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

A health care worker prepares to test a Coastal GasLink field worker for COVID-19. (Coastal GasLink photo)
Coastal GasLink begins COVID screening of pipeline workers

Construction is once again ramping up following Northern Health approval of COVID management plan

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

Chris Paulson of Burns Lake took a quick selfie with a lynx over the weekend of Feb. 20-22, 2021, after the wild cat was found eating some of his chickens. (Chris Paulson/Facebook)
VIDEO: Burns Lake man grabs lynx by scruff after chickens attacked

‘Let’s see the damage you did, buddy,’ Chris Paulson says to the wild cat

Design work continues for planned new hospital

Construction contract still in the works

Northern Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Brucejack mine, 65 km north of Stewart on Feb. 11, 2021. (Pretivm Photo)
Northern Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Brucejack Mine, 65 kilometres north of Stewart on Feb. 11, 2021. (Pretivm Photo)
Northern Health reports 20 more COVID-19 cases in outbreak at Brucejack Mine

So far, 42 people have tested positive, nine cases are active and self-isolating onsite

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

Most Read