Palaeo Period

10,000 to 6,000 BC

Glacial Retreat and Aboriginal Settlement

At the outset of the Palaeo Period, much of what is now Manitoba was covered by thick glacial ice, kilometers deep in places, and the meltwater which formed Lake Agassiz. The first Native inhabitants, loosely referred to as " Clovis peoples" entered the province from the southwest, where the high ground provided a small corner of dry, ice free land. The landscape they saw differed from the modern prairie. It was covered with spruce groves and hardy grasses which supported herds of mastodons, mammoth and giant bison, abundant sources of meat, bone, hides, antlers, and ivory. A handful of spear heads provides the only evidence of this early human presence. During the following Folsom phase, Lake Agassiz began its gradual retreat, opening wider opportunities for settlement. Hunting groups migrated intonew territories and occupied many parts of province during Plano times at the end of the period.

Early settlement in Manitoba

Early Palaeo Period (10,000 - 8,000 B.C.)

Early Palaeo Points
A. Clovis
B. Folsom
Clovis and Folsom artifacts are represented in the form of their characteristic tools, stone spear heads marked by deep grooves along their length, a trait called a flute. These channels allowed the early hunters to haft the points to shafts to make formidable weapons for the pursuit of the giant beasts on whom they depended. Clovis bands were able to exploit the mammoth so successfully that they may have contributed to its extinction. Later, Folsom groups were able to cope with changes in environment by shifting to the hunting of the giant, long-horned bison that thrived on the grasslands after the mammoths disappeared.

Late Palaeo Period (8,000 - 6,000 B.C.)

The second half of the Palaeo Period saw a significant spread of people into new environments and a general increase in population and human activity in Manitoba. The climate moderated and the ice sheets and glacial lake retreated. Open grasslands became prevalent and supported the migration of bison herds into new areas. Native groups in Manitoba and elsewhere in the Plains developed a subsistence technology and way of life that specialized in bison hunting, which was to serve as the mainstay of Aboriginal life in many parts of the province until the period of European settlement. The cultural remains are classified as Plano, after the Spanish term for plains, in recognition of their extensive distribution in this region.

In Manitoba, the Plano traditions are divided into three geographical variants:

In response to the environmental and subsistence changes at the end of the Palaeo Period, Plano groups made substantial improvements in hunting technologies and strategies. They manufactured spear points according to many new styles. Stemmed points (B and D) were produced with indented bases in accordance with new hafting techniques. Lanceolate (i.e. lance shaped) forms (A and C) were so beautifully crafted that archaeologists believe some items may have been intended as ceremonial art rather than practical weaponry. Plano peoples also left some traces of their innovative hunting methods, which incorporated the strategy of the bison jump, a forced stampede of a herd over a cliff or river terrace. plano points

Plano Points

A. Agate Basin B. Scotsbluff
C. Eden D. Alberta

The Palaeo Period ended around 6,000 B.C. with the final cessation of the Ice Ages and the extinction of many big game species. More temperate climates and changes in human hunting and gathering techniques established the foundation for the next period, the Archaic.


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© 1998 Manitoba Archaeological Society
Web Development: Brian Schwimmer, University of Manitoba
Text and Graphics: Brian Schwimmer, Virginia Petch, Linda Larcombe
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