Connecting the Continent: Stone Tools in Alberta

After a few thousand years, most of the archaeological record in Alberta has been winnowed down to pieces of rock used to make tools. Organic artifacts, structures, and other less durable things generally don’t survive thanks to erosion and decomposition. To maximize the information we can pull from those pieces of stone, the Alberta Lithic Reference Project (ALRP) was formed by a consortium of archaeological consultants, heritage managers, geologists, students, and university researchers. The goals are to accurately and consistently identify the types of raw materials that pre-contact people used to make stone tools. Why is this important? Specific types of rock were traded and moved widely across the continent and serve as valuable indicators of cultural relationships and/or human mobility patterns. (more…)

Tracking Ancient Connections: The Alberta Obsidian Project

Obsidian is a natural glassy rock that was produced by volcanoes and used by pre-contact people across North America for making stone tools. Obsidian is the sharpest naturally occurring substance on earth, which made it ideal for making tools such as arrowheads and knives that were designed to slice animal flesh. Many obsidian tools have been found in Alberta despite the fact that there are no natural sources of it in the province. This means that obsidian was traded or carried into Alberta from long distances away. Research on obsidian tools at archaeological sites in Alberta has been conducted on a small scale since the late 1980’s. The current Alberta Obsidian Project (AOP) is the first large-scale attempt to analyse our province’s obsidian; it began in 2014 when a research plan was developed by members of the Archaeological Survey of Alberta, the Royal Alberta Museum, and the Center of Applied Isotope Studies (CAIS) at the University of Georgia. (more…)