NWT Ice Patch Study 2008

Thomas D. Andrews (NWT Archaeologist’s Permit 2008-010)

Despite bad weather, which grounded our helicopter for 4 out of 8 working days, we were able to locate a new ice patch archaeological site—KfTd-2—where we recovered a birch fore-shaft which dated to 570 ± 40 years BP. At KfTe-1, recorded first in 2005, we recovered part of a spruce arrow shaft, which dated to 850 ± 40 years BP, and a ground squirrel snare, dating to 970 ± 40 years BP. The latter, which has a double twisted strand of sinew tied onto a willow branch, is an especially important artefact as it demonstrates that hunters trapped ground squirrels at the ice patches while they were waiting for caribou, providing important evidence about the range of activities at these places. We also returned to site KhTf-1, recorded in 1989 by Chris Hanks, to attempt recovery of a snowshoe which he noted at the site. We were able to relocate the site and recovered three fragments of a spruce snowshoe. We had postulated that the site might have been a melted-out ice patch site and the snowshoe related to its exploitation. However, it was clear that the site was not an ice patch and a radiocarbon date indicated that the snowshoe was modern in age, possibly left behind by a trapper sometime within the last 75 years.

In addition to our archaeological research, Dr. Brian Moorman and Tom Meulendyk, from the Earth Sciences Program at the University of Calgary, were able to continue their geophysical exploration of several ice patch sites. Using ground penetrating radar, and by taking ice cores, they hope to understand to answer questions about the formation and longevity of the ice patches. This year we were also joined by Dr. Jan Adamczewski, Ungulate Biologist with the Government of the NWT. Dr. Adamczewski used dung collected at several sites to study caribou food habits over several millennia to explore changes in diet.

Finally, we were also able to host the second Ice Patch Science Camp, which was attended by 4 students from Tulita, as well as by several elders. The program included learning about field recording methods such as GPS, setting ground squirrel snares, learning local place names and stories, and experiencing, firsthand, the archaeology of ice patches. Students and elders were able to visit one of the ice patch sites to help with locating artefacts and drilling an ice core.

(Edited by Shelley Crouch, Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre)