An important mandate of the Archaeological Survey section of the Historic Resources Management Branch is to undertake extra-regulatory public outreach projects and research initiatives. The staff at the Survey have been busy this last year pursuing this goal. Some of the projects and activities that have taken place, or are underway now, are highlighted below.
Part of this goal includes delivering programs that address Albertan’s desires to learn about their heritage and widen appreciation for Alberta’s archaeological resources. Youth outreach was done through the delivery of eight school programs to elementary and junior high school students. Darryl Bereziuk, Director of Archaeological Survey, and Blair First Rider, Aboriginal Consultation Adviser, presented to students at Leo Nickerson Elementary School in St. Albert; Todd Kristensen, Northern Archaeologist, presented to 6 classrooms as part of the U School Education Program at the University of Alberta; and Wendy Unfreed, Plains Archaeologist, participated in a youth apprenticeship field program for Dr. Swift Junior High School in Lac La Biche.
Another part of this goal is to conduct research on topics within the division’s mandate and disseminate the results. Some exciting research projects are currently underway at the survey.
Todd Kristensen, Northern Archaeologist, has been working on the Heritage Art Series, the Alberta Obsidian Project, Peace River and Athabasca Private Artifact Collections, and the Alberta Lithic Reference Project. The Heritage Art Series is in its second year of production. It is a program designed to captivate the public by combining heritage and art in order to encourage the appreciation and protection of Alberta’s past. Last year’s artwork included: Ecological Catastrophes in Alberta’s Past: The Mazama Volcanic Eruption, Ancient and Early Historic Fishing in the North, Early Cabins in the West, and Preserving the Past at Writing-on-Stone. Several more pieces have been created this year and include the use of boats in Alberta’s past, First Nations perspective on time, stratigraphy and spillways, atlatl hunting, the ice age and glacial lakes in Alberta, and cultural burning (watch for upcoming blog posts!). The Alberta Obsidian Project began in 2014 and is still underway. The goal of this project is to reconstruct trade patterns, migration routes and social networks across North America by determining the source locations of obsidian artifacts found in Alberta. Todd has also been visiting collections in the Peace River and Athabasca regions. Thirteen archaeological collections have been documented that will result in small local prehistory booklets. The Alberta Lithic Reference project is just getting started and will involve a series of written articles with the goal of improving the accurate identification of chipped stone materials in archaeological collections.
Trevor Peck, Plains Archaeologist, has been working on the Alberta Medicine Wheel Project. Trevor revisited nine known medicine wheels on three Blackfoot Reserves and analyzed artifacts from several medicine wheels to better understand their function. Trevor, along with Caroline Hudecek-Cuffe, Parkland Archaeologist, also worked on a “Predictive Model for Site Avoidance in the Hardisty Region”. This involved the survey of lands surrounding the Hardisty Bison Pound site complex. The goal of this project is the prediction and protection of significant archaeological site deposits in advance of proposed construction projects across this busy industrial area.
Robin Woywitka, Cultural Land Use Analyst, has also been busy working on several projects. “Geoarchaeology of the Oil Sands Region” is a project that examines landform evolution and sedimentary processes as they relate to archaeological preservation in northeastern Alberta. The Portable Optically Stimulated Luminescence (pOSL) Program focuses on dating northern archaeological sites which usually cannot be dated using more traditional techniques because of the lack of preservation of organic materials in the northern boreal forest. Other projects Robin is working on include: “Dispersion of Bison in the Late Glacial Project” which looks at the distribution of different clades of Bison in North America in the past, “Modeling the age of Bridge River Tephra with Bayesian Analysis of Radiocarbon Dates”, and “Examination of the Origin of Beaver River Sandstone”.
In addition to school programs and research, members of the Archaeological Survey have collectively presented their archaeological work and research at twenty five different events with varying audiences of all ages and backgrounds! This includes the Heritage Art Series gallery opening event, presentations to the various Archaeological Society of Alberta centres (Southeastern, Calgary, Lethbridge, Strathcona), the Grant MacEwan Alpine Club, the Battle River Watershed Alliance Cultural Training event, the Blood Tribal Council, the Canadian Archaeological Association’s Annual Meeting and Conference, the University of Calgary’s Environmental Science 503 class, the University of Alberta’s Anthropology 206 class, the Medicine Hat College Ancient Peoples and Places class, the American Quaternary Association Biannual Meeting, the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, and the Geospatial Alberta Conference. Posters were submitted at the Archaeological Society of Alberta’s 2014 and 2015 Annual Meetings and at the 2014 GeoAlberta Conference.
The Archaeological Survey looks forward to continuing to share their work, research, and Alberta’s heritage with Albertans through programs like these. However, the public itself plays an important role in helping to protect and conserve Alberta’s archaeological resources. The Report a Find program has been launched to help the public to report the location and details of their discoveries to archaeologists with Alberta Culture and Tourism. Albertans who find archaeological sites are encouraged to visit the Report a Find website or call 780-438-8506 (toll free by dialing 310-0000).
Written By: Darryl Bereziuk, Director of Archaeological Survey, and Courtney Lakevold, Archaeological Information Coordinator