Landscape Change and Human History of the Athabasca Glacier Area

November 20, 2013. Alwynne B. Beaudoin, Curator, Quaternary Environments, Royal Alberta Museum. 

Sunwapta Pass and the Athabasca Glacier are visited by thousands of people each year as they travel the famed Icefields Parkway, following in the footsteps of the first tourists who marvelled at the glacier in the late 19th century. Easy to access, the area has also been intensively studied by geoscientists and palaeoecologists. Within its small compass, it exhibits considerable diversity of landforms, vegetation, and bedrock. Here, we can find stories of mountain building, ancient volcanoes, flowing ice, tilted trees, climate change and adventurous travellers.

Small Stones and Big Buttes: Pebble Quarrying in the Misty Hills

October 16, 2013. Don Hanna, Lifeways of Canada Limited.

During the course of investigations in support of the Hanna Region Transmission Development for Atco Electric Ltd, a hitherto unknown complex of Precontact era sites was encountered in an area southeast of Consort known as the “Misty Hills”.  We have identified an extensive group of sites, consisting of at least one large quarry area with pebble chert and pebble quartzite deposits where toolstone was tested and gathered, together with a number of associated workshop/lookouts and workshop/campsites.  A unique aspect of the Misty Hills quarry is that both high quality chert and quartzite pebbles can be found here, and both were apparently used by ancient peoples.  Assemblages are characterized by high densities of un-tried and tried quartzite and chert pebbles, with scattered anvils and hammerstones.  The Misty Hills are a relatively dense nexus of extremely well-preserved examples of different types of sites that reflect on different aspects of ancient life.  The significance of the quarry, workshops and campsites in the Misty Hills is greater than the sum of its parts.  In recognition of this significance, ATCO engaged in project re-design in a commendable effort to avoid impacts to these significant sites.

On ’til Ragnarok: Underwater Excavations at the Viking Settlement of Birka 2013

September 18, 2013. Mike Moloney, University of Calgary.

The Viking Age settlement at the site of Birka, Sweden, is touted as the first major city of Sweden. This UNESCO world heritage site was uniquely placed at a crossroads of international trade and enjoyed prominence from approximately 650-900 AD. Excavations at Birka 2013 focused on excavating and recording piling timbers deposited in the bay, which formed the Viking age harbour, in an attempt to better understand the harbour structure and shipping industry. The project comprised the systematic excavation of a 3m by 2m trench, removal and recording of piling timbers with constructional features, sampling of the timbers for dendrochronology, and underwater core sampling of the bay. The project was conducted by Sjöhistoriska (Swedish Maritime Museum) with an international crew of maritime archaeologists from Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Germany, USA, and Canada. The 21 day excavation revealed a clearer picture of the harbour structures and unearthed a number of domestic artifacts as well as high status jewellery. The nature of submerged sites allows for the preservation of organic material that would not survive on land and so the artifacts found during this excavation have contributed to an understanding of Birka that would have been lost on land. This presentation will explore the history of Viking age Birka and present the findings of the 2013 excavation, as well as discuss the methodologies associated with conducting archaeological investigations underwater.