Geoarchaeology of the Elbow Sand Hills, south-central Saskatchewan
Evans, Christopher Peter
The Elbow Sand Hills and the adjacent South Saskatchewan and Qu’Appelle River valleys in south-central Saskatchewan have long been recognized as the locus of extensive precontact Plains cultural settlement throughout the post-glacial period. The objectives of this geoarchaeological investigation are to identify the extent to which 1) Holocene environmental changes and landscape evolution impacted precontact settlement patterns and archaeological site preservation and visibility, and 2) to investigate the relationship between archaeological site location and the environmental elements on a Northern Plains landscape using a Geographical Information System (GIS). The lithostratigraphic record suggests that this region experienced significant Holocene climatic changes with repetitive alternations between arid and humid climatic conditions over the past 5,000 years. Holocene climatic conditions influenced settlement patterns as indicated by extensive occupations of the study area, particularly in the aeolian sand dunes, during prolonged humid climatic intervals that are recorded by paleosols. Precontact cultural groups departed the Elbow Sand Hills and the adjacent uplands for the nearby South Saskatchewan and Qu’Appelle River spillways during extended arid climatic intervals characterized by aeolian activity and sand dune development. GIS analyses reveal that precontact cultural settlement patterns were focused on certain environmental characteristics according archaeological site distribution. Precontact cultural groups apparently concentrated their settlement activities within the glacial meltwater spillways and aeolian sand dunes, which are topographically complex and situated in close proximity to water resources where natural resources were abundant and diverse. The glaciofluvial plains and glaciolacustrine plains are topographically subdued landforms, and along with the hummocky moraine, are distal to permanent water resources. These landforms are characterized by a lower intensity of occupation because of a consequence of lower resource availability and diversity. Archaeological site visibility and preservation varies within the region with the hummocky moraine and glaciolacustrine plains displaying the greatest degree of site visibility and preservation. The aeolian sand dunes, meltwater spillways, and glaciofluvial plains were physiographic elements that exhibit the lowest site visibility and preservation potential. These landforms were more strongly influenced by post-glacial climatic conditions, geomorphic processes, and the recent formation of the Lake Diefenbaker reservoir.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
SupervisorWalker, Ernest G.; Aitken, Alec E.
CommitteeNoble, Bram F.; de Boer, Dirk H.
Copyright DateJuly 2006
Geographic Information Systems