Bears! Archaeologists finds evidence of Ice Age bear-hunting on Queen Charlotte Islands

Mastodons, Woolly Mammoths and bears – one thing is for sure, the first people to cross into North America certainly were not timid hunters!

At a lecture at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre a few weeks back, Parks Canada archaeologist Daryl Fedje told a crowd that his team has found evidence that people were engaged in bear-hunting, on the Queen Charlotte Islands, as far back as 13,000 years ago. This is the point where humans were just crossing into North America.

The Queen Charlotte Islands are located off the coast of British Columbia, a western province in Canada that borders the Pacific Ocean.

Fedjes lecture has been posted on Youtube. The subject of hislecture was recent archaeological work on Gwaii Haanas a park that is on the southern end of the island chain.

(In) these old caves on the east side of Gwaii Haanas were finding evidence for bear hunting between 13,000 and 11,700 years ago, he said. You can see himtalk aboutthe bear discovery at

Video one – Lecture at Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre

The bears found include a type of brown bear that has been extinct in the area for the last 12,000 years, as well as black bears.

The ancient people of the island certainly were fond of bear hunting and hunting in general.

One site on the island is called Kilgii Gwaay and dates back to 10,700 years ago,a timewhen the Ice Age was coming to an end. The team found lots of black bear, 20 species of birds and six types of mammals. These animalsinclude short tailed albatross and northern sea lion.

Fedje didn’t explain why they were hunting bears 13,000 years ago. Given that its the holidays in Canada I will have to wait until the New Year to do an interview.

13,000 years ago is about the time when humans are coming into North America. Most archaeologists believe that they came in one of two ways – overland across the Bering Strait and/or along the coast using simple watercraft.

At 3:30 min in the first video, Fedje explains (while using graphics) how the water level changed between 14,000 and 10,000 years ago. It seems as if this area had a tundra-like environment before woods started to grow. If thats the case perhaps the people are getting desperate for food? On the other hand maybe bear-hunting has some ritualistic or cultural purpose?

Video two – Lecture at Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre

A few other highlights from these two videos:

  • At 7:00 minutes on the first video Fedje starts giving a general overview of the excavations at Kilgii Gwaay. The team has to dig as the tides permit. However, the preservation is so good they are finding cordage, bone tools and wooden wedges perishable items that usually dont last this long.

Its a remarkable site in that its basically intact to the point where it was drowned 10,700 years ago.

  • At 7:00 minutes on the second video, archaeologist Nicole Smith discussesher research on the use of fish traps in the area. Basically, people in the last 2,000 years havedevised methods of corralling fish and making them easier to catch by using boulders to block off a stream for instance. The examplesshe shows arenot clearly dated but the practice itself goes back to before European contact.