Archeologists keep learning more about Indigenous life in Alberta centuries ago

Archeologists have unearthed tools and bison bones at the banks of the Bow River east of Calgary that help paint a picture of what life was like for Indigenous people in the area hundreds of years ago.

Alberta Floods reveal areas where bison believed to be killed, butchered, and prepared for meals0:43

There are two excavation sites at McKinnon Flats where crews have been busy digging and sifting. 

It’s believed one area was where bison were killed and butchered, while another nearby was where the meat was prepared.

McKinnon Flats bison kill

The Alberta government is wrapping up a 3-year program to preserve artifacts that were unearthed around rivers in the province after the 2013 flood. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Marrow boiling pit

Crews have found evidence of boiling pits, which were used by ancient aboriginal groups to extract marrow out of bison bones.

“Because they didn’t have a lot of pottery and vessels the way we would have, they would dig a hole in the ground and they would line it with skin so it would be watertight. Then they’d go and heat rocks up in a fire and they’d drop the rocks into a pit of water to boil it up,” Wendy Unfreed, the archeologist leading the dig, told the Calgary Eyeopener on Friday.

The provincial government is wrapping up a three-year program to preserve artifacts that were affected by flooding in southern Alberta in 2013.

Unfreed said that initiative has led to a discovery of 100 new archeological sites.

“So the one lesson that it’s really showing us is although we’ve seen a lot — there’s always more to find out there,” she said.

Calgary bison kill site

3 years after the flood, archeologists are still digging up artifacts around rivers in southern Alberta. (Alberta Culture and Tourism )

Archeologist Daniel Meyer says the artifacts are providing clues about when indigenous people started making tools out of materials that made their way from eastern Canada and even Europe via traders.

The work needs to be done before the ground freezes — and was temporarily scuttled when heavy snow swept through the area Friday.

McKinnon Flats archeology

East of Calgary, archeological crews have found evidence of ancient boiling pits — which were used to extract marrow out of bison bones. (Alberta Culture and Tourism )

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