The Beaver Creek site: A Prehistoric Stone Quarry on Syncrude Lease #22

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Syncrude Canada Ltd.
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The significance of the Beaver Creek Quarry site and the kinds of information we may expect to glean from it may now be enumerated. With reference to the recently published results of archaeological reconnaissance conducted on the Tar Sands Syncrude Lease #17, it was noted that over 67% of the total stone assemblage recovered from 28 localities consists of quartzite derived from the Beaver Creek Quarry. It was also shown that the majority of the artifacts produced from Beaver Creek quartzite consists of flakes and detritus as opposed to finished tools. This in turn suggests that while the production of preforms at the quarry remains to be established, a significant amount of subsequent tool manufacture probably took place within a certain radius of quarry locale. The quartzite exposed along the banks of Beaver Creek may represent a unique deposit in the region. Little, indeed, is known of potential aboriginal stone sources in northern Alberta. In the central region of the province, water-rolled quartzite pebbles and cobbles found along streams and river beds is the ubiquitous stone type. North of the Tar Sands region lies the Canadian Shield which offers a variety of quartz minerals but in difficult to extract seams and veins. Some beds of chert are known to occur in the Paleozoic formations which border the pre-cambrian platform. To the west, near Peace River, Alberta dark volcanics are found in sites and en cache that were apparently traded in from aboriginal British Columbia. Should the Beaver Creek quartzite turn out to be a unique deposit in the Athabasca region, it offers an ideal opportunity to trace its dispersion and perhaps aboriginal trade networks as well. The value of being able to reconstruct a total technological process with an eye to defining an archaeological tradition has already been discussed. The potential of the Beaver Creek Quarry in this respect should be obvious. It is most opportune that this site exists and that it was located early in the archaeological research of the region. Once we have been able to define the technological tradition(s) contained in the Beaver Creek Quarry Site, attention may be turned to details regarding specific subsistence activities, seasonal cycles of food-getting, and the temporal aspects of technological traditions defined within the quarry deposit. The quarry site may constitute the basic reference from which interpretation of adjacent satellite sites will proceed. Thus adequate excavation and proper analysis of materials at the Beaver Creek Quarry may well play a key role in unraveling the prehistory of the Tar Sands region of northeastern Alberta.