Archaeological Investigations for the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road

Jean Bussey (NWT Archaeologist’s Permit 2011-002)

In 2011, Jean Bussey of Points West Heritage Consulting Ltd. conducted archaeological investigations for the Joint Venture (JV) that operates the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road. This work was conducted through EBA Engineering Consultants Ltd. (EBA) under Northwest Territories Archaeologist’s Permit 2011-002 and Nunavut Archaeologist permit 11-005A. The former permit was a Class 2 permit and the latter a Class 1. Bussey was assisted by Carol Rushworth of Points West and Wayne Langenhan of the North Slave Metis Alliance.

The Tibbitt to Contwoyto winter road runs from the south end of Tibbitt Lake near Yellowknife to almost the north end of Contwoyto Lake in Nunavut. Until recently this ice road was used every winter for over 25 years, but since the winter of 2008 to 2009 it has not been constructed north of Lac de Gras due a lack of mining activity. However, because it was indicated that the road will likely extend to Contwoyto Lake during the winter of 2011 to 2012, Points West included the Nunavut portion in its 2011 investigations, thus, the need for two archaeological permits.

In previous years, a number of archaeological sites located near the winter road or its associated developments (gravel pits and camps) were marked by stakes to ensure avoidance during winter activities. Monitoring of the protected archaeological sites was a major component of the 2011 archaeological investigations. In addition, two potential gravel sources located near Lockhart Lake camp were subjected to ground reconnaissance.

In total, there are seven sites along portages or near camps or gravel pits that are protected from accidental impact by the installation of markers, including one site in Nunavut. Whenever possible, these markers are 30 m from archaeological sites, but in most instances this is not possible because the development occurred prior to archaeological investigations. Each of these sites were visited in 2011. In addition, at two extant gravel sources, the maximum extent of borrowing has been defined by markers that are at least 30 m from recorded archaeological sites. Damaged stakes were replaced when necessary and the top of all markers were sprayed with fluorescent paint to make them more visible in winter. In the process of visiting the protected archaeological sites, other portages were examined from the air to confirm their status and ensure no new disturbances have occurred in areas with archaeological potential.

During the ground reconnaissance, an archaeological site consisting of multiple localities was discovered at each of the proposed gravel sources near Lockhart Lake. At the preferred source, there were four localities with primarily sparse archaeological material. Three of these localities were on gentle eroding slope and one was on a relatively level area characterized by exposed rock. A few flakes of non-quartz material were collected and the small sample of quartz flakes present was left in situ. There is little potential for significant archaeological material at this site.

At the other proposed gravel source, three localities with intact archaeological material were located and all specimens were left in situ. The second gravel source has greater potential to yield intact and significant archaeological material. If this potential source is selected, more extensive testing, and possibly excavation, will be required in addition to more ground reconnaissance.

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