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 nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
30 new COVID-19 cases, five more deaths in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases to 7,271 since testing began

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

Interior Health reported 43 new COVID-19 cases in the region Feb. 23, 2021 and no additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
43 new cases of COVID reported in Interior Health

No new deaths, Williams Lake outbreak over

Black Press file photo.
Interior Health: 6 new deaths and 67 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend

An outbreak has been declared at Kelowna General Hospital

Janet (left) and Karen Johnson. (Shelley Woods Boden/Facebook)
Petition to keep Wells Gray murderer in jail garners 39K signatures and counting

Family and friends compiling victim impact statements to keep David Ennis behind bars.

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

Interior Health officially declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Creekside Landing in Vernon on Jan. 3, which was followed by the first death from the virus 10 days later. (Kaigo photo)
COVID outbreak over at Vernon care home

Creekside Landing cleared of coronavirus, despite additional death in last day

(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