Planet Earth

#95: Hidden Caribou-Hunting Civilization Found Under Lake Huron

Ancient people apparently apparently corralled prey the way modern Siberian hunters do: with giant rock "drive lanes."

By Amy BarthDec 17, 2009 6:00 AM


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Traces of an ancient caribou hunting ground lie buried beneath Lake Huron, according to archaeologist John O’Shea at the University of Michigan. Modern Siberian herders manage reindeer migration by chopping down trees and laying them on the ground, he noted; the animals instinctively follow these “drive lanes.” O’Shea has found evidence that Paleo-Americans did the same thing thousands of years ago, when the climate around the Great Lakes was similarly Arctic-like.

On land, old drive lanes would be quickly disrupted and become unrecognizable. In the middle of Lake Huron, however, such lanes could have been buried when lake water levels rose rapidly about 7,500 years ago, after the end of the last ice age. Equipped with sonar and remote-operated underwater vehicles, O’Shea and a team of University of Michigan colleagues plunged through the dark waters to look around. They found thousand-foot-long lines of rocks peppered with large boulders, which strongly resemble the drive lanes used by prehistoric hunters in the Canadian Arctic. The rocks have been buried there for more than 7,000 years.

“This has potential to fill an important gap in knowledge of cultural development,” O’Shea says. The discovery also leaves him wondering what other relics lie hidden beneath Lake Huron. “The features are subtle,” he says. “I’m sure people have passed over these areas with sonars running and not recognized them for what they are.” O’Shea plans to send divers back to the 28-square-mile site in pursuit of further evidence, including stone tools and preserved animal remains.

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