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Ancient Hunters of the Alpena-Amberley Ridge: Archaeological Investigations beneath Lake Huron

With National Science Foundation Support, Dr. John O'Shea and a team of colleagues from the University of Michigan will conduct three seasons of archaeological field work on the Alpena-Amberley Ridge, beneath the waters of modern Lake Huron in the Great Lakes. The team brings together specialists in the use of remote operated vehicles (ROV) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV), underwater archaeology, and computer science in an effort to identify archaeological sites associated with early hunting groups that once inhabited the Alpena-Amberley Ridge area during the Lake Stanley low water stage. At this time, some nine thousand years ago, the ridge existed as a corridor of dry land extending from Presque Isle in Michigan to the Point Clarke region of southern Ontario. The research builds on a prior National Science Foundation supported study that identified a series of stone structures which bear a strong resemblance to hunting structured used historically in the Arctic in the pursuit of caribou. The goal of the current research effort is to confirm the human origin of these structures and to begin the process of identifying and describing the ancient human sites and associated artifacts. The Alpena-Amberley ridge holds a potential treasure trove of information relating to the early occupation of the Great Lakes. Unlike anywhere else in the region, the ancient landscape remains much as the original occupants left it. There has been no development, land clearance or farming to destroy sites, and no looting to remove important or attractive artifacts. Not only does it provide the opportunity to identify sites from a time period that is poorly known on land, it also offers the potential for the preservation of intact sites, stone constructions, and plant and animal remains that rarely are preserved in the Great Lakes region. It also will provide a laboratory in which to investigate the life ways of the early inhabitants to the Great Lakes, and particularly the transition from Paleo-Indian to Archaic patterns systems. The preserved layout and distribution of inundated sites may also provide insights into the culture and organization of these early hunters of a kind that is only rarely preserved on land. Apart for the extraordinary anthropological potential of the work, the research promises a number of broader benefits. The work will provide a detailed view of the Lake Stanley era terrain and the Lake Huron lake bottom, and will yield important geological, environmental, botanical and faunal evidence from this important time period. It will also provide data on the current conditions of the mid-Lake environment, and particularly the impact of invasive species. Finally, the work brings together researchers and students from a wide range of departments and institutions, such as the Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering and the Museum of Anthropology at the University of Michigan, Computer Science at Wayne State University, and archaeologists and educators from the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The research effort represents the creative combination of existing equipment, capabilities, and expertise to address a novel new range of problems. The "cross-training" benefits of the research are shared not only among the senior investigators, but by the interdisciplinary group of graduate and undergraduate students that participate in the research.

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