
Louis Bridge Site
An unexpected happening during the summer of 2002 was the discovery of
a deeply buried (about 2.2 m) Paleo-Indian occupation with a possible
date of 8,000 B.C.E.) Butch Amundson, a consulting archaeologist,
discovered a the site during the excavation of the St. Louis Bridge Site.
The site is significant not only for its age, but its location on the
northern border of the Great Plains and the numerous artifacts recovered.
As well as lithic materials there are a variety of faunal species, including
extinct bison bone at the site.
This site is located about 1.5 km north of the village of that name,
on a terrace within the valley of the South Saskatchewan River. A bridge
is to be constructed which has necessitated an investigation into the
possible impact of this project on archaeological resources. Amundson’s
reconnaissance and assessment of this location has been funded by Saskatchewan
Highways and Transportation.
Mr. Amundson invited Dr. Meyer to collaborate with him regarding work
at this site, which will contribute significant information about the
lifeways and environment of ancient peoples on the northern plains. Dr.
Meyer will direct SCAPE funded research to excavate significant features
and record data for the SCAPE project.
Harper Valley Field Work 500
B.P., 1500 B.P. and 2000 B.P.
A small crew worked at this site for much of summer 2002. This consisted
of crew chief Patrick Young, with Jon Hall, Meaghan
Porter and Nicole Walters in June. In July,
Perry Blomquist from the Meadow Lake Band joined the crew.
This site is located in the valley of the South Saskatchewan River upstream
from the Forks, about 3 km to the west of the former Birch Hills Ferry
and 20 km north of the town of Birch Hills. Here, the river flows in
a broad valley within which there are at least four well defined terraces.
Cultural materials assigned to the Harper Valley site occur on the lowest
terrace (flood plain), next to the river bank, and on the next higher
terrace. The uppermost occupation is identified as a Selkirk composite
component, on the basis of potsherds which were recovered here in 1980;
however, the cultural identity of the lower two occupations remains illusive.
While the occupations on this flood plain are light, they reflect repeated
visitation of this land form. However, these occupations seem to be randomly
scattered across the surface for all of the occupations. Presumably,
this is because the flood plain covers many acres, and there are no terrain
constraints on just where camps might be set up. These occupations appear
to have been by small, perhaps multi family groups. The seasonality of
the occupations is not yet known, although analysis of the recovered
faunal remains should provide some information in this regard. The presence
of fish remains in a middle occupation and a fragment of a barbed bone
harpoon point in the Selkirk occupation suggest that these were open
water season occupations during which a certain amount of fishing was
Fenton Ferry Site approx.
Since the Fenton Ferry site has been disturbed by cultivation, field
work is not planned for it; rather, surface collected paleo-Indian materials
will be studied. As well, ongoing river erosion has removed most of the
Intake site (approx. 1,200 B.P. ) so only limited field work will be
conducted there in 2003.
Below Forks Site 6,000
Excavations have taken place at the Below Forks site in the summers of
2000, 2001 and 2002. Also, in 2002 lines of test holes were excavated
at the Harper Valley site in order to evaluate its cultural deposits.
This led to a small block excavation at the latter site in the 2002 field
The 2002 summer field crew consisted of Dr. David Meyer with Wade
Dargin (U. of S. archaeology graduate student) and Rebecca
Robertson (U. of S. undergraduate archaeology student), while
in August Meaghan Porter and Perry Blomquist (U. of S. archaeology graduate
students) joined the crew. Frank Constant, a resident
of nearby James Smith Reserve, worked part time through July and August.
The Below Forks site, which is located on the north bank of the Saskatchewan
River, downstream from the confluence of the North and South Saskatchewan
Rivers, was excavated during the summer 2002. This was the fifth time
since 1980 that excavations had been conducted at the site. This site
is located on a high cutbank, the upper three metres of which contain
a complex stratigraphic deposit with many paleosols (organic layers).
One of the deeper paleosols, at 2.4- 2.5 m below the surface, contains
a rich occupation level which is evidenced on parts of the cutbank face
as a nearly continuous layer of flakes, core fragments, fire-cracked
rock and bits of bone. Bone from this deep occupation level at has been
dated to 5,845 B.P., while charcoal from a paleosol a few cm higher dated
at 5,740 B.P. These dates place this occupation in the Early Side-notched
period, a time which is not well known on the Canadian plains. A fragment
of bone from this deepest occupation was dated at 6,100 B.P.+/-140 (TO-9354)
by AMS radiocarbon dating.
The cataloguing of the previous field seasons recoveries is nearly completed.
Mr. Patrick Young, manages the laboratory work and Margaret
Greene, an experienced archaeological technician is cataloguing
artifacts. Chelsea Bull, Jon Hall,
and Meaghan Porter are part time employees and volunteers.
Graduate student Steve Kasstan is employing the debitage
from the eastern excavation block at the Below Forks site as the basis
for a study of lithic technology for his M.A. thesis.
Coring at Candle Lake, Saskatchewan, took place in March 2002. During
this fieldwork, Dr. Alwynne B. Beaudoin was accompanied
by Bob Dawe (Provincial Museum) and Jason Gillespie (Archaeology
Department, University of Calgary) as field assistants. Fieldwork was
difficult due to extreme cold temperatures (below -30ºC) and, at
times, wind. Dr David Meyer, Patrick Young, Wade
Dargin and Steve Kassten from the University
of Saskatchewan visited the site.
Central Saskatchewan July 2002
Dr. Beaudoin was accompanied by David Keller and the
on-site crew included David Meyer, David Harkness, Garry
Running, and Karen Havholm. Probe crew comprised Laura
Roskowski and two other students.
The main objectives of the work this year were to core the Lost River
channel and to continue the surface pollen sampling program. Both objectives
were achieved. The Lost River channel is an abandoned channel on a high
terrace on the south side of the Saskatchewan River, tucked against the
north-facing outer valley-side. Until recently drained for agriculture,
this area was usually wet. We felt that this site might provide useful
information relevant to the 9K time slice since it appeared to have good
potential for preservation of biotic material.
The “Greater Forks Locality”
Dr. G. Running and students conducted geoarchaeological
research in Saskatchewan during the summer of 2002.
The existing North and South Saskatchewan Rivers are underfit streams
that occupy deeply incised glacial meltwater spillways. The Below Forks
site and archaeological sites nearby occur within: the North Saskatchewan
Trench, the South Saskatchewan Trench, and the Saskatchewan Trench downstream
from the confluence. The terrace sequences for each of the three reaches
selected near the “Forks” area are unique and differ in a
number of ways. However, significant progress has been made towards their
interpretation. The nearby dune fields have been sampled and analysis
and interpretation are in progress. The completion of this work will
provide a physical and environmental context for the archaeological occupations
at the Below Forks Site. Analysis of Geoprobe cores and cutbank exposures
A detailed geomorphic and pedologic investigation of the Below Forks
is the subject of Laura Roskowski’s Master’s
Thesis to be completed in the coming year.
The geomorphology of the Greater Forks Locality is more complex by orders
of magnitude than previously recognized. None-the-less, considerable
progress has been made. Investigation of the age and paleoenvironmental
significance of dune fields in this locality has been completed. SCAPE
researchers, Steve Wolfe (GSC), and Jeff Ollerhead (Mt.
Allison) will prepare the results of this research for publication in
the coming year.
Dr. Alec Aitken, Department of Geography, University
of Saskatchewan and Dr. Karen Havholm (UWEC) have been
collaborating on the project.
Geographical Information Systems
Forks Region, Saskatchewan
Dr. Dion Wiseman and Steve McMillan,
Geography major from Brandon University, conducted GIS research in the
Forks region of Saskatchewan and the Cypress Hills of Alberta.
Fieldwork in the Forks region focused primarily on the Harper Valley
site located on the South Saskatchewan River. The main objectives were
to identify and map physiographic features within and immediately adjacent
to the spillway and assist with the extraction of cores and description
of exposures along nearby cut banks. The overall objective is to correlate
chronostratigraphic units and erosional terraces between sites along
the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers in order to determine the age
and relationship between late Pleistocene and Holocene landforms, contributing
to the emerging paleoenvironmental reconstruction of the region.
Dr. Meyer continues to conduct interviews with Elders
from the James Smith Reserve and tape record Cree place names.
Dale Russell continued to carry out archival research.
This has involved completing his review of the extant journals from Ft.
Carlton. He has also consulted pertinent journals and letters kept by
Anglican missionaries in this region, particularly the Rev. Henry Budd.
In mid summer, 2002, he began to study the field notebooks of David Mandelbaum
relating to the latter’s work with the Plains Cree in 1934 and
1935. These notes will almost certainly allow us to produce a more detailed
model of the nature of Plains Cree bands than that which Mandelbaum (1979)
published in his 1940 monograph.
Saskatchewan River Forks Region
Dr. Meyer gave interviews with local media and presentations
at the Melford Museum. The St. Louis Bridge Site was well reported in
the Globe and Mail, complete with photographs. The Discovery Channel
also reported on this site.