Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

U-M divers retrieve prehistoric wood from Lake Huron

13.12.2011
Under the cold clear waters of Lake Huron, University of Michigan researchers have found a five-and-a-half foot-long, pole-shaped piece of wood that is 8,900 years old. The wood, which is tapered and beveled on one side in a way that looks deliberate, may provide important clues to a mysterious period in North American prehistory.

"This was the stage when humans gradually shifted from hunting large mammals like mastodon and caribou to fishing, gathering and agriculture," said anthropologist John O'Shea. "But because most of the places in this area that prehistoric people lived are now under water, we don't have good evidence of this important shift itself– just clues from before and after the change.

"One of the enduring questions is the way the land went under water. Many people think it must have been a violent event, but finding this large wood object just sitting on the bottom wedged between a few boulders suggests that the inundation happened quickly but rather gently. And this in turn suggests that we'll find more intact evidence of human activity in the area."

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), O'Shea and U-M colleague Guy Meadows began exploring the area in the middle of modern Lake Huron several years ago. In 2009 they reported finding a series of stone features that they believe were "drive lanes" used by ancient PaleoIndian hunters to funnel caribou to slaughter, a technique still used today by the Inuit. These drive lanes were located on the Alpena-Amberley Ridge, a land connection across the middle of modern Lake Huron that linked northern Michigan with central Ontario during the low-water periods of the Pleistocene and early Holocene ages.

Since that discovery, O'Shea and Meadow have worked on identifying human campsites, which are typically located away from hunting areas. Piloting their 25-foot boat, the S/V Blue Traveler, about 40-60 miles out into Lake Huron from Alpena, Michigan, the researchers first spotted the ancient wood object using a small hand-deployed remote operated vehicle (ROV) equipped with a video camera. Then a team of divers – including O'Shea – went down about 100 feet to retrieve it.

Initially stored in a PVC tube filled with lake water, the specimen's age has now been fixed using carbon dating. It is currently undergoing more detailed analyses to determine whether there has been human modification, which visual examination suggests. "The first thing you notice is that it appears to have been shaped with a rounded base and a pointed tip," O'Shea said. "There's also a bevel on one side that looks unnatural, like it had to have been created. It looks like it might have been used as a tent pole or a pole to hang meat."

In addition to the wood specimen, the U-M researchers have collected many other samples from the bottom of the lake that they hope will provide clues about the environment before it was submerged by the rising lake water. Some of the samples are now being analyzed at U-M, while others are being analyzed by a Canadian expert on submerged site reconstruction and microdebitage – the examination of flakes of stone that are less than one millimeter in diameter, produced in large quantities when stone tools were made.

So far, according to O'Shea, quantities of pine pollen and charcoal have been found. "Slowly, the environmental picture is filling in," he said. "There was a marsh close by this site. It seems we're narrowing in on people, but of course forest fires could have created the charcoal as well as cooking fires. So we need to wait for the analyses to be sure about what we've got here."

O'Shea and colleagues will also need to wait for calmer weather before they can resume their search for evidence of human life under the great lake.

This research was carried out in collaboration with NOAA's Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and with the Great Lakes Division of the U.S. Navy's Sea Cadets Corp, both based in Alpena, Michigan.

O'Shea is a professor of anthropology at the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) and Curator of Great Lakes Archaeology at the U-M Museum of Anthropology. Meadows is a professor of physical oceanography at the U-M College of Engineering.

Diane Swanbrow | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.umich.edu
http://www.ns.umich.edu/new/multimedia/9-videos/20120-u-m-divers-retrieve-prehistoric-wood-from-lake-huron

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Global study of world's beaches shows threat to protected areas
19.07.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht NSF-supported researchers to present new results on hurricanes and other extreme events
19.07.2018 | National Science Foundation

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>