Archaeological Fieldwork Reports for 2005
Telve archaeological research permits were issued to 7 archaeologists for work in the NWT in 2004. Two of these permits (2005-966, 2005-977) were cancelled at the request of the permit holder and no work was conducted under their authority. Of the 10 permits remaining, 8 were for projects related to resource development impact assessment. Oil and gas development in the Mackenzie Delta, along the proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline route, and in the Sahtu region, along with ongoing diamond exploration in the region north and east of Yellowknife continue to be dominant factors in driving archaeological research in the NWT.
All reports compiled and edited by Tom Andrews, Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre
Tyhee Yellowknife Gold Project
Gabriella Prager (NWT Archaeologists Permit 2005-967)
In June 2005, on behalf of Tyhee NWT Corp., Points West Heritage Consulting Ltd. conducted archaeological assessments for the proposed Yellowknife Gold Project. This project is located approximately 85 km north of Yellowknife near the historic Discovery Mine that was abandoned in 1969. The proposed Yellowknife Gold Project is located in the vicinity of Winter Lake, about 3 km southwest of the Discovery Mine, with a possible future development at Nicholas Lake, approximately 12 km to the northeast.
Archaeological assessments were conducted of specific proposed development components identified on plans received in June, 2005. These consisted of:
- A proposed tailings containment area and associated facilities at Winter Lake;
- Potential all weather road route to Nicholas Lake;
- Existing winter road route to Yellowknife;
- Alternative locations for processing plant and camp;
- Preliminary assessment of a possible esker airstrip.
The specific mine area at Winter Lake was examined in 2004. Assessments were completed by a combination of low and slow helicopter overflights and surveys on foot of selected portions of each development area judged to have some potential for archaeological resources. Shovel testing was conducted wherever the terrain suggested some possibility for past human use, for example, elevated, dry, level ground where people would like to camp.
Heritage resources found in 2005 were associated with hunting camps dating considerably less than 50 years of age. Three such camps were found on Winter Lake (in addition to the exploration camp recorded last year): two on the east shore of the lake and one on the island in Winter Lake. One additional camp was observed on Prosperous Lake. These sites displayed various ways that available resources were used for construction of shelters and other needs. Miscellaneous structural remains and debris related to exploration, mining and gravel extraction were also encountered. Because these remains are all comparatively recent, no further work is recommended.
No archaeological remains were found. It should be emphasized that these conclusions refer only to archaeological resources, that is, remains older than 50 years. The potential for archaeological sites in the specific areas to be affected by the mine and camp facilities is rated as low. Much of the area covered by the development of the Yellowknife Gold Project is characterized by low, waterlogged ground or rocky, irregular terrain, generally considered unappealing for human use. The major terrain features with archaeological potential in this vicinity are eskers but these are of limited extent within the presently proposed development zones. If final plans include use of eskers for borrow or other purposes, additional field assessment will be necessary. Within the remainder of the currently proposed development area, it is considered unlikely to encounter archaeological resources.
Archaeological Investigations conducted for the Gahcho Kue Project in 2005
Jean Bussey (NWT Archaeologists Permit 2005-968)
Points West Heritage Consulting Ltd. conducted archaeological investigations for De Beers Canada Inc. at their Gahcho Kue Project in 2005. The study area is located at Kennady Lake, which is approximately 300 km east/northeast of Yellowknife and 80 km southeast of Snap Lake. Jean Bussey directed the field investigations and was assisted by Olivia Donaher, also of Points West, and Henry Basil and Aaron Catholique of the Lutselk’e First Nation. The archaeological work was conducted under a Class 2 NWT Archaeologists Permit and was primarily concerned with the assessment of previously recorded archaeological sites associated with a proposed diamond mine and its ancillary facilities.
In 2004, 26 previously recorded sites located within 1 km of the proposed Gahcho Kue mine were relocated and subjected to preliminary assessment. Subsurface testing and/or detailed surface examination was conducted at sixteen of these sites and resulted in a more accurate evaluation of site significance. In the 2004 report it was recommended that the remaining 10 sites be assessed and this site evaluation was completed in 2005. In addition, 10 sites located near two proposed gravel pits were also assessed through intensive surface examination and/or subsurface testing. In the process of accessing previously recorded archaeological sites, three new sites were discovered in 2005. All three were sufficiently near proposed development areas that detailed evaluation was conducted. As follow-up to another 2004 recommendation, an archaeological site located along the winter road route to Mackay Lake was also evaluated. Two previously recorded sites located near possible winter road routes for the gravel pits were revisited, but were not assessed since they are avoidable.
All recorded archaeological sites located within 1 km of proposed development areas associated with the Gahcho Kue project have now been assessed in detail. Sites located along the winter road to camp and near proposed winter roads within the project area have been evaluated for impact potential. The majority of the sites along the roads are avoidable. Sites located near the open pit mines are more likely to be affected and such sites were tested. The number and depth of these tests varied based on the size of the landform, amount of vegetation cover evident, surface yield and characteristics of the subsurface deposits. In the process of site assessment, a number of small surface sites were essentially mitigated, while at other archaeological sites sufficient data was collected to provide suitable mitigation recommendations in the event that avoidance is not feasible.
Non-Technical Report of Archaeological Activities at the Ekati Diamond Mine
Jean Bussey (NWT Archaeologists Permit 2005-969)
Jean Bussey of Points West Heritage Consulting Ltd. has conducted archaeological investigations for BHP Billiton Diamonds Inc. (BHPB) in its claim block north of Lac de Gras since 1994. Each year, she has undertaken to provide archaeological potential assessments, complete archaeological inventories, assess or mitigate sites and conduct tours of archaeological resources for interested groups. Archaeological sites located near development areas have been tested and mitigated through systematic data recovery consisting of subsurface excavation and/or surface collection. Sites well removed from such activity areas have been recorded and are periodically revisited, but are otherwise avoided.
The majority of the recorded sites in the BHBP claim block are associated with eskers, but sites are also found on other terrain types, usually near the larger lakes. There are still many portions of the claim block that have not been inventoried because no development or exploration activity has been identified in the vicinity. The majority of the sites near EKATI are best described as lithic scatters, sites that are characterized by unworked flakes of stone with an occasional tool. The most common lithic or stone material is quartz, which is found naturally as veins in the bedrock of the Lac de Gras area. Quartz cobbles are also found naturally in the numerous eskers in the claim block and it is suggested that both sources of quartz were utilized prehistorically for stone tool manufacture. A number of the sites in the BHPB claim block have yielded small chert tools suggestive of the Arctic Small Tool tradition, which may date 2500-3500 years before present, but the majority of the archaeological sites probably relate to activities conducted in the last 2500 years. Although most sites are associated with the prehistoric period, a number of traditional use sites have also been identified.
Olivia Donaher, of Points West, and Darcy Ross of the North Slave Metis Alliance assisted with the archaeological field work conducted in July at EKATI. One new archaeological site, an isolated find was discovered in 2005, bringing the total in the BHPB claim block to 199 sites. Field investigations were conducted at 17 proposed exploration locations, along a section of the Ursula West esker, in the area of the Fox open pit and for a proposed winter exploration camp and winter access road.
As part of their ongoing commitment to share information on the archaeological work conducted at EKATI, BHPB requested that Jean Bussey conduct tours in 2005. Three representatives of five different groups attended the three to four day tours. The first group consisted of Mike Francis, Alfred Baillargeon and Noel Doctor representing the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. The second group of participants consisted of Irene Fatt, Delphine Enzoe and Frankie Rabesca from the Lutselk’e First Nation. Representatives of the North Slave Metis Alliance, Ed Jones, Grant Beck and Ashton Hawker, formed the third group. The fourth group consisted of representatives of the Kitikmeot Inuit Association from Kuglugtuk: Joseph Nipitanatiak, Helen Enogaloak and Lynn Carter. The final participants were Joe Migwi, Georgina Chocolate and Francis Williah, representatives of the Tlicho Government. During each of the tours, four or five sites were visited on the ground and others were pointed out from the air. Helicopter transportation is the only feasible way of conducting these tours, which is why the tours are limited to three participants. Sites throughout the study area were examined, not just those near existing pits or activity areas. Development areas were also viewed from the air and an explanation of the type of archaeological work conducted at such locations was provided.
Archaeological Investigations conducted along the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road
Jean Bussey (NWT Archaeologists Permit 2005-970)
In 2005, Jean Bussey of Points West Heritage Consulting Ltd. conducted archaeological investigations for the Joint Venture that operates the Tibbitt to Contwoyto (formerly the Lupin) winter road. The winter road runs from the south end of Tibbitt Lake near Yellowknife to almost the north end of Contwoyto Lake in Nunavut. Field investigations in the Northwest Territories portion of the winter road involved a multi-disciplinary inspection tour conducted in June and archaeological assessment of a number of proposed developments in July. Olivia Donaher of Points West and Noel Doctor of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation assisted with the July investigations. This is the fifth consecutive year that the Joint Venture has sponsored investigations as part of their commitment to ensure that archaeological impacts are avoided or minimized.
In 2001, an archaeological inventory was conducted and resulted in the discovery of 49 new archaeological sites and the revisit of 14 previously recorded sites near the NWT portion of the winter road. Because the inventory was conducted nearly 20 years after construction of the road, some archaeological sites are near developed areas. In 2002, all sites within 30 m of the winter road or related facilities were revisited and if threatened were subjected to site assessment and/or mitigation or were protected through the erection of markers. As of the 2005 inspection tour, there are six sites in the NWT that are protected by markers.
The major objective of the June 2005 field reconnaissance was to determine if markers had adequately protected sites during the winter when the road was in use. The markers erected at five sites consist of standard four-foot (1.2 m) wooden survey stakes that were pounded approximately 30 cm (1 foot) into the ground. At the sixth site, because of the proximity of a winter road camp (Lockhart Lake Camp), Nuna Logistics arranged to install taller and more permanent metal markers with reflectors. During the June 2005 inspection tour, it was noted that the stakes were primarily intact and no disturbances were evident at the protected sites. The stakes at each site were re-pounded to ensure they would stand for another year. All stakes were sprayed with fluorescent orange paint to make them more visible (Photos 1). Also during this inspection, stakes were erected LeNs-27, a site that was not previously marked.
It is recommended that the status of the markers and their ability to provide site protection be reviewed annually. During this recheck it is recommended that any weakened markers be replaced, loose stakes be re-installed and the tops of all wooden markers be sprayed with orange paint.
The second reconnaissance was undertaken in July 2005 to assess the archaeological potential of seven potential repeater stations, a possible gravel pit and proposed revisions to the north end of Portage 28. Six repeater stations and one possible alternate location are located between Yellowknife and the Diavik Diamond Mine and are intended to improve communications. Each location was examined and no archaeological sites were discovered.
Subsurface testing and surface examination was undertaken at the proposed gravel pit which is located in West Bay on Gordon Lake. The proposed gravel pit is adjacent to an abandoned one used by a mine that was previously located in the vicinity (Photo 2). This detailed examination did not uncover any archaeological sites.
Safety concerns regarding a sharp corner around a bedrock knoll at the north end of Portage 28 have prompted Nuna Logistics to propose an alternate route in this area. The archaeological investigations in the vicinity of Portage 28 consisted of foot traverses and the examination of natural exposures in all areas that might be affected by the proposed revision. No archeological resources were encountered during this reconnaissance.
No archaeological sites were found during the field inventory conducted in July and the protected archaeological sites revisited in June are intact; markers have been reinforced at each site to assist in protecting these locations.
Encana Corporation, Richards Island Exploration and Development Programs, 2005 Heritage Resources Survey
Don Hanna (NWT Archaeologists Permit 2005-971)
In July of 2005, Bison Historical Services Ltd. and Axys Environmental Inc. carried out a survey for heritage sites on Richards Island in the Mackenzie Delta, NWT, on behalf of EnCana Corporation. Known sites were re-visited to ensure that they had not been damaged by last winter’s Umiak N-05 drilling program. We also examined the location of the proposed new Umiak D-16 facility and related access route to ensure that upcoming winter projects would not damage any heritage sites.
Known sites in the close vicinity of the exploratory drilling program were re-visited and successful avoidance was documented at seven known heritage sites located next to the overland access route. Very limited development related disturbances were noted at an eighth heritage site near Corral Bay. At this historic reindeer herding station some damage to a gathering fenceline was documented. No previously un-recorded heritage sites were identified during these investigations.
EnCana also is also contemplating the construction of a facility designated as D-16, northeast of Umiak Lake. This facility will be serviced by a short overland access route connecting to existing access routes. Examination of this proposed new facility location at D-16 and associated access route identified no heritage concerns.
Investigations were carried out by Don Hanna of Bison Historical Services Ltd., assisted by Myles Dillon of Inuvik, who acted as wildlife monitor and local advisor. Fieldwork was based out of Inuvik and carried out by helicopter and on foot. Investigations centered on northern Richards Island, in the interior near Umiak Lake and north towards Mason Bay, and in the vicinity of Corral Bay.
2005 Summit Creek Heritage Survey
Don Hanna (NWT Archaeologists Permit 2005-972)
In September of 2005, Bison Historical Services Ltd. carried out an archaeological survey for heritage sites in the vicinity of Summit Creek, about 60 kilometres south of Tulita, NWT. These investigations were carried out at the request of Northern EnviroSearch Ltd. on behalf of Husky Energy. Fieldwork was based out of Tulita and carried out by helicopter over-flight and on foot. Investigations were carried out by Don Hanna of Bison Historical Services Ltd. and accompanied by Peter Horassi of Tulita, who acted as guide, advisor and wildlife monitor. Our investigations were aimed at ensuring that previously unrecorded heritage sites will not be disturbed by future developments in the area.
We examined three possible wellsite locations and portions of their connecting access routes. Only one heritage site was identified during this phase of operations. This is a relatively recent traditional land-use camp that will not be directly disturbed by development activities.
Another objective of our study was to carry out baseline investigations in the area of the proposed Summit Creek 3-D seismic survey. We were hampered in these investigations by bad weather in the high country but were still able to identify four prehistoric campsite or workshop locales in upland settings in the general study area. These sites all contain evidence for the ancient manufacture and use of tools made from a distinctive stone called Tertiary Hills welded tuff.
A final objective of our study was to identify elements of the old “Mountain Dene Trail to the Mountains”, portions of which are reported as passing through the project area. We were partially successful in this and were able to identify some portions of a trail system in the low-lying country along Summit Creek, as well as a large, early historic period traditional land-use campsite near the confluence of Summit Creek and the Keele River. Other indications of the trail may be found in the presence of two prehistoric workshops in the high altitude pass that crosses the Flint Stone Range southeast of Ground Squirrel Mountain.
These results indicate that there is considerable potential for more unrecorded heritage sites in this area, and that future developments must be carefully monitored to ensure these sites are not disturbed.
NWT Ice Patch Project (2005)
Tom Andrews (NWT Archaeologists Permit 2005-973)
During summer in the Mackenzie Mountains, caribou spend much of their time sitting on high elevation ice patches seeking relief from summer insect swarms and warm afternoon temperatures. Recent research in the Yukon indicates that this relationship has persisted for millennia and has been recorded in the ice. Ice patches formed as annual net accumulations of snow were gradually compressed into permanent ice lenses and, in the process, the ancient remains of caribou – bone, antler and primarily dung – were incorporated and preserved within the ice. Humans have known of this relationship for millennia and have a long history of hunting caribou on ice patches, sometimes losing or discarding their hunting implements in the process. Currently, with changing climate regimes, melting alpine ice patches in the Yukon are yielding caribou remains and hunting implements, providing a material record spanning the last 8,000 years. This record includes unique examples of Aboriginal hunting implements with preserved organic parts, a remarkable development for the archaeological record of the Subarctic, where the organic components of artifacts are quickly degraded by acidic soils and archaeologists are left to reconstruct past cultures from stone tools. The bone, antler, wood, sinew, and feather components of hunting implements are preserved within ice patches, and these complete artifacts have helped neighbouring Yukon archaeologists to redefine our understanding of the invention and use of various hunting technologies, such as the bow and arrow. Well-preserved biological specimens have also proven invaluable to Yukon biologists for reconstructing past environmental conditions and wildlife population dynamics. For example, pollen trapped in the dung provides a record of past climate and vegetation, and DNA studies on dung pellets have assisted in reconstructing the genetic histories of caribou herds and long-term changes in herd ranges. For Yukon archaeologists and biologists, this multidisciplinary approach has resulted in a unique database that informs important questions of human history and caribou behaviour. Yet, the most critical lesson from the Yukon experience is that new artifacts are melting from the ice patches on an annual basis and that these artifacts, wet, fragile and exposed, require immediate conservation measures to be preserved.
Recent work in the Mackenzie Mountains indicates that this ice patch phenomenon is also present in the Northwest Territories and in need of immediate attention. We initiated a project in 2002 to locate and assess ice patches in the Mackenzie Mountains. Working over three years with satellite imagery and aerial photos – in partnership with the NWT Centre for Remote Sensing – we were able to locate areas in the mountains that had visible summer ice patches. In 2005, working in partnership with Tulita First Nations Band, we conducted a 5-day helicopter survey in the middle Mackenzie Mountains, between Norman Wells and the Yukon border, south to the headwaters of the South Nahanni River, and as far north as the headwaters of the Arctic Red River. Two new archaeological sites associated with ice patches were recorded during this brief survey. One of the sites produced wooden artifacts – possibly fragments of a bow made from willow – and the second yielded broken caribou bone with fracture patterns indicative of human butchering practices. We also collected caribou dung from the second site. Analysis is still underway and includes radiocarbon dating of the cultural remains and bone. NWT biologists are leading the analysis of biological specimens from the sites, which include stable isotope analysis, diet composition and DNA analysis. These analyses will provide information on environmental changes and a comparison of past and present ecology of wildlife in the Mackenzie Mountains. This archaeological and biological work will lead to unique insights into the human and ecological history of the Mackenzie Mountains and will also extend the geographical range of the ice patch work in the Yukon, providing a broader regional scope to these studies.
Trout Lake Archaeological Survey
Glen MacKay (NWT Archaeologists Permit 2005-974)
Glen MacKay of the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre (PWNHC) conducted an archaeological survey of Trout Lake, NWT under Archaeologist’s Permit 2005-974. Tom Andrews of the PWNHC assisted MacKay and Violet Sanguez, a Sambaa K’e cultural specialist with Crosscurrent Associates Ltd., facilitated the field project. Several community elders and students also participated in the fieldwork.
A collaborative effort between Elders, students and archaeologists, the Sambaa K’e Archaeology Project involved visiting several important cultural places identified by the Elders of the Sambaa K’e Dene Band, and documenting them as archaeological sites. The project had a strong educational component for high school students from the community, with students receiving instruction in archaeological survey methods and learning about important cultural places from community elders.
We recorded nineteen archaeological sites, including sacred sites, burials, historic cabins and camps, traditional trails and precontact sites, during the Sambaa K’e Archaeology Project. Working in close collaboration with Sambaa K’e Elders, we were also able to document some of the oral histories and traditions associated with these sites. Contextualized in this way, archaeological data illustrates how ‘history is written on the land’ at cultural places, and how these places are linked with other places, to form a cultural landscape.
The archaeological sites recorded during the project span several historical periods of Trout Lake. Archaeological site JcRg-1 is an abandoned United States Army Air Force weather station operated at Trout Lake during the Second World War. This station provided daily weather observations for military aircraft flying from Edmonton to the Yukon. This site represents a significant period of cultural contact between the Sambaa K’e Dene Band and the outside world. JdRg-1 is a multi-component precontact archaeological deposit at the confluence of Paradise River with Trout Lake. This site, buried beneath a contemporary fish camp, indicates that people have fished at this locality for thousands of years. Cultural places associated with stories from mythical times were also recorded. For example, JcRi-3 is a small stretch of beach covered in flat brown rocks. An important culture hero carried one of these rocks during his travels around the world and they are thought to contain significant medicine power. Together, these sites and the others recorded represent the beginnings of a culture-history of Trout Lake that incorporates the perspectives of both Aboriginal and Western cultural traditions.
The Sambaa K’e Archaeology Project seeks to integrate cultural and archaeological understandings into an integrated history of the Sambaa K’e cultural landscape. We hope to continue this project in future years.
Archaeological Assessment; Culvert Replacement; Km. 136.1, Hwy #1
Glen MacKay (NWT Archaeologists Permit 2005-975)
Glen MacKay, Assessment Archaeologist at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, conducted archaeological impact assessments for two Department of Transportation (GNWT) projects under NWT Archaeologist’s Permit 2005-975.
A review of the development plans for the first project – a culvert replacement at KM 136.1 of Highway #1 – indicated that archaeological site JfQe-1 was located less than 30 m from the detour route proposed for the culvert replacement. We decided to facilitate avoidance of JfQe-1 by relocating the site and staking its perimeter.
Archaeological site JfQe-1, recorded by William Noble in 1966, is located on the top of a sand ridge trending northeast to southwest on the east side of the culvert. By the time of Noble’s survey, bulldozing in the highway right-of-way had erased a large section of this ridge, leaving intact portions on either side of the highway demarcated by steep cutbanks of reddish sand underlain by gravel. Noble surface collected several artifacts, including lithic debitage, fire-cracked rock and a large circular quartzite cobble chopper, in the exposed sediments of these cutbanks, indicating that JfQe-1 had once spanned the highway right-of-way. On the south side of the highway Noble found intact subsurface deposits of JfQe-1 on a flat, forested section of the ridge.
Thorough visual inspection of the forested ridge top on the south side of the highway resulted in the discovery of Noble’s excavation units from 1966, still visible as distinct depressions on the west side of the forested area. Eighteen shovel tests led to the recovery of one black chert flake. Characteristic of the subarctic archaeological record, JfQe-1 is a low-density lithic scatter located on a raised landform overlooking a small watercourse.
A proposed gravel quarry at KM 30.1 of the Ingraham Trail was the focus of the second archaeological impact assessment conducted on behalf of the Department of Transportation. The proposed quarry is an approximately 100 x 100 m area of exposed bedrock sparsely vegetated with jack pine. The development area was assessed for archaeological resources by thorough visual inspection.
The majority of the proposed quarry, characterized by undulating bedrock with very few flat areas, exhibited low potential for archaeological sites. Several quartz veins were carefully inspected for evidence of precontact quarrying activity and tool manufacture but no definitive quartz artifacts were found; rather, the quartz debris associated with the veins appeared to be the result of natural exfoliation or historic prospecting activities.
The services of the Assessment Archaeologist at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre are available to all GNWT departments requiring archaeological impact assessment of their development projects.
New Shoshoni Ventures Assessment at Drybones Bay
Callum Thomson (NWT Archaeologists Permit 2005-976)
An archaeological survey and impact assessment was conducted on behalf of New Shoshoni Ventures Ltd. by Callum Thomson and Euan Thomson of Thomson Heritage Consultants, Calgary, and Morris Martin, Yellowknives Dene First Nation, Dettah. The survey took place within New Shoshoni mineral claim blocks on the south side of the mouth of Drybones Bay, an area previously found to be quite densely populated with archaeological and recent sites demonstrating a long history of occupation and land use by Yellowknives Dene and other aboriginal groups. The main focus of the 2005 survey was on terrain in the vicinity of 13 planned drill sites, half of which will be drilled though winter ice on Drybones Bay; most of the rest are on bedrock outcrops close to the shore of the bay.
Thirty-three new archaeological sites were found and recorded within the study area; these and 20 previously-recorded sites were assessed for potential impacts from exploration activities. Most of the sites contained one or more boulder features such as tent rings, where people had camped, hide-drying rings where freshly-skinned moose or perhaps caribou hides had been stretched out to dry, birchbark presses where sheets of bark cut from nearby birch trees were flattened prior to use in making canoes, and hearths or fireplaces. A few other sites contained quartz quarries where veins had clearly been exploited during the pre-contact period and where recognizable tools or tool fragments were sometimes found; scatters of other stone tool-making material such as mudstone and chert were found at several sites. Little evidence was found of any previous disturbance of heritage resources in the New Shoshoni project area. Four sites were identified that may require mitigation if exploration proceeds as planned, as each site is located within 100-150 m of proposed drill sites.
Mitigation measures proposed included detailed inspection of the affected drilling locations, development of site protection procedures such as placement of fences around sites, avoidance of exploration activities within 30 m of site boundaries, and modification of drilling methods, where necessary. It was also suggested that New Shoshoni invite Yellowknives Dene elders and officials to inspect planned drill sites and review proposed mitigation strategies proposed for nearby archaeological sites.