Archaeological Investigations for the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road

Jean Bussey (NWT Archaeologist’s Permit 2012-004)

In 2011, Jean Bussey of Points West Heritage Consulting Ltd. conducted archaeological investigations for the Joint Venture that operates the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road. This work was conducted through EBA Engineering Consultants Ltd. under Northwest Territories Archaeological Permit 2012-004. 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 about six years ago, the full length of this ice road was utilized every winter, but most years it now only extends as far as Lac de Gras due a lack of mining activity further north.

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 is undertaken every year or two. No monitoring was conducted in 2012. Instead an archaeological site discovered within a proposed gravel source in 2011 was tested and collected. Investigations in 2012 indicated that KkNx-16 consisted of three small localities containing relatively sparse archaeological material. The site is located on esker deposits on the north side of a lake locally known as Sandridge Lake. This lake is part of the winter road route and there are numerous sites recorded on this well-defined esker.

KkNx-16 is on south facing slope on the north side of Sandridge Lake. It consists of three localities with quartz flakes visible on the surface. Locality 1 was characterized by a surface scattering of approximately 40 specimens of quartz including white, grey and clear. They extended over an area about 10 m by 10 m; the specimens were sparsely scattered, likely as a result of slope wash. No artifacts were recovered during subsurface testing at Locality 1. All surface specimens were collected using a 2 m by 2 m grid. Locality 2 at KkNx-16 was also characterized by a surface scattering of about 40 specimen of quartz, but the artifacts were limited to white and grey coloured materials. The majority of the artifacts were scattered across an area approximately 6 m by 8 m and were collected using a 2 m by 2 m grid consisting of 12 units. These artifacts are more likely in their original provenience since they are on level terrain characterized by exposed rock. No artifacts were recovered during subsurface testing. Locality 3, situated between the other two localities, contained fewer than 20 specimens of white quartz, most of which are chunky. The white quartz specimens were found on gentle slope in an area about 3 m by 3 m and were collected by measuring from a central datum. No artifacts were encountered during subsurface testing at Locality 3.

The lack of artifacts beneath the surface suggests that KkNx-16 consists of three small surface scatters. White quartz is the dominant material, but grey and clear quartz are also present. In addition, in 2011, three specimens of a dark grey siltstone were collected downslope from localities 1 and 2.

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