The ancient stories of the indigenous Heiltsuk Nation people say that their ancestors sheltered on a mysterious strip of coastline in Canada during the last Ice Age. Thanks to a recent discovery of a 14,000-year-old settlement, science is now reaffirming those claims.
The discovery was made last year along the Central Coast of British Columbia on Triquet Island, CBC News reports. Teams of archaeologists from the Hakai Institute, University of Victoria, and local First Nations found the remains of charcoal, tools, fish hooks, spears used to hunt marine mammals, and even a hand drill used for lighting fires.
Based on the analysis of charcoal found, it’s estimated the settlement was established around 13,613 to 14,086 years ago. This makes it one of the oldest human settlements in North America. It also means it’s twice as old as the invention of the wheel, three times older than the Pyramids of Giza, and thousands of years before all of the ice age megafauna went extinct.
There is also evidence to suggest that the sea-level around Triquet Island has remained remarkably stable for 15,000 years throughout the end of the last Ice Age. This again confirms that this area acted as a haven of stability over the millennia, just as the Heiltsuk Nation have said all along.
Archaeologists excavate deep into the ground of the island. Grant Callegari/Hakai Institute
The finding also helps explain how early North Americans migrated through British Columbia. One theory says that humans came from Asia and traversed across a bridge of land that connects Russia to Alaska. The discovery on Triquet Island further supports that people first moved down the coast, most likely via boat, after coming across the land bridge. Previously, archaeologists suggested that humans had traveled on foot to this point. While people certainly would have traveled inland too, later on, this discovery shows that the coastal route likely occurred much earlier than the inland route.
Now, armed with this knowledge, indigenous First Nation groups say they feel that they now have more credence and validity when entering the often heated battles for land rights.
“When we do go into negotiations, our oral history is what we go to the table with,” William Housty, a member of the Heiltsuk Nation, told CBC News. “So now we don’t just have oral history, we have this archaeological information. It’s not just an arbitrary thing that anyone’s making up… We have a history supported from Western science and archaeology.”
Edited 04/11/17: After speaking to the Hakai Institute, we have edited our explanation of how the Triquest Island discovery is reaffirming how people migrated down the coast of North America after crossing the land bridge.