Geoarchaeology of the Mineable Oil Sands Region, Northeastern Alberta, Canada

  • Author / Creator
    Woywitka, Robin
  • This thesis contributes to the development of chronological and geological frameworks for the archaeological record of the mineable oil sands regions in northeastern Alberta, Canada. This area contains a rich pre-European contact archaeological record that has largely been documented through cultural resource management projects. Because of the impact mitigation focus of much of this work and a lack of radiocarbon-datable material from known sites, only nascent chronological and site taphonomic frameworks have been established for the region. This gap is addressed by using infrared stimulated luminescence dating, radiocarbon analyses, digital terrain analysis, and sedimentological studies to determine limiting ages for landscape stabilization and human occupation, and to identify key site formation processes in the region. Work at the stratified Quarry of the Ancestors site and elsewhere indicates that the post-glacial landscape was characterized by the emergence of low-relief bedforms that were formed by catastrophic flooding ca. 13,000 years ago. Climatic conditions were cold enough to support permafrost and aeolian processes were extensive immediately following the flood. The landscape began stabilizing ca. 12,000 years ago, near the end of the Younger Dryas, with initial human occupations occurring concurrently or shortly afterward. After stabilization peatland expansion and fluvial processes became the dominant geomorphic agents in the region. Because stratified sites provide the most potential for the recovery of temporal information about landscape evolution and human occupation, a process-depositional model is developed to help isolate areas where stratified or deeply buried sites are more likely to occur. Using topographic parameters and wind directions, it is determined that landform elements that are most likely to contain deep or stratified deposits occur on the wind-leeward sides of raised landforms. Assessment of existing archaeological survey data indicates that current testing strategies are not focusing on these areas. This bias may be partially responsible for the lack of known stratified sites in the region, and a modified regulatory process focused on research-driven project design is forwarded to maximize the scientific value of future cultural resource management projects.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2019
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
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