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 Glacial engineering could limit sea-level rise, if we get our emissions under control
20.09.2018 | European Geosciences Union

nachricht Warning against hubris in CO2 removal
20.09.2018 | Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) gGmbH

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Scientists present new observations to understand the phase transition in quantum chromodynamics

The building blocks of matter in our universe were formed in the first 10 microseconds of its existence, according to the currently accepted scientific picture. After the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago, matter consisted mainly of quarks and gluons, two types of elementary particles whose interactions are governed by quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the theory of strong interaction. In the early universe, these particles moved (nearly) freely in a quark-gluon plasma.

This is a joint press release of University Muenster and Heidelberg as well as the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt.

Then, in a phase transition, they combined and formed hadrons, among them the building blocks of atomic nuclei, protons and neutrons. In the current issue of...

Im Focus: Patented nanostructure for solar cells: Rough optics, smooth surface

Thin-film solar cells made of crystalline silicon are inexpensive and achieve efficiencies of a good 14 percent. However, they could do even better if their shiny surfaces reflected less light. A team led by Prof. Christiane Becker from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) has now patented a sophisticated new solution to this problem.

"It is not enough simply to bring more light into the cell," says Christiane Becker. Such surface structures can even ultimately reduce the efficiency by...

Im Focus: New soft coral species discovered in Panama

A study in the journal Bulletin of Marine Science describes a new, blood-red species of octocoral found in Panama. The species in the genus Thesea was discovered in the threatened low-light reef environment on Hannibal Bank, 60 kilometers off mainland Pacific Panama, by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (STRI) and the Centro de Investigación en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología (CIMAR) at the University of Costa Rica.

Scientists established the new species, Thesea dalioi, by comparing its physical traits, such as branch thickness and the bright red colony color, with the...

Im Focus: New devices based on rust could reduce excess heat in computers

Physicists explore long-distance information transmission in antiferromagnetic iron oxide

Scientists have succeeded in observing the first long-distance transfer of information in a magnetic group of materials known as antiferromagnets.

Im Focus: Finding Nemo's genes

An international team of researchers has mapped Nemo's genome

An international team of researchers has mapped Nemo's genome, providing the research community with an invaluable resource to decode the response of fish to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

One of the world’s most prominent strategic forums for global health held in Berlin in October 2018

03.09.2018 | Event News

4th Intelligent Materials - European Symposium on Intelligent Materials

27.08.2018 | Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Glacial engineering could limit sea-level rise, if we get our emissions under control

20.09.2018 | Earth Sciences

Warning against hubris in CO2 removal

20.09.2018 | Earth Sciences

Halfway mark for NOEMA, the super-telescope under construction

20.09.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>