Rob Rondeau, PhD candidate at SFU, is embarking on a mission to find definitive evidence of human migration to the continent. (SFU supplied image)

Rob Rondeau, PhD candidate at SFU, is embarking on a mission to find definitive evidence of human migration to the continent. (SFU supplied image)

VIDEO: Marine archaeologist looking for clues of ancient migration in B.C. waters

SFU researcher hoping to find 15,000 year-old archaeological sites underwater

A marine archaeologist at SFU is launching an ambitious study to find evidence of how people first migrated to North America over 15,000 years ago.

The trick is that what used to be the coastline is now ocean floor.

B.C.’s landscape was wildly different before the Holocene epoch, which began over 11,000 years ago after the Ice Age. There weren’t cedar trees, there were no salmon. In some places the coastline has moved inland by more than 40 kilometers.

“Fifteen-thousand years ago you could walk from Haida Gwaii to what we now call the mainland. Same for Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands,” said Rob Rondeau. “We know this because we’ve found remains of animals like mastodon and mammoths.”

Rondeau has been a marine archaeologist for decades, mostly searching for ship wrecks and other relatively large objects. Now he’s looking for a needle in a 2.5 million square-kilometre haystack of what was Beringia.

Archaeologists have various theories on how people came to North America, the most common is that they migrated westward from Siberia as mammoth and mastodon herds followed the grasslands. From there they either migrated down the coast, or followed the middle of the continent into the interior plains.

Rondeau thinks the coastal route is more likely, and is setting out to find evidence in his three-year PhD project.

It’s the first time he’s approached this topic, and he’s the only person looking for formerly terrestrial archaeological sites to find out how the First Peoples migrated.

He’s starting by using sonar and other technology to map the shape of the ocean floor. Then he can identify where river valleys and lakes would have been. He’ll combine knowledge gained from archaeological sites in Alaska to identify areas most likely to have been inhabited by humans.

From there, he’ll drill core samples and look for evidence of habitation.

Even if he doesn’t find artifacts, the research will still be useful for what the core samples will be able to tell us about the environment back then, he said. But he’s hoping to come back with at least a stone tool, or a charred bone for evidence.

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


historyIndigenousScience

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new councillors on March 6. (Westerly file photo)
Tofino’s mayoralty candidates lay out key differences

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new councillors on March 6.

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Clockwise from top right, chamber executive director Jen Dart moderated a Zoom-based forum last week where Tofino’s mayoralty candidates J.J. Belanger, Andrea McQuade and Dan Law made their pitch to lead their community. (Screenshot)
WATCH: Tofino mayoralty candidates face off at forum

Town to elect new mayor and two new councillors on March 6.

A man died in a house fire at the Ahousaht First Nation reserve on Feb. 17, 2021. (BP File Image)
House fire claims life of one man in Ahousaht

Investigation underway as tight-knit community mourns, foul play not suspected

Ucluelet locals Sophia Lounsbury and Charlotte Norman had a blast sliding through the snow at Tugwell Fields during Saturday’s rare winter wonderland on the West Coast. (Andrew Bailey photo)
POLL QUESTION: Did you enjoy the rare snowfall in Tofino-Ucluelet?

The West Coast transformed into a winter wonderland last weekend.

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

When his owner had knee surgery, Kevin, 2, was able to continue to go for walks thanks to volunteers from Elder Dog Canada. (Contributed photo)
B.C. woman has nothing but praise for Elder Dog Canada

National organization has a fleet of volunteer walkers ready, but needs more clients to serve

Most Read