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Great Lakes Underwater Structures

9,000-year-old complex hunting structures found beneath the Great Lakes


A new study conducted by the University of Michigan has revealed a complex set of ancient hunting structures found under nearly 40 metres of water in Lake Huron, according to a report in Live Science.  The 9,000-year-old structures are still incredibly well-preserved thanks to the calm conditions of the lake and their position offshore.

According to the research report, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of scuba divers identified an elaborate array of linear stone lanes and V-shaped structures along an underwater ridge.  The structures were originally part of a system used to help hunters herd caribou (wild reindeer), which passed through the region during their migration along what was once an exposed land-corridor known as the Alpena-Amberley Ridge – connecting northeast Michigan to southern Ontario.


Caribou are a type of reindeer that form large herds and undertake lengthy seasonal migrations. Photo source: Wikipedia

The research team used high-tech equipment, including underwater sonar and a remotely operated vehicle equipped with a video camera, to identify two parallel lines of stones which were 8 metres wide and 30 metres long. The structure formed a lane with a blocked off end through which the reindeer were corralled.

The team also found what appear to be V-shaped hunting blinds, a cover device for hunters designed to reduce the chance of detection, as well as an area that may have been used for meat storage, wood poles, and 11 chipped stone flakes, which would have been used to repair and maintain stone tools.

Hunting Blinds

One of the v-shaped hunting blinds found under Lake Huron. Credit: John O'Shea/University of Michigan

Using a computer simulation, the team were able to map out the migratory patterns of the caribou, and identified two main choke points where the herds likely would have converged during both spring and autumn migrations. One of the two choke points fell directly within the newly discovered feature.

"The fact that all of the migrations tend to converge on these two locations ... would have provided predictability for ancient hunters, which is why we see so many structures located in these spots," said study co-author John O'Shea, a researcher at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology at the University of Michigan.

The research team found that the setup and size of the structures suggest that the hunters used different hunting strategies during the two seasons, with large groups of hunters working together in the spring, and smaller groups working independently in the autumn.

Featured image: A diver investigates around one of the man-made hunting blinds, used to avoid detection as herding reindeer passed by. Credit: John O'Shea/University of Michigan

By April Holloway

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April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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