Ancient Underwater Camps, Caribou Traps in Great Lake?

June 08, 2009

Under North America's second largest lake, robot-assisted archaeologists may have discovered prehistoric American camps and long "drive lanes" built to guide caribou to their deaths, a new study says (caribou pictures and facts).

On what was once dry land, the structures likely date back 10,000 to 7,500 years. At the time, a vast land bridge divided what is now Lake Huron, researchers say (Lake Huron map).

Now mussel- and algae-encrusted, the features were uncovered by sonar and underwater robots at depths ranging from 60 to 140 feet (18 to 43 meters).

Walk This Way, Caribou

One of the structures in the lake, which straddles Michigan and Ontario, Canada, appears to be a line of carefully placed rocks that stretches longer than a football field.

The line resembles lanes still used by Arctic caribou hunters, according to the study.

"An interesting behavioral trait of caribou is that they follow linear features," said University of Michigan archaeologist John O'Shea, who co-authored the new study, which will be published tomorrow in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"The hunters recognized this, and the drive lanes were a way of casually suggesting, Why don't you walk this way?"

(Related: "Fewer Caribou Born as Warming Causes Missed Meals.")

The drive lane may have been built by early North American settlers called Paleo-Americans—ancestors of later Native American tribes.

The stone line is relatively straight but curves inward at one point.

O'Shea thinks the curve may have been a hunting blind, where hunters waited to ambush animals as they approached.

Continued on Next Page >>




NEWS FEEDS     After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.   After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.

Get our news delivered directly to your desktop—free.
How to Use XML or RSS

National Geographic Daily News To-Go

Listen to your favorite National Geographic news daily, anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone. No wires or syncing. Download Stitcher free today.
Click here to get 12 months of National Geographic Magazine for $15.