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Ancient caribou hunting site found beneath Lake Huron

Male caribou
Male caribou
US Dept. of Fish & Wildlife Service (public domain)

Discovery of an ancient caribou hunting ground beneath the water of Lake Huron is giving researchers an unexpected view of what life was like nearly 9,000 years ago as glaciers were crawling back to the arctic and water levels in the Great Lakes were approximately 3,000 feet lower than they are today. At the time, the rich hunting grounds once part of a land bridge between the “tundra landscapes of Ontario and Michigan.” It is now believed that this was the site where “large groups of hunters congregated and hunted caribou together each spring,” according to a study published just published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"For mobile hunters, this is a really valuable time, because they share information, they trade, they have marriages, they do all these things that you only do when you get a critical mass of people together," archeologist John O’Shea of the University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology told the Canadian Broadcast Company after his team discovered the remains of an elaborate set-up of hunting blinds and other structures constructed to “trap animals coming from the opposite direction, consisting of a 90-foot long corridor lined with short stone walls on either side that would have directed caribou into a natural cul-de-sac where a hunter could crouch, hidden, and then jump out from behind with a spear.” Flakes of stone, most likely chipped off while making the weapons, have also been found.

Although being underwater has hampered much of their work, John O’Shea is grateful in many ways, noting that had it still been on land, the site probably would not have been so well-preserved throughout the millenia. He and his team are now using sonar to help map out evidence of the actual campsite used during the hunt by the gathering tribes.