Archaeological dig on island near Ucluelet unearths story of 4-thousand-year-old First Nations village

Archaeological dig on island near Ucluelet unearths story of 4-thousand-year-old First Nations village

An extraordinary history lesson is revealing itself on one of the Broken Group Islands off Ucluelet this week.

Remains of a 4-thousand-year-old First Nations village are being unearthed in an archaeological dig.

As a team scrapes away layers of time and sifts through pounds of past, Keith Island is revealing its long-buried story as a Tseshaht settlement.

“This is their history book, this is the first edition and its the only copy,” said Denis St. Claire of the Tseshaht First Nation.

“We must make sure it doesn’t get thrown on the bonfire you know.”

The project is a team effort, uniting the Tseshaht First Nation, Parks Canada, UVic’s Archaeology Department and the Bamfield Marine Centre.

They are uncovering what life on this Island was like 4,000 years ago, including what people ate, how they fished, and how the Tseshaht lived.

“A reflection of thousands of years of everyday use of the village as a home,”  said Ian McKechnie of the UVic Archaeology Department.

The experience of digging up evidence buried for millennia can be overwhelming

“It’s wonderful. Especially when you do find an artifact,” said UVic student Jen Hogan.

“You’re holding something that somebody hundreds or thousands of years ago shaped with their hands and used, and they’re incredibly finely made.”

The biggest discovery so far was uncovered on Tuesday.

What looks like roots in a deep pit to the casual observer turns out to be a ribcage

“They are from an extinct breed of dog,” said another UVic student.

“We finally reached it and we’re slowly brushing away around the edges trying to brush away as much of the bone as we can.”

This long-extinct woolly dog,  used for its fleece and companionship, is estimated to have been buried on the island 700-years-ago.

The excavation takes place until Friday, then it’s off to the lab with hundreds of specimens for closer inspection.

“You’re seeing things that haven’t seen the light of day for a thousand years,” St. Claire said.


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