FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The majority of the required archaeology work has been completed under the Site C Heritage Program, such as the dam site, the transmission line corridor, and the reservoir.
What remains for archaeology work is the Highway 29 road realignments and to the temporary access roads that are needed to access the reservoir for tree clearing.
The Site C Heritage Program has been underway for nearly 10 years and is the largest heritage study conducted in B.C. The upcoming 2019 field season is the tenth consecutive year of onsite research for the program, shares David Conway, Community Relations Manager, Site C Clean Energy Project.
Conway goes on to share, the Research involves multiple crews of archaeologists and First Nations working throughout the spring and summer months, as the weather conditions allow to mitigate the project’s impact on heritage resources. This being done by the operation ensuring they are operating in compliance with the Heritage Conservation Act – the Provincial legislation that protects archaeological sites from unnecessary or inadvertent impacts. The purpose of the act is “to encourage and facilitate the protection and conservation of heritage property in British Columbia.”
Two professional archaeologists and two or three First Nations representatives make up a standard archaeology field crew, who work collaboratively to complete field studies. More than 100 archaeological field assistants have come from nearby Indigenous communities. Additionally, all archaeology permit applications and archaeology report drafts are sent to the affected First Nations for their review and input, prior to finalization. Conway shares they also work closely with First Nations to identify areas or locations that they feel should be looked at more closely by the archaeology program.
BC Hydro has made discoveries since 2010, field crews have carried out about 80,000 shovel tests and analyzed more than 450 archaeological sites and hundreds of thousands of artifacts.
Workers from Peace River Hydro Partners, the main civil works contractor on the Site C project, were digging a utility trench next to their site office in the fall of 2016 when they came across something that looked like an animal bone. They shut down their excavator and activated the heritage ‘chance find procedure’, a process that stops work immediately if a potential artifact or heritage object is discovered at a work site.
The bone would be the remains of a bison. The excavation took place over a 10-day period in August 2017. Nine professional paleontologists, archaeologists and field assistants worked carefully to unearth the remains. Because the bison was found in soft, silty sand, the skeleton was in very good condition. It was approximately three metres long, not including the tail, and when alive, the bison would have weighed nearly 2,000 lbs. Once fully excavated, the bison’s bones were photographed, documented, and packaged for safe transportation to the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria. The museum will store the bones and determine if further study should be undertaken.
Conway continues to share that a sample analysis was taken of the bison bone by a specialized radiocarbon dating lab, where it was able to confirm the bone belonged to a 12,500-year-old bison. Conway goes on to say “This is one of the oldest bison ever found in northeastern B.C., and its discovery forms an important part of the region’s and our province’s paleontological history.”
Other top paleontological finds were fossilized remains of animal specimens, ammonites, and Cretaceous sponge and fish sites.