Rare 4,600-year-old Ontario burial lifts lid on prehistoric Canada

A 4,600-year-old burial has been discovered in a remote corner of northern Canada – and could hold the key to how ancient Canadians lived. The remarkable find has been made at the mouth of the Bug River, near Big Trout Lake, Ontario. Today the region is home to the Kitchenuhmaykoosik Inninuwug First Nation, an indigenous tribe numbering around 1,200.



The discovery was made by First Nation fishermen as water levels fell at the lake, exposing the burial. The site is currently being handled by an archaeological team from Lakehead University, Thunder Bay. The discovery is particularly rare as Canadian ethics laws largely forbid excavations.



The skeleton discovered is that of a man aged in his late-30s or 40s. Around five-and-a-half feet tall, the man had a “very, very robust muscular build,” according to team leader Prof Scott Hamilton. The man would have held high status in his day thanks to a seemingly formal burial. “There's a flat slab of granite that's associated directly with the bones,” adds Prof Hamilton. “It looks very much like a purposeful grave. We'll be taking a closer look at the stone as part of our analysis to see if we can find any evidence of function.”



Another aspect due further study is a red ochre found on the man's bones and nearby sediment. It is thought the colour was added to his body before burial, a practice seen throughout the world, including prehistoric North America.



The man lived at around the same time the Great Pyramids were being built in ancient Egypt, and great cities such as Babylon were popping up across the Near East. Yet life at Big Trout Lake, where temperatures can plummet to -30°C, was very different. “These folks are adapted to the kinds of resources one finds in the boreal forest,” says Hamilton. “These resources are highly seasonal in their availability – and the season of comparative plenty is often spring, summer and perhaps early fall.”



Isotope testing has so far shown that the man enjoyed a fish-based diet, with a side of hunted land mammals such as caribou (reindeer). The Spartan lifestyle, and migratory nature of food, meant Ontario's prehistoric tribes travelled huge distances in small numbers. “The winter seasons are generally a time of some scarcity and hardship as spatially concentrated food disappears,” says Hamilton.



“That means sub-Arctic people, in order to survive year in, year out through generations, have to have a seasonal cycle that’s highly mobile,” adds Hamilton. “They can place themselves on the landscape where they can predict resources will be available and follow the seasonal cycles of availability.”



It may seem an ancient lifestyle, but Canada's tribes have followed this ancient practice for millennia. “The past is very recent in the far north,” says Hamilton. Even the appearance of Europeans in the 17th century did nothing to alter the indigenous way of life, and Hamilton says prehistoric traditions are still alive today: “(The First Nation) may be gathering and harvesting resources with European technology but they’re (still using a) fairly significant amount of traditional technology – canoes, snowshoes, footwear, clothing.”



“What we see is this really interesting mix, an admixture, of traditional technology and the incorporation of new technology to practice a traditional life.” First Nation Chief Donny Morris insists the man will be reburied after tests are completed, in the traditions of his forebears. Yet it seems we'll learn a lot more from him yet.

A Million Mummy Question: Why are there a million mummies buried near Snefu's Seila pyramid?

Wanted: Homes for Ontario's Artefacts

Picture report from the Stonehenge Summer Solstice 2010

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Sport
Floyd Mayweather will relinquish his five world titles after beating Manny Pacquiao
boxing
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
News
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
people
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living