Western Plano

8,000-4,500 B.C.


Western Plano artifacts and associated cultural features originated on the Plains, predominantly in response to the bison hunting. The standard fluted spear points of earlier times gave way to points that were manufactured in many new styles. The seasonal climatic changes and conditions had a significant effect on every aspect of Western Plano life. The variety of resources utilized by the people increased and were able to support denser and more widely distributed populations as indicated by the increased number of Manitoba archaeological sites during the period.

Subsistence Base and Technology

The Native peoples who developed the Western Plano culture hunted bison both communally and individually depending on seasonal conditions. Summers were spent on the grasslands where groups organized communal hunts employing bison "jumps". This technique involved the stampeding of herds over cliffs, river terraces, and valley walls. The Plano people then moved into the bison wintering ground in the better wooded and sheltered areas before the animals arrived in order to prepare kill sites at rivers and creeks where bison were known to cross. The hunters positioned themselves at these strategic locations in order to kill the animals as they emerged from the water and became mired in the mud. Small animals, berries, fish and bird remains from later Plano sites indicate that a wide variety of other resources were collected for food and other uses, such as medicine.

The Plano projectile points serve as cultural and temporal indicators of the period. They provide some of the finest examples of stone tools ever manufactured in the province . The Eden point for instance was 10-15 cm in length and less than 3 cm wide. The flaking technique which was employed produced a fine rippled effect. The delicacy of these points made them extremely fragile and they may have been produced for artistic or ceremonial rather than more utilitarian uses.

Eden Point
Photo Credit: Biron Ebell

In Manitoba, excavated Western Plano sites include the Duck River and TeePee sites in the Swan River Valley. Other remains are limited to surface finds of two types of projectile points: stemmed and unstemmed or lanceolate.


Stemmed Point

Lanceolate Point
(Agate Basin)
The stemmed points, which include Scottsbluff, Alberta, Eden and a unique form of knife called the Cody Knife, occur in the western higher lying part of the province above the Campbell Beach Ridge and are grouped together as the Horner or Cody Complex, dated between 8,000 and 7,000 B.C. ( Pettipas 1970, 1985).
Lanceolate forms are part of the Sister Hills Complex that replaced the Horner Complex in the following millennium. They include several types of projectile points, such as Hell Gap and Agate Basin, and are found over most of the southern half of the province. It appears that, as Lake Agassiz diminished, people belonging to the Sister Hills Complex moved into the new lands.

Settlement Pattern and Social Organization

Hunters and gatherers of the Western Plano period continued their predecessors' patterns of nomadism. However the more diversified subsistence pattern encouraged seasonal migrations between ecological zones, rather than the general mobility of the Clovis and Folsom hunters tied to the movement of big game animals. Foraging groups, possibly nuclear families, left innumerable small campsites across the region. However, the limited remains offer little information. The majority of excavated Western Plano sites are large kill sites ( Frison 1978) or quarries. Dwellings from the Western Plano period are rare and they were probably structures that left little indication of their presence.


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© 1998 Manitoba Archaeological Society
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