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plenty of life in the layers

Dig this ... ancient riverbed
Archeologists stumble on find

, The Hamilton Spectator, (Jun 9, 2010) 

Underneath an old lilac garden, researchers have found an ancient riverbed which the area's earliest residents may have called home.
McMaster University archeology students recently uncovered a riverbed -- 10,000 to 30,000 years old -- on the north shore of Lake Ontario in Cootes Paradise, said the group's instructor Meghan Burchell. "It's sheer blind luck. It was a random sampling," she said.
"People don't know there's so much archeology in Hamilton. This is really a living landscape."
The team discovered traces of a deteriorated wood post along the river's edge -- the first evidence of a clear structure, now buried about 25 centimetres underground, Burchell said.
It's likely the remains of a trap or drying rack for fish, she added.
Researchers hope to use a ground penetrating radar in the next couple of months to figure out the riverbed's exact size and boundaries.
The crew of about 15 students and instructors also found a military button, trading beads, decorated pottery and stone tools.
Most of the artifacts, found strewn across the 150-square-metre area, are at least 1,500 years old, Burchell said.
A few of the artifacts are 3,000 years old, she added.
The site could be older, which will be determined by further research, Burchell said.
"Turns out, this site is massive. What we thought was a stop-over place could be much more significant."
Natives lived in that area at least 3,000 years ago, Burchell said.
All the initial data will be sent to the Ministry of Culture and the archeologists can resume digging at this time next year.
The McMaster students were at the site for the last six weeks, ending yesterday, as part of an annual dig in its third year hosted by the Royal Botanical Gardens.

To students, it's known as field school -- a chance to put theory lessons aside and get hands-on experience.
This year, they concentrated on a plot of land farmed 75 years ago before the RBG made it into a lilac garden.
This is the first time they've found structural artifacts.
"I didn't know much about the area before field school. (Now) I'm emotionally attached," said Elizabeth Ouellette, a third-year Mac archeology student at the dig.
"There's a much richer history in this area than I ever would have thought."
Officials at the RBG aren't surprised by the find.
It's flat land, surrounded by rocky, steep hills, with plenty of hunting and fishing available. It's also a stop for migratory birds, said Tys Theysmeyer, head of conservation at the RBG.
"That's why people lived here. It's the crossroads of life," he said. "It's an example of one of the remarkable mysteries in (Cootes)."

jdunning@thespec.com
905-526-3368

THE NUMBERS
3 -- Years McMaster archeologists have studied the land around the riverbed discovery
11 -- Registered archeological sites in the RBG
1,000 -- Registered archeological sites in Hamilton
1,500 -- In years, the age of most artifacts found around the riverbed
3,000 -- In years, how long ago natives lived in the area
10,000-30,000 -- In years, the age of the riverbed

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