Last week I blogged about the information potential within the melting ice patches. You can read that the discovery in Canada’s Northwest Territory here. Today I read a report of another ancient hunting tool revealed by the melting ice. This time the object was found high in the Rocky Mountains near the Yellowstone National Park. It was University of Colorado’s Craig Lee that discovered the 10,000 year old atlatl dart. He says the dart still has visible personal markings made by the hunter. Unfortunately, I was not able to find a picture of any of these markings.
There is a very important point that Craig Lee brought up in a recorded interview about the importance of organic remains. This is a topic that I did not bring up in my last post but Lee’s comment is so important that I am driven to post again about these ice patch discoveries.
Ninety-five percent of the archaeological record that we usually base our interpretations on is comprised of chip stone artifacts, ground stone artifacts, maybe old hearths, which is a fire pit, or rock rings that would have been used to stabilize a house, so we really have to base our understanding about ancient times on these inorganic materials. But ice patches are giving us this window into organic technology that we just don’t get in other environments.
These discoveries are incredibly important because we may find artifacts that we’ve never seen before or have only few examples of due to their organic components. Dry climates with little precipitation have been known to preserve organic materials. An example would be a preserved wicker basket found in a dry cave. Most organic materials like wood and clothing would not have been preserved in a North American climate such as Canada or the northern United States experiences. It is rare to find organic artifacts preserved in this region. This type of archaeology needs to be supported. As I posted last week, once exposed to the environment these artifacts need to be removed from the soil because they will not survive long.