Eastern Plano

6000B.C. - 4000 B.C.


The Eastern, or Boreal Forest, Plano tradition extended from the southeastern edge of glacial Lake Agassiz to Lake Superior. It is very well represented in Manitoba by the Caribou Lake Complex named after a lake on the Manigotagan River system. The Caribou Lake designation for this cultural phase is one of the few instances in which a Manitoba location has been identified as major archaeological unit and points to the importance of the sites in the area.

The series of Manigotagan archaeological finds and the Sinnock Site on the Winnipeg River form this complex which likely represents a late Plano adaptation to the Boreal Forest/Plains transition zone. During this time (6,000 BC) the dryer conditions led to the eastward expansion of the prairie and accordingly the range of the bison. Aboriginal bison hunters followed the game into the newly formed grasslands and, in addition, took advantage of the forest resources that were present on the eastern margins of their habitation.

Subsistence and Technology

The Native people of the Caribou Lake Complex were predominantly bison hunters who followed the herds to the outer edge of the prairie, where stands of woodland offered the animals a protected winter habitat. If the bison failed to reach their wintering grounds from time to time, the hunters would have turned to the resources of the Boreal Forest, such as moose, caribou and small mammals, in order to survive until spring. The technology for hunting bison could easily be adapted to other game animals.

The Caribou Lake Complex is characterized by narrow, leaf-shaped lanceolate points, which are similar to Agate Basin, but not as well made. and trihedral adzes, three-sided ground or chipped stone tools which were used as woodworking implements. Local stone, such as rhyolite, quartz, quartzite, chert, basalt and granite were used to make the various tools. Organic remains of food and other resources are absent.
Trihedral adze, mounted on a reconstructed handle.
Courtesy of the Department of Anthropology, University of Winnipeg

Generalized Sequence of Occupation of
EfKv-6, Caribou Lake Site

caribou lake stratigraphy

While Pettipas has argued that this complex is an offshoot of the Late Sister Hills Complex of southwestern Manitoba, that is Western Plano (Pettipas 1985), Harrison et al. (1995) emphasize its affinities to sites the east, observing that:

"technological similarities, as well as the almost continuous distribution of LHC (Lakehead Complex) and CLC (Caribou Lake Complex) related sites across the region between Lake Superior and southeastern Manitoba, and the apparent east-west movements of certain commodities like lithic raw materials...point to a close cultural and possible ethnic link between the Paleo-Indian groups of the region." (Harrison 1995:16).

Settlement Patterns and Social Organization

Little is known about the social organization of Caribou Lake Complex people. They were probably organized into small groups. Their campsites indicate that they inhabited the area at all seasons, taking advantage of the many different available resources, but made local moves from site to site as the seasons changed. Shallow, ash-filled hearth pits found within tent rings provide the first direct evidence of dwelling structures in the Province.

The distribution of artifacts from the Sinnock Site, indicate that specialized activity areas were set up. For example, a high proportion of butchering tools near the water suggested that preliminary butchering took place here. As well, stone scrapers and abraders in another location mark a hide preparation area (Buchner 1984).

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