Prehistoric American Hunting Grounds Discovered Beneath Lake Huron

Archaeologists discovered remnants of prehistoric American hunting grounds deep below the surface of Lake Huron that researchers say is approximately 9,000 years old, the Detroit Free Press reported. To put the gravity of the discovery into perspective, the site is from the Neolithic period, nearly six thousand years before humans invented writing, and only 1000 years after homo-sapiens began practicing agriculture anywhere in the world. The site beneath Lake Huron is nearly 7,500 years older than the 50 mummies unearthed in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings that had archaeologists enthralled. This discovery is a time-capsule from an age thousands of years before the historical period we tend to think of when we consider early Native American history. These ancient people hunted the region hundreds of generations before the Native American tribes like the Chippewa and Ottawa settled the region. What’s even more amazing is that, archaeologist Alan Osborn, of the University of Nebraska-Omaha and the University of Nebraska State Museum, said that underwater archaeology equipment and divers are “revealing a site that’s in pretty much pristine condition.”

Thanks to lowered lake levels, a narrow bridge of land running from one side of Lake Huron to the other was able to be viewed more easily than normal. The natural bridge in Lake Huron is known as the submerged Alpena-Amberley Ridge, and 9,000 years ago, it was dry land. Several years ago, the federal government published updated maps of Lake Huron showing the ridge that was the caribou hunting grounds of prehistoric Americans. The underwater ridge where the hunting grounds were found runs from northeastern Michigan to southern Ontario. John O’Shea, of the University of Michigan’s Museum of Anthropological Archaeology, and his colleagues used sonar, a remote-controlled underwater vehicle and scuba divers to scope out the ridge. They found a complicated system of stone structures, believed to be hunting blinds, at a point where migrating caribou headed south would have likely crossed. Animals headed north through the prehistoric hunting grounds encountered a system of ambushes where prehistoric hunters laid two parallel lines to boulders to force the herd to walk through. A dead end awaited the caribou once the “drive lane” ended at a naturally occurring stone wall. Stone hunting blinds were scattered along the path of this dead-end trap.

Archaeologists found debris in the form of “flakes of chert” that was once tools used to make and repair weapons, presumably spears. The site was believed to be the hunting grounds of a cooperative of about 15 prehistoric Great Lakes’ hunters, O’Shay said in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The discovery is especially exciting, because if the hunting grounds had not been covered by water, they would have surely been destroyed by now. In the Great Lakes region especially, there was little to no evidence how prehistoric Americans lived, according to USA Today. O’Shay wrote, “In more temperate regions of the globe, traces of such structures rarely survive intact.”

Leland Bement, of the Oklahoma Archaeological Survey, told the Detroit Free Press that the prehistoric hunting grounds site “provides another example of the skill and level of organization of big-game hunters in North America … and the ability of the hunters to plan and execute strategies to intercept these animals.”

[Photo via the University of Michigan]