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CMHR site excavation unearths 400,000 artifacts

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Handout / The Canadian Press

Work goes on at the archeological dig in Winnipeg in this handout photo. The dig took place between November 2008 and 2012.

The archeological dig conducted at the site of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg uncovered the largest concentration of pre-European encampments anywhere in Canada.

A four-year block excavation of land below what's now the CMHR at The Forks -- and archeological work conducted during the construction of the $351-million museum -- uncovered 191 separate hearths and a total of 400,000 artifacts, museum officials and archeologists announced today.

The findings suggest what is now the centre of Winnipeg was inhabited more frequently, by more people than was previously believed, even though it has long been established The Forks has been the site of human settlement of some form for 6,000 years.

The excavation work yielded eight separate layers of artifacts left behind by indigenous inhabitants between the years 1100 and 1400. These strata were uncovered in soil down to a depth of as much as three metres below the surface.

More recent strata, which would have yielded a record of the Fur Trade era, were destroyed by the railyards at The Forks. But archeologists did uncover the remains of a horse that was likely used as a draft animal in a Hudson's Bay Company experimental farm in the 19th century.

The artifacts uncovered from the pre-European period included pottery fragments, stone points, pipe fragments, whetstones and awls, among other tools. Some materials show evidence of trade from north of Lake Manitoba and the U.S., based on materials such as Knife River flint, which comes from North Dakota.

Some pottery fragments also bear similiarities to both the Woodland style associated with the northern woods and the Blackduck style associated with plains culture. It's unknown whether this fusion of style represents an intermingling of people or the transfer of ideas.

Archeologists also found agricultural tools such as a hoe and the remains of maize, but it is unknown whether agriculture took place at The Forks or if these materials were brought here.

Evidence of bighorn sheep and pronghorn, two species no longer found in the Red River Valley, were found alongside remains of bison, deer and other common animals.

The artifacts found will become the property of the province, museum officials noted.

History

Updated on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 at 1:30 PM CDT: adds new photos

8:32 PM: Adds slideshow.

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