Alberta's Lower Athabasca Basin

Alberta's Lower Athabasca Basin

Archaeology and Palaeoenvironments
ISSN, Band 1

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Over the past two decades, the oil sands region of northeastern Alberta has been the site of unprecedented levels of development. Alberta's Lower Athabasca Basin tells a fascinating story of how a catastrophic ice age flood left behind a unique landscape in the Lower Athabasca Basin, one that made deposits of bitumen available for surface mining. Less well known is the discovery that this flood also produced an environment that supported perhaps the most intensive use of boreal forest resources by prehistoric Native people yet recognized in Canada. Studies undertaken to meet the conservation requirements of the Alberta Historical Resources Act have yielded a rich and varied record of prehistoric habitation and activity in the oil sands area. Evidence from between 9,500 and 5,000 years ago—the result of several major excavations—has confirmed extensive human use of the region's resources, while important contextual information provided by key ecological and palaeoenvironmental studies has deepened our understanding of how the region's early inhabitants interacted with the landscape.Touching on various elements of this rich environmental and archaeological record, the contributors to this volume use the evidence gained through research and compliance studies to offer new insights into human and natural history. They also examine the challenges of managing this irreplaceable heritage resource in the face of ongoing development.
Contributors discuss and explore the unique record of prehistoric landscape use revealed by development in the oil sands region of Alberta.
Introduction: The Archaeological Heritage of Alberta’s Lower Athabasca Basin Brian M. Ronaghan | 3

Part One Postglacial Environments
1 | A Tale of Two Floods How the End of the Ice Age Enhanced Oil Sands Recovery—and Decimated the Fossil Record James A. Burns and Robert R. Young | 25
2 | Glacial Geology and Land-Forming Events in the Fort McMurray Region Timothy G. Fisher and Thomas V. Lowell | 45
3 | Raised Landforms in the East-Central Oil Sands Region Origin, Age, and Archaeological Implications Robin J. Woywitka, Duane G. Froese, and Stephen A. Wolfe | 69
4 | Kearl Lake A Palynological Study and Postglacial Palaeoenvironmental Reconstruction of Alberta’s Oil Sands Region Luc Bouchet and Alwynne B. Beaudoin | 83

Part Two Human History
5 | The Early Prehistoric Use of a Flood-Scoured Landscape in Northeastern Alberta Grant M. Clarke, Brian M. Ronaghan, and Luc Bouchet | 115
6 | A Chronological Outline for the Athabasca Lowlands and Adjacent Areas Brian O. K. Reeves, Janet Blakey, and Murray Lobb | 161
7 | Lower Athabasca Archaeology A View from the Fort Hills Robin J. Woywitka | 243
8 | The Early Human History of the Birch Mountains Uplands John W. Ives | 285

Part Three Lithic Resource Use
9 | Beaver River Sandstone Characteristics and Use, with Results of Heat Treatment Experiments Eugene M. Gryba | 333
10 | The Organization of Lithic Technology at the Quarry of the Ancestors Nancy Saxberg and Elizabeth C. Robertson | 359
11 | Microblade Technology in the Oil Sands Region Distinctive Features and Possible Cultural Associations Angela M. Younie, Raymond J. Le Blanc, and Robin J. Woywitka | 401

Part Four Archaeological Methods
12 | Quarries Investigative Approaches in the Athabasca Oil Sands Gloria J. Fedirchuk, Jennifer C. Tischer, and Laura Roskowski | 437
13 | Cumulative Effects Assessment Evaluating the Long-Term Impact of Oil Sands Development on Archaeological Resources Brian M. Ronaghan | 479

List of Contributors | 541
Index of Sites | 549
General Index | 551
For more than twenty years, Brian M. Ronaghan served in a research and regulatory compliance role with the Government of Alberta, most recently as director of the Archaeological Survey. Over the course of his career, he was involved in regulatory approval processes for major developments, undertook consultations with Indigenous groups and industry organization, and developed historical resource management policy. His interests principally reside in the areas of archaeological field and analytical methods and in conservation management.Contributors: Alwynne B. Beaudoin, Janet Blakey, Luc Bouchet, James A. Burns, Grant M. Clarke, Gloria J. Fedirchuk, Timothy G. Fisher, Duane G. Froese, Eugene M. Gryba, John W. (Jack) Ives, Raymond J. Le Blanc, Murray Lobb, Thomas V. Lowell, Brian O. K. Reeves, Elizabeth C. Robertson, Brian M. Ronaghan, Laura Roskowski, Nancy Saxberg, Jennifer C. Tisher, Stephen A. Wolfe, Robin J. Woywitka, Robert R. Young, Angela M. Younie

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