Dinosaur bones were not a feature of a visit by the Saskatchewan Archeological Society’s Archaeocarvan visit to the Yorkton Western Development Museum last week.
Loni Williams, an archeology graduate student at the University of Saskatchewan, said that is the biggest misconception people, primarily children, have about what archaeologists do.
“They all come and they think they’re going to get to see dinosaurs, but they don’t,” she explained. “But we try to make it interesting for them by talking about the things people used every day, that they had to use the things they found around them.”
To do that, Williams and Maria Mamce, also a U of S grad student, have been travelling around the province since the end of May with artifacts and activities designed to give visitors a hands-on experience of the way people lived, primarily First Nations people before European contact.
Those activities included hunting bison with an atlatl (basically a hand held launcher) and spear; making pottery; reassembling broken ceramics; creating rock art; and playing a fur-trading game.
Although the Archaeocaravan is definitely intended to foster interest in archaeology, particularly among youth, Williams and Mamce are also doing research.
“Part of what we’re doing is going around looking at the collections museums have to see what they have for archaeological collections because it helps us to know what collections are available and see what people are finding in different areas of the province,” Williams said.
She identified two things from the Yorkton area they don’t see in central Saskatchewan.
The first is a prevalence of omars. These are hard stones that exhibit prominent hemispherical voids and pits resulting from the selective dissolution of softer (carbonate) concretions.
The name derives from the rocks’ source, the Omarolluck Formation in Hudson Bay. These are well-known to geologists, who use them to document the movement of glaciers.
Found in the context of an archaeological dig however, there is evidence early peoples used them in domestic chores such as processing food, medicine or pigments, storage, tool-making or fire-drilling.
They also saw quite a few unusual projectile points known as oxbow points. Oxbow refers to the time period of “Late Plains Archaic” (3,800 to 4,700 years ago) populations covering large swaths of southern Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba, as well as the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming.
The Yorkton area points are comparatively large.
“It’s not typical of what we see in Saskatoon and area, where we do most of our work,” said Williams. “They’re huge; they’re at least three times [in area] as big as what we find.”
It is so far unknown why the points would have been so much bigger in this area.
“It would definitely be an interesting project for someone,” Williams said.