Who were Haldimand’s first inhabitants? Archaeological project seeks the answer

Who were Haldimand’s first inhabitants? Archaeological project seeks the answer
Chert artifacts exposed on the ground surface
Lorenz Bruechert, Archaeologist

By John Benson

To The Haldimand Press

HALDIMAND—On August 27, 2019 Haldimand-Norfolk Archaeological Regional Project (HNARP) provided an annual summary to Haldimand Council. This project is an investigation into the first inhabitants of Haldimand and Norfolk counties by Lorenz Bruechert, a former Jarvis resident and now an archaeologist residing in Vancouver, BC.

Haldimand County contributed $1,000 to the project in 2018 for laboratory analysis of rock samples collection. HNARP is currently sending 22 samples per month for testing, which will continue for the next 18 months. The project will provide annual updates until the project is completed, which will take about seven years.

Long before Europeans landed in Canada by 1497 AD, indigenous people originating from Asia came over the land bridge connecting Siberia and North America during the Ice Age. They first arrived in the Great Lakes’ region as the Laurentide Ice Sheet receded and the landscape transformed to support life again, approximately 11,700 years ago.

Haldimand’s first residents migrated from Beringia (Alaska). As ice receded, Haldimand became a spruce forest parkland with sparse vegetation. As it warmed, plants and animals entered the new landscape first, followed by Paleo Indians using stone, wood, and bone tools. Before the HNARP we knew nothing of these people. As it is, nothing remains of their culture except stone tools.

After 13 years of field work, the collection and documentation of artifacts is large. It is surprising that most of the sites discovered in Haldimand date within the Archaic period (7500-1000BC); this timeline was preceded by the Late Paleo Indian culture and followed by the Woodland period. There is little in the way of behavioral interpretation of what Archaic culture groups were doing on the landscape compared to the Woodland Period. The objective of the HNAR Project is to recover more information from sites and piece together a better interpretation of this early culture and its behaviour towards the environment, landscape, and natural resources.

Prehistoric camp and village sites have been exposed as a result of lands being cleared for multiple purposes, providing researchers with unparalleled information. One of the features that makes Haldimand special is the bountiful supply of chert. Chert is a flint-like rock that can be chipped to produce flakes with a sharp edge, yet durable enough to hold that edge; it was valued for an assortment of everyday tools and household items. Wood, antler, and bone were also made into tools, but are long decomposed, leaving behind only a vast array of stone tools essential for survival, such as knives or projectile points, scrapers, and drills.

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