NWT Ice Patch Monitoring Project

Tom Andrews (NWT Archaeologist’s Permit 2014-001)

Following a 2-day delay because of poor weather, our team spent 5 days undertaking survey and monitoring of 14 ice patches in the Selwyn and Mackenzie mountains, near the NWT/Yukon border. Assisting with the work were Leon Andrew, an elder originally from Tulita, Sarah Bannon, an archaeologist with the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, and for just one of the five days, Keith Hickling, with GNWT’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Despite being a significantly warm year, with all patches we visited exhibiting extensive melting, we returned with just a few new objects. At KfTe-1, our largest and most productive ice patch, we recovered a burned stick, likely willow, that radiocarbon dated to 2360 ± 30 years BP. This represents the first evidence of the use of fire at an NWT ice patch. At another site, one that we had been monitoring since its discovery in 2009, but where we had yet to discover any artifacts, we discovered the proximal end of a dart made from a stave of birch. The dart fragment dated to 6040 years BP, making this the oldest site in the NWT ice patch study.

The site where we found the ancient dart fragment, KjRx-2, is on a mountain that is also the site of a caribou fence, also discovered in 2009. At the base of the mountain, hunters from Tulita still kill caribou in the fall. The combination of these sites—all in close proximity to each other—demonstrates that caribou hunting has been a persistent tradition at this location for more than 6000 years.

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