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ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF THE CREMONA-SUNDRE
ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF THE CREMONA-SUNDRE
I suppose this is not really a Book Report as a report on some of the findings
of the Survey. This report includes what is probably the first and only
Prehistoric Population and Land Use study done in Alberta. It is long overdue
for it to come into the public domain.
Regretably since the heyday of Pure Research and Theoretical Archaeology in
Alberta, in the tradition of Dr. Scotty Macneish, archaology in Alberta has
been taken over by the Fire-Broken Rock school of archaology, with emphasis
on measurement and description of the observeable physical aspects of a site,
at the cost of the less-measurable social history of the site.
Blame for this falls squarely on the University of Calgary Department of
Archaology and Dr. Barney Reeves, with the push to foster archaeology as a
Science, specifically an Earth Science, and ignoring archaology as a Social
This was reinfoced by the creation of the Archaology section of the Government
of Alberta's Culture Department which under Dr. Ives Brink stressed and
exceptionally narrow approach of collection of minuatae from archaeological
sites but did not foster interpretation of those sites in other than purely
spatial terms. With Alberta Culture espousing the Salvage Archaeology concept
(let business pay for the research to get the site out of their way), this
collection, or 'mitigation' naturally took precedent. As a result, Alberta
Archaology has a plethora of information of the size and weight of Fire
Broken Rocks and archaeological sites that were in the way of pipline
construction (when they were not dug through first and 'mitigated' later) -
and precious little that tells us about the lives of the prehistoric occupants
of this province.
This study was one of the Large Area Surveys carried out in Alberta for a few
years aroundn 1970, in which the author took part in most. This included the
Banff National Park study, the Jasper National Park study, the Waterton National
Park study, the Suffield Block study, the Bow-Highwood-Sheep-Kananaskis basins
and the Cremona-Sundre (officially the Foothills
Archaology and Biology Expedition) study. These
gathered considerable useful data on early man
Land Use and population studies - which were
quickly filed away and forgotten once the reports
Left: A portion of the Bow-Highwood Study
In the Cremona-Sundre area this data was taken to the next level of analysis,
of site and
and land use.
is a mathema-
and math being
where and need
not be gone
At the time
that this study
was done the
of the principle
have crept into the literature.
Reconstruction starts with the McKean Culture, this being the oldest found
by the survey. It is not the oldest known occupancy - two Fluted points of
the Fewkes type - possibly Folsom, were found in the
area, a large and a small (atlatl ?)
Alberta Point (Cody Complex), as well
as two Oxbow points have been found in
the area by private collectors, but no
such remains were found in the 1971
For a number of reasons -
lack of good provenience,
lack of equally repre-
sentative samples collected
from other periods, etc.,
these finds were not
included in all calculations,
and were left out of the
population distribution reconstuction maps. This
was corrected and expanded upon in the 1972 paper
PREHISTORIC CULTURAL DISTRIBUTION AND DEMOGRAPHIC
SHIFTS IN WESTERN SOUTH ALBERTA, and the follow-up A STUDY IN DEMOGRAPHY
BASED ON SURFICIAL BLADE-POINT RECOVERY which did a statistical analyis of
projectile points and their distribution from 12 large-area surveys in
The lithics for the projectile points of these early cultures varied, but
included a high percentage of materials not indiginous to Alberta, which
would have required importing or transportation of the material. Alberta
Points/Cody Complex, with it's massive points, had a preference for
obsidian, obtained in Wyoming or parts of British Columbia.
Reconstruction of the population density shows a generally low early popula-
tion, as would be expected, peaking at 7,000 B.C. and climbing to another
minor peak at 2,700 B.C. before shooting up to a huge spike in 1,500 B.C.,
being the Pelican Lake times. From there there is a steep decline and a
recovery in Besant times, droping at the beginning of the Late Plains times
back to as low a population density as in 3,000 B.C.
Essentially this chart can be taken as a representation of the ebb and flow
of population in the Cremona - Sundre area over time. Relatively low and
stable initially, punctuated by a sudden growth or influx and decline around
7,000 B.C., a steady growth to 3,000 B.C. followed by a decline, and a
sudden increase around 1,500 B.C. which can only have been caused by an
influx, not natural population growth. For some reason or other the Cremona -
Sundre area had become prime real estate. In fact, this would correspond to
the Athapaskan migration southwards.
A portion of this Pelican Lake population eventually moved on, though the
area remained at it's highest historic population density for several
centuries before being followed by an ever greater increase in population
of the Besant Culture. Around 500 B.C. these suffered a drastic decline,
setting the stage for the Prehistoric Indian population of this area.
In terms of Land Use, we find the McKean people represented by about 40
persons in this area, centered mainly on both sides of Cremona Coullee,
and area that remained a preferred location for most of the prehistoric
cultures. The two locations represent a high elevation in the north, with
great viewpoints, and a more sheltered north-facing slope in the south.
A third site represents a small foothills hunting camp located on a high
bench on a valley side.
Cremona South sites location
Essentially, the McKean occupation represents a small sub-band of some 3-5
lodges, as would be commonly found among the historic Cree who utilized this
area. Such groups were essentially a single extended family group headed up
by a patriarch.
McKean and subsequent cultures tended to use indiginous lithic materials.
McKean, Duncan and Hannah apparently preferred to use fine-grained sedimentary
stone (siltstones and limestones) and occasionally quartzite, easily
obtainable from local cobbles.
The succeeding Hannah and Duncan Cultures are generally held to be extentions
or outgrowths of the McKean. Here they represent a continued population growth
in the area, with the Hannah numbering some 184 persons, which would represent
about an average-size band among the Cree and Nakoda who later occupied these
The Hannah people centered on the Cremona North location, but also had smaller
camps or occasional usage of sites on Dogpound Creek and in the Nitchie Creek
area. This distribution is similar to that of the Mountain Cree/Nakoda of
later times. Among these Mountain Cree/Nakoda this actually represented two
bands, a more westerly band making use of the Nitchie Creek area and the more
easterly making use of the Dogpound Creek area. These two locations lie along
the Stoney Trail in the west and the Cree Trail in the east.
The Duncan people, successors or co-existent with the McKean and Hannah,
numbered some 288 persons, apparently existing as a single band. Land-use
of the Duncan peoples differs from that of the Hannah people, but is identical
to that of the McKean people. As well as utilizing the Cremona South area,
the Duncan people also made considerable use of the higher lands south and
east of this location.
Historically, the Blackfoot bands who occasionally used this area tended to
be of this monolithic type.
Note that Hannah and Duncan occupations are contemporaneous, the Hannah
people apparently making more use of the northwest of the area, the Duncan
more to the southeast.
This implies several things.
1. Hannah and Duncan were culturally related, but this does not
necessarily imply ethnic or social kinship.
2. Hannah people were more parklands/woodlands oriented, Duncan
people were more parkland/plains oriented. At least in this area.
3. Hannah and Duncan peoples probably represent two different tribal
4. We can assume the socio-political relations were analagous to
those between the historic Blackfoot and Atsina or Blackfoot and
Cree relations, Cree and Tsuu T'Ina relations, Cree and Nakoda
relations or Blackfoot and Tsuu T'Ina relations.
- The former was charactrerized by friendly relations as allied
people with probable (but little actually identifiable)
intermarriage. In time the two fell out and became inveterate
- Blackfoot/Cree relations were more complicated. Different
Blackfoot and Cree groups tended to have excellent relations,
while others were mainly hostile. This was usually a factor of
distance - the more distant the groups were from each other the
more likely they were to be hostile. Blackfoot and Cree groups
who 'resided' in this area were invariably friendly to each
other, even when other factions were at war. They had a high
degree of intermarriage - the North Piegan orignated from such
intermarriage; the Bloods had a "Cree" band. Locally they were
frequently found traveling together seperated by some 10-20
miles. Seasonally they could be found camped within a few miles
of each other.
- Local Cree and Tsuu T'Ina relations tended to be mutually
tolerant. Though there was some intermarriage, relations tended
to be reserved. The Tsuu T'Ina were subject attack from more
distant Cree groups. Locally they were frequently found traveling
together seperated by some 10-20 miles.
- Cree and Nakoda relations were invariably friendly and allied,
the two groups being much inter-mixed and intermarried. Locally
they were commonly found camped and traveling together and were
virtually one people.
- Blackfoot and Tsuu T'Ina relations were friendly, but there is
little indication of intermarriage. The Tsuu T'Ina were often
to be found in the company of the Siksika Blackfoot, traveling
and camping within a few miles of each other. Though friendly
and allied, the small Tsuu T'Ina tribe jealously guarded it's
independence and had no qualms at standing in opposition
politically to any or all of the Blackfoot Nation if they
differed in opinion. Like the Siksika Blackfoot, the Tsuu T'Ina
tended to maintain peaceful relations with the neighboring Cree/
The Pelican Lake pople represent the highest use of the area, numbering some
384 people. As noted, they are probably Athabaskans who utilized the area
during their drift southwards. As with all population reconstructions, the
figures are based on the time period accepted for the period of existence
for the culture in an area. Ergo, if the Pelican Lake people merely passed
through the area (in say half the time normally alloted to their occupation)
then the net population numbers would be higher - such as 778 persons
occupying half the time.
Again they centered on the Cremona north and south areas but also on the
Dogpound Creek-Beaverdam Creek heights. All three of these areas are
uplands regions and most Pelican Lake sites in the area are found on hillside
terraces. Ecologically today they grade transitionally from parkland to
plains. More intensive use is also made of the Silver Creek and Grease Creek
areas which here today are grasslands microenvironments.
It has been postulated by others that the Pelican Lake people normally
travelled as small bands of some 50 persons who coallesced occasionally for
major hunts. If this is the case, the Cremona area would represent such a
major camp. This pattern is consistent with that of the Mountain Cree/Nakoda
where the bands tended to travel as a body but as small family groups
scattered over a broad area and combining and re-combining in various
combinations as these groups came together or split off.
It has also been postulated that the plains were virtually unoccupied during
this time period. This is certainly not the case in the Cremona-Sundre area.
Pelican Lake is seen as a transition period from the use of the Atlatl to
the bow, resulting in a change in the size of projectile points during this
There were 4 distinct sub-types of the Pelican Lake points found in the area
Pelican Lake Cremona A-C, Pelican Lake C Stemmed and Pelican Lake Wetaskiwin
(see AN ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO PROJECTILE POINTS FOR THE ALBERTA REGION).
It is not clear if these represent variations by different makers, different
social groups (bands?) or different temporal periods. It is believed that
they are contemporaneous but representing different groups co-existing at
different times. Pelican Lake shows a distinct preference for the use of a
black "fine-grained siltstone" - presumably Exshaw Formation limestone -
major quarry and workshop sites for which have been found on Kananaskis
Lakes in the Front Ranges to the southwest. The sole Pelican Lake Wetaskiwin
point found - a type more common some 100 miles NE - was made of a mottled
Three examples of the Pelican Lake Stemmed are so mathematically precise in
relationship (including a side notch spokeshave) that they must certainly
have been made by the same person, though found at 3 different sites.
The Besant population drops to some 293 persons - again one or two bands.
In terms of land use, they tended to represent both patterns already found
in the area in that they made intensive use of the Cremona north and south
area (including the southern uplands), as well as the Nitchi Creek area.
Again, the Nitchi Creek site may suggest that this group was more westerly
The Besant people are generally considered to be a Plains adapted people
found principally on the Canadian plains and having more affinity to the
Hannah and Duncan cultures of the past than to the preceeding Pelican Lake
culture. They can more-or-less be seen as Algonkian peoples, ancestral to
the Blackfoot and Atsina/Arapaho. The Besant people of the Cremona-Sundre
area are among the westernmost extension of these people. Further to the
south they tended to co-exist and mix with the Avonlea group, a late Pelican
Lake offshoot, the mixed peoples eventually becoming at least in part the
Besant peoples appeared to have a preference for quartzites for their points.
By the Late Plains prehistoric period the population had droped to 103
people, about the size of a typical band for the later Mountain Cree/Nakoda.
The principal camp is now in the Nitchi Creek area, suggesting that this
group is principally a foothills/woodlands oriented group. Smaller outlying
camps are at Cremona north, along the western shoulder of Dogpound Creek
(on the edge of the plains) and at the Silver Creek hunting camp. All this
suggests a more westerly woodlands people who made hunting excursions
eastward into the edge of the plains. This would be consistent with the
behavior of the Mountain Cree/Nakoda who occupied this area in later times,
particularly of the more westerly band.
Alternatively, the Dogpound Creek and Cremona sites could represent westerly
outlying sites from a more plains-oriented group. Just off the lower left
edge of the map lies the Madden Buffalo jump, which would have been in use
at this time. The jump was known to both the later Mountain Cree/Nakoda,
Tsuu T'Ina and Blackfoot, who hunted in the area, though neither of the three
have any tradition of ever having used the jump themselves.
In terms of lithics, the materials used were again primarily siltstones and
limestones found in local cobbles.
Interestingly, there is no representation of the Avonlea type points in the
area, or of their successors, though their presence is known from the area
of Old Women's Buffalo Jump, 100 miles to the south.
On another level, it was possible to identify trail patterns based on the
distribution of archaeological sites. It was then possible to correlate
these trail patterns with trails shown on early maps of the area.
Correlation of these trails
further led to the correlation
with McClintock's supposed
"Old North Trail". Tracking
of travel along the northern
section of this trail confirms
the existence of the "Old
Site distribution showed a
consistent tendency for site
concentrations to be spread
about 8 miles apart. This
suggests that the daily
travel distance was about 8
miles. Sites were found to be
located on both sides of fords
on the larger streams. This
suggests that at the end of
an 8 mile treck, camp was
established on the near side
of the ford, rather than
continuing on to the other
more on Cremona-Sundre
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718 T0M 0J0 CANADA