ARCHAEOLOGICAL FIELDWORK IN THE NORTHWEST
TERRITORIES IN 2007
Edited by Shelley Crouch, Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre
The 2007 NWT Ice Patch Project
Tom Andrews (NWT Archaeological Permit 2007‐017)
Funded by the International Polar Year (IPY) program, the Northwest Territories Ice Patch Study
combines the physical, biological and social sciences with traditional knowledge to investigate
past and present environmental and human change in the Mackenzie Mountains. As
repositories of well preserved archaeological artefacts and ancient biological specimens,
permanent ice patches provide a long term material record of human hunting practices and
data on the diet, health and genetic histories of past caribou populations. Collection and
analysis of these specimens
will contribute to our
understanding of the human
history of the North and the
ecology of caribou populations
over time. A geophysical study
to determine the internal
structures and formation
processes of ice patches and
traditional knowledge research
to investigate oral traditions
about hunting caribou on ice
patches and human adaptation
to the alpine environment will
Research underway on ice patch KfTe‐1.
compliment these studies.
Through this multidisciplinary research design, we are gaining an understanding of how caribou
populations and people have adapted to climate change over the past several thousand years in
the Mackenzie Mountains. This knowledge will assist resource managers in the development of
effective management strategies for caribou populations currently faced by changing climate
regimes. We hope that effective management of caribou populations will contribute to the
sustained health and cultural well‐being of Aboriginal communities that rely on caribou for
traditional subsistence activities.
Designed in partnership with the Tulita Dene Band, this project has a strong education program
consisting of a science camp for Aboriginal students to be held in the Mackenzie Mountains
during the main IPY years of 2007 and 2008.
Significant discoveries were
made during the 2007 field
season including 5 new ice
patch archaeological sites
where wooden and stone
artefacts were recovered.
Radiocarbon dates of the
artefacts revealed that bow
and arrow technology was in
use about 300 years ago, while
dart throwing technology was
used about 2400 years ago.
An additional 10 targets—
locations where we found A complete arrow and projectile point found at KgTe‐1.
melting ice and significant
amounts of caribou fecal
matter, but no visible artefacts as yet—will be monitored over the next two years as they may
eventually produce cultural remains. Geophysical studies at two sites produced exciting results
too. Ground penetrating radar studies and a core extracted from one of the patches revealed
layers of caribou dung separated by ice indicating growth over time. Samples of the dung have
been radiocarbon dated to help us understand how the ice patches formed and how long they
have before melting entirely. Bones of animals that were killed or died naturally near the ice
patches were collected during the field season and they have been identified as to genus and
species. Radiocarbon dates and stable isotope analysis of the caribou bones will help us
understand changes in caribou ecology over the last 4000 years. A 5‐day science camp in
August, involving Shutagotine (Mountain Dene) students and elders from the community of
Tulita, was a great success where both elders and scientists shared in teaching students and
learning from each other.