Scientists continue hunt for evidence of early civilization on Lake Huron


 By Barb McKay

American researchers will return to Amberley next month to continue groundbreaking underwater archeological work that has uncovered evidence of early civilization.

The discovery was first made by scientists in 2009, including University of Michigan professor John O’Shea, who co-authored a report on the findings with Guy Meadows, director of Marine Hydrodynamics Laboratories and a professor in the departments of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering and Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences. What the team uncovered was an underwater ridge that spanned 10 miles across Lake Huron from Amberley to Presque Isle, Michigan. It is believed that the ridge, named the Alpena-Amberley Ridge, would have been above water some 9,000 years ago.

The team also discovered structures, measuring 350 metres in length and made of piled stones, used by hunters at that time to drive animals towards them.

Much of the early study work was done with the help of scuba divers. Last year, the team of scientists and researchers returned to the area armed with an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV), a sonar scanning unit. The underwater camera helped to create a precise map of the prehistoric hunting grounds and what is considered to be the most intricate hunting structure discovered to date in Lake Huron. With it, the team uncovered circular hunting blinds that hunters would have hidden behind to catch caribou. They also found a small tool known as a thumbnail scraper, which would have been used to scrape animal hides to make clothing and other items.

Because of the cold temperature of Lake Huron, the site has been well preserved and may contain some of the only structures of that time period in existence in the world.

Next month, the team will return to Lake Huron with Ashley Lemke, who is completing her doctoral dissertation on Lake Huron at the University of Michigan. She will be accompanied by two first-year University of Michigan students to introduce them to underwater archeology. The team will travel out on a small fishing boat and will investigate in greater detail a number of the structures discovered last year using the AUV.

“This AUV mapped a new area of the Alpena-Amberley Ridge with side-scan sonar which we have not investigated previously and located a number of rock alignments and structures that may be more human-made constructions,” Lemke told The Independent last week. “We will investigate these new targets with our remote operated vehicle as well as send scuba divers down to look for artifacts.”

During this expedition scientists will look beyond the hunting structures to try and uncover more of the early settlement.

“Our big hope is to locate a campsite area so we can see how these ancient hunters were living as they were hunting caribou,” said Lemke.

-with files from the stories written by Josh Howald on the Alpena-Amberley Ridge, dated June 17, 2009 and May 14, 2014.