Clovis Traditions

(10,000-9,000 B.C.)

The Setting

The earliest artifacts in Manitoba represent a well developed Native tool tradition and way of life known as Clovis that formed the first clearly established phase of the Palaeo Period. This culture was widely distributed throughout North America and is best indicated by the presence of the Clovis point, a spear head characterized by a fluted channel along its length.

Some archaeologists consider the "Clovis people" who made these hunting weapons to have been the earliest inhabitants of the Americas, who migrated over the land bridge from Asia between 10,000 and 12,000 B.C to become the true discoverers of this new world . The discovery of artifacts similar to Clovis points in Siberia provides supporting evidence for the Asian origins of Aboriginal American cultures within the relevant time frame (see Siberian Fluted Points). However, not all archaeologists accept this version of the timing and direction of the peopling of the continent. The Bluefish Cave site in the Yukon suggests that Aboriginal peoples may have occupied Canada as early as 20,000 B.C. Evidence from the South American Mesa Verde site substantiates the theory of a "pre-Clovis" occupation (see New evidence of humans in Chile 12,500 years ago).
(You might also like to listen to the first segment of a CBC Quirks and Quarks program Archeology -- Shaken and Stirred.)

Manitoba: 10,000 BC
Earliest Settlement

The first Manitobans were probably a Clovis group who followed migrating animal herds into the region during period of glacial retreat at the begining of the end of the last great ice age. They faced a challenging climate of Arctic temperatures through much of the year and vast expanses of glacial ice and frigid water. However, these conditions were better than those which had prevailed in the previous centuries. In the southwestern corner of the province, some habitable land had recently been freed from the ice. At the foot of the glacier, ponded meltwater formed Lake Agassiz which was eventually to occupy much of the province for many centuries. Eventually the land would rebound from the enormous pressures of ice and water to facilitate drainage and expand the presence of dry, habitable land throughout the province.

The vegetation consisted of spruce forest interdispersed with tundra which it gradually replaced. This landscape was similar but not identical to the modern subarctic transition zone. The trees, shrubs, and grasses served as food sources for grazing and browsing mammals, including mammoth, mastodons, giant bison, horses, muskoxen, and caribou that could be hunted by early Native groups. Fossil evidence of the big game animals in Manitoba is not abundant, but isolated remains have been recovered. At Duck Mountain, Tyrrell (1892:130) may have found an entire mastodon skeleton and more modest finds of isolated mammoth and mastodon teeth or pieces of tusk have been recovered from the Swan River Valley, Birds Hill, Moosenose, Springfield and Dufresne. ( Pettipas 1970:10 ).

As new land became free of ice and water, forest succession continued northward. The long term trend toward warmer and drier climates culminated in drought-like conditions which brought on the expansion of the central grasslands in the Late Palaeo Period.

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