WINNIPEG, MANITOBA -- (Marketwired) -- 08/28/13 -- The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) today released the official reports of archaeological excavations conducted on its building site, revealing important new evidence about the role of The Forks among early inhabitants.
"These new findings may lead archaeologists to rethink current theories about how The Forks has been used over thousands of years," CMHR president and CEO Stuart Murray said at a news conference attended by archaeologists, Aboriginal Elders and other site partners. "Evidence that this site has long been a place for peaceful meeting also supports Aboriginal oral history passed down through generations."
More than 400,000 artifacts dating as far back as 1100 A.D. were recovered from the CMHR digs, conducted in two stages between 2008 and 2012 by Quaternary Consultants, led by senior archaeologist Sid Kroker, and by Stantec Consulting, led by senior archaeologist David McLeod. The first stage was the largest block archaeological excavation ever conducted in Manitoba.
This spring, the CMHR presented the archaeological results to the annual conference of the Canadian Archaeological Association and to Aboriginal Elders at Thunderbird House in Winnipeg. Among the significant findings were:
-- A large number of hearths (191) in the relatively small excavation area, possibly the highest concentration of any site in Canada. This suggests long-term seasonal habitation, raising questions about interpretation of the role of The Forks as simply a stopping and trading place.-- At least five completely new and previously unseen types of ceramic pottery, which seem to represent a period of rapid cultural change that took place over 200 to 300 years, between 1100 and 1400 A.D. This suggests different groups from a wide geographic area met here to interact, trade, form alliances and marry - resulting in the evolution of a "homegrown" localized pottery type distinct from those of Saskatchewan or North Dakota. The pottery findings may also refute the theory that Anishinaabe (Ojibway) people did not move into The Forks until the fur-trade era, and instead suggest they had been using the site for hundreds of years previously, along with many other groups.-- The presence of maize and bean residues on ceramics, scapula hoe fragments and squash knives, supporting theories that farming took place along the Red River, particularly since evidence was also found at a dig at Lockport.-- An intact ceremonial pipe adorned with a beaver effigy (the bowl being the nose), similar to those made by Aboriginal peoples far to the south, evidence that sophisticated long-distance trade networks existed.-- A high concentration of sacred materials such as ceremonial pipe fragments, possible sucking tubes and a significant presence of red ochre support theories that the site was a place of peaceful meeting, alliance-building and celebration.-- There was no evidence that the CMHR site has ever been a burial ground.
Elder Clarence Nepinak, who offered a traditional blessing before an Aboriginal water ceremony at today's news event, said Anishinaabe oral traditions speak of a very large peace meeting about 500 to 700 years ago at The Forks among seven to 11 different Aboriginal groups. Archaeologists agree that such a meeting would match the timeline of the site, and could explain some of its artifacts and assemblages.