The Lake Minnewanka site: patterns in late pleistocene use of the Alberta Rocky Mountains
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AbstractA five year excavation program at the Lake Minnewanka site, near Banff, Alberta (totaling 87 square meters) yielded 26 occupations, including eight, well defined, well stratified occupation floors, dating between 10,000 and 10,800 radiocarbon years before present (ea. 11,300 to 13,150 calibrated years B.P.). Individual floors were sealed by a rapidly deposited blanket of aeolian loess. Some of the oldest floors in the site contained the remains of mountain sheep, hearths, red ochre, and pieces esquillées associated with small, enigmatic, blade-like flakes. Slightly later floors exhibited quite different patterns of lithic reduction and raw material preference, more typical of plains Paleolndians. The concordance with some aspects of the Vermilion Lakes site (Fedje et al. 1995) is striking, verifying the presence of at least two closely subsequent early cultural traditions, typified by very different patterns of raw material use and reduction strategies. The earliest groups at both sites were hunting mountain sheep in the expanded alpine zone during the cold, dry Younger Dryas climatic interval. The ice-free corridor has been increasingly portrayed as a desolate waste, incapable of allowing the passage of humans until after populations were established south of the ice (Dixon 2001, Mandryk et al. 2001, Stanford and Bradley 2002). However, recent study of mountain sheep genetics (Loehr et al. 2006) indicates the existence of at least two cryptic refugia that supported populations of mountain sheep within the ice-free corridor throughout the last ice age. Deglaciation permitted a rapid expansion of sheep into newly available, highly productive ranges. A consideration of the calibrated radiocarbon dates suggests that the "late" dates for Pleistocene sites within the ice-free corridor has been somewhat exaggerated. This evaluation suggests that the corridor was a suitable route for migration coetaneous with the current earliest known Alaskan Complexes. This does not negate the potential of the coastal route for migration, nor is the possibility for earlier human occupation obviated. It simply seems as though the ice-free corridor should not yet be discounted as a potentially important variable in the first peopling equation.
Bibliography: p. 333-362