At the Bottom of Lake Huron, an Ancient Hunting Ground

By Eliza Strickland | June 9, 2009 8:49 am

Lake HuronDeep beneath the waves of Lake Huron, researchers may have found evidence of a Paleo-American culture that lived in the Great Lakes region. Archaeologists used sonar and robotic explorers to examine about 28 square miles of the lake bottom, and found what may be the remnants of a caribou hunting ground; they hope further studies will reveal ancient settlements. Says study coauthor John O’Shea: “Scientifically, it’s important, because the entire ancient landscape has been preserved and has not been modified by farming, or modern development” [Canwest News Service].

What is now part of Lake Huron’s obscured floor became a dry land bridge between modern-day Presque Isle, Michigan and Point Clark, Ontario when lake levels dipped some 7,500 to 10,000 years ago [Scientific American]. At depths ranging between 60 and 140 feet, researchers found lines of large stones, which may have been “drive lanes” that aided early hunters as they tried to take down galloping caribou. “An interesting behavioral trait of caribou is that they follow linear features” [National Geographic News], says O’Shea.

Although generally unimpressive to humans — a person could easily step across the shin-high line of boulders, and even a small dog could leap it with a single bound — such structures are used by arctic hunters today to effectively guide caribou…. Groupings of large boulders at each end of the structure could have been used as decidedly low-tech hunting blinds [Science News].

But the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, hasn’t convinced everyone–other archaeologists argue that the rock lines could have been arranged by moving glaciers, and say they’ll wait for a sighting of stone tools or other artifacts before getting excited. Study coauthor Guy Meadows notes that a rather thick covering of zebra mussels — an invasive species that now plagues many of the Great Lakes — also blocked easy view of the lake bottom surrounding the purported manmade structures…. So, he adds, researchers will soon return to scuba dive in the area and make detailed investigations [Science News].

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Image: John O’Shea

  • Nick

    Well, we know the lake was once not a lake, and we know people lived all over the place in this continent – so whether or not these boulders were human-arranged or not, it’s quite likely that humans did inhabit this plane.

    Too bad they only had stone tools at the time, otherwise they could use RADAR! to have ROV’s look for tools.

  • Larry Esser

    This is of great interest because of the ongoing effort to uncover where and how early human settlers of the American continents lived. Likewise it is fascinating to see how the Ice Age affected them…no caribou this far south anymore! I look forward to hearing what divers find about this.

  • Ted

    Evidence of the Genesis flood?

  • john

    This report was published a little premature. Find something that definatively says Native Americans lived here or used this area as a hunting ground! A plie of arranged rocks is NOT archaeological evidence. Our minds tend to play tricks on us when looking for human made patterns especially when water, glaciation, and massive shoreline erosion is involved. It’s premature reports like this that give the rest of professional archaeologists a bad rap with the physical science community.

  • jack

    I agree with john

  • Malkatraz

    No. 3, Ted:

    Quick answer – no.

  • http://none R. B. D.

    I have been diving the st. clair river for 30+ years and find stone tools frequently. I do not know how old they are. I was told they are fishing net weights ? They range in size from a few oz. to 13lbs. or more some have a groove all the way around the rock . The small ones are called quick chips.


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