Artifacts speak to long history of human activity in BWCA
Officials from the U.S. Forest Service say radiocarbon dating has confirmed that a piece of a ceramic cooking utensil found in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is approximately 1,700 years old.
Lee Johnson, a Superior National Forest archaeologist, says they are “fairly confident” that there are sites in the BWCA that are as old as 10,000 years, but it’s good to have exact dates confirmed by radiocarbon testing.
“The site location and artifacts suggested a long history of ancestral Native American use of the site,” he said. The location where the artifacts were discovered is at a BWCA campsite on a lake near the Canadian border, Johnson told WTIP.
The Forest Service says a lab at University of California-Irving determined the age based on carbonized food residue found on the interior of the broken piece. The piece contains decorative elements associated with the Laurel Cultural tradition, which was prevalent in the region from about 2,100 to 1,200 years ago. The people of the Laurel Culture lived in areas now part of Minnesota, Ontario, Manitoba and Michigan.
Jaylen Strong, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, says it’s important to get an accurate date “to demonstrate the sophistication of the people and their land uses here for thousands of years. Artifacts like this help to improve the knowledge of people who used this land that can often be misrepresented.”
WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs spoke with Johnson about the radiocarbon dating process and archeological sites in the BWCA. Johnson says people who visit the BWCA for canoe or hiking trips need to be mindful of laws and leave no trace principles that apply to the federally-protected wilderness specific to archeological sites. Audio below.