Palaeo-Indian Way Of Life Essay, Research Paper
During much of the last 90,000 years, Ontario has been covered in thick ice sheets of the Wisconsinan glaciation. By 12,000 years ago, the ice sheets began to retreat and a series of large pro-glacial lakes formed between the land to the south, and the edge of the ice. As people followed the retreating ice, they were attracted to the rich environment along the lakes shores. Many of the earliest Palaeo-Indian sites in Ontario have been found along the margins of Lake Algonquin and Lake Iroquois. After 10,000 years ago, the ice in the Great Lakes basin continued to melt back, exposing the whole of the Lake Huron basin. A large lobe of ice still occupied parts of the Lake Superior basin until about 9,000 years ago, splitting it into two parts. The first known human occupation in the upper Great Lakes occurred while ice still lay in the Lake Superior basin.
Most Early Palaeo-Indian sites have been found on, or close to relic shorelines of glacial lakes. There seems little doubt that the shores of glacial lakes Algonquin and Iroquois provided an attractive environment for Early Palaeo-Indian settlement. People may have been attracted to the land close to the lakeshore for a number of reasons. Cold winds blowing off the lake may have prevented a closed forest from growing in the area. This would have provided hunters with good visibility along the lakeshore and attractive grazing for herbivorous mammals. The more open, breezy environment may also have been more insect free than the surrounding country – a benefit to humans and animals alike. Fishing and wildfowling would also have been possible subsistence activities. Lastly, although there is no direct evidence to support this notion, Palaeo-Indian people may have used the lake for travel. Winter lake travel would certainly have been possible, and it is conceivable that boats of some kind were also in use during the summer.
Not all Early Palaeo-Indian sites were located along the lakeshore. Some have been found well away from glacial lake shores. In these instances, it seems that the local environment was what attracted the people. Sites were situated on well drained higher land overlooking areas of poorly drained land former lakebed, or swamp). This variety in environmental conditions may have been attractive to game, and this may have been what attracted the people.
The Plainville Complex is a term that has been applied to a group of Early Palaeo-Indian sites in the southern Rice Lake region, near Peterborough, Ontario (Dellar,1976). These sites are not situated on or near specific glacial Great Lakes shoreline features, rather they appear to be oriented towards an interior stream valley parallel to the Rice Lake basin. The interior valley would have been ideal for caribou and it may have been the presence of these animals which attracted the people to the area. Rice Lake is known to have been an important deer hunting area in the recent historic past. Recent discoveries of caribou bones in Rice Lake marshes have firmly demonstrated that caribou were present in the area during the Archaic period. On the basis of this evidence, it is likely that they were also present during the Palaeo-Indian period.
The Early Palaeo-Indian population in southern Ontario was probably never very high. Archaeologists have suggested that perhaps fewer than 200 people lived in the whole region (Watson, 1990). The majority of sites were probably temporary camps from which hunting parties would range, where tools would be made or reworked and where skins and clothing would be made. The archaeological sites which resulted from these activities tend to be small and distinguished only by a restricted spread of flakes.
Most Early Palaeo-Indian sites are known by spreads of chert debris. Few hearth or pit features, no evidence of structures, and few bone remains have been recovered. Early Palaeo-Indian artifacts collected or excavated from sites in Ontario are mainly made of Collingwood chert. They include fluted points, end scrapers, gravers and preforms. Three main types of Fluted Point have been recognized in Ontario from the Early Palaeo-Indian Period: Gainey, Barnes and Crowfield. Gainey Points are the oldest known Palaeo-Indian fluted point type in Ontario. They are the largest point form from this period Gainey Points have been found to be made of Collingwood chert, however southern cherts such as Onondaga, Upper Mercer and Flint Ridge tend to be more common. Barnes points are an early Palaeo-Indian point type thought to be slightly later in date than Gainey Points. These are usually well made points with parallel flaking and carefully executed flutes. Most Barnes points in Ontario are made of Collingwood or Onondaga Chert. Crowfield Points are often made of Onondaga Chert. Examples in Collingwood chert are less common. Although fluted points are by far the most recognizable tool produced by Early Palaeo-Indian people, they manufactured a wide variety of other stone tools including scrapers, gravers and burins.
Tools with working from a single edge are called unifaces. Common unifacial tools on Early Palaeo-Indian sites include end scrapers, side scrapers and a variety of flake tools. Some examples have small projections or notches at the edge of the working face, suggesting that they were multi-purpose tools. Early Palaeo-Indian people also made a variety of bifacial tools. These include large bevelled knives, backed knives, utilized bifaces and wedges. Bifaces and knives were undoubtedly used for a wide variety of cutting tasks. The wedges are more problematic, although it is generally thought that these distinctive rectangular bifaces were used for splitting wood or bone, since their working edges are often heavily battered. A number of specialized tools are frequently found on Early Palaeo-Indian sites. These include gravers, beaks, burins and spokeshaves. Gravers are flake tools with small, sharp projections or spurs. These are assumed to have been used for perforating soft materials. Larger, heavier flake tools with points are usually referred to as beaks. These were probably used for slotting or hollowing wood or bone.
In general Late Palaeo-Indian people appear to have sought out the same kinds of locations as those favoured by Early Palaeo-Indian people. Sites with a southern exposure overlooking either open water or wetland appear to have been particularly chosen. Some researchers have noted that Late Palaeo-Indian people often occupied shoreline features created by glacial lakes many hundreds of years before. Although the waters may have disappeared from the lakebed, conditions along the former shore may have been especially attractive to mammals such as caribou, and thus attracted Late Palaeo-Indian people too. This orientation to areas thought favourable for caribou herds has led researchers to speculate that these people continued to focus on hunting these animals. However, fish, small game and wild plant foods were no doubt also valued.
Although numerous finds of Late Palaeo-Indian artifacts have been made in southern Ontario, relatively little archaeological excavation of sites of this period has occurred (Watson, 1990). Most sites appear to be similar to those of the preceding period consisting of small, seasonally or sporadically occupied travel camps, where a whole range of tool making, tool sharpening, hide preparation and butchering took place. Late Palaeo-Indian sites tend to be smaller, and less rich in finds than those of their predecessors. Those archaeological sites that have been investigated so far have revealed little about the shelters or structures of these people. It is likely that only the most ephemeral shelters were put up, which leaves little indication in the archaeological record.
Late Palaeo-Indian people used a greater range of stone raw materials for the manufacture of their artifacts than Early Palaeo-Indian people. Virtually all known cherts in southern Ontario were used by Late Palaeo-Indian people.
Holcombe points may be the earliest of the Late Palaeo-Indian point forms in Ontario, dating to just after 10,400 B.P. Unlike earlier Early Palaeo-Indian points, Holcombe points lack flutes, although the concave basal margin is always thinned by the removal of numerous small flakes. Holcome points have been found in south-west and south-central Ontario and in adjacent parts of Michigan.
Hi-Lo points are thick, multi-purpose tools which often show considerable evidence of re-sharpening and re-use. These points, which are named after a site in Michigan, lack flutes and have a distinctive waist above slightly flaring ears. Re-sharpening may result in almost straight blade edges. Hi-Lo points have been found in many parts of southern and south-western Ontario. They are thought to date to the period between 10,300 and 9,900 years ago.
In southern Ontario three main lanceolate point types have been recognized. The first are long, unstemmed, relatively thick points with concave bases. The second are points with pronounced, heavily ground stems and thin cross sections. The third are narrow, parallel or collaterally flaked unstemmed points. Lanceolate points probably date to the period between 10,200 and 9,000 years ago.
Tools for boring, piercing and drilling are frequently found on Late Palaeo-Indian sites. Gravers and beaked flakes were used for a variety of scoring and slotting tasks (for instance, cutting slivers of bone to make bone needles). Others were used for drilling holes in hide, wood, bone and soft stone. Some boring tools were custom made tools. Others were made by retouching a suitable flake, or by reworking a broken projectile point. People of the Late Palaeo-Indian period also used a wide variety of unifacially flaked tools. These included small end and side scrapers, long, concave side-scrapers and a number of larger tools made by touching up the naturally sharp edge of large random flakes. The technique of making stone tools using biface reduction was used extensively by Late Palaeo-Indian people in Ontario