Near Seattle, close to where Microsoft headquarters and the Redmond Town Center shopping mall stand today, human beings who lived 10,000 years ago were fashioning stone spear points, awls, and other implements.
As part of a project aimed at creating a new floating bridge across Lake Washington, archaeologists were conducting a routine survey prior to construction. What they found was nothing less than astonishing.
When the team finished excavating the Bear Creek site, the group had unearthed more than 4,000 stone implements, including projectile points, awls, and scrapers, according to a report by The Seattle Times.
“We were pretty amazed,” said lead field archaeologist Robert Kopperl, in the report. “This is the oldest archaeological site in the Puget Sound lowland with stone tools.”
The archaeologists, who published their findings in the journal PaleoAmerica, say chemical analysis of one tool revealed the paleolithic diet included salmon, bison, deer, and sheep.
The main cache of stone implements came from below a thick layer of peat, which radiocarbon dating showed was at least 10,000 years old.
Very few sites this old have been found in Western Washington. While prehistoric bison and mastodon remains have been discovered on Orcas Island and Sequim, no stone tools were ever recovered.
Archaeologists have discovered a few sites in Eastern Washington yielding stone tools dating from between 12,000 and 14,000 years ago, the Times reports. This means that soon after the glaciers retreated, humans began to populate the area.
“It’s hard to find this kind of site west of the Cascades, because it’s so heavily vegetated and the Puget Lobe of the big ice sheet really affected the landscape,” added Kopperl.
During a period known as the late Pleistocene-Holocene transition, early native peoples in the Puget Sound area were much more extensive and culturally diverse than previously believed, the authors say.
“It just shows you that humans continuously use the landscape, and that the places that people use today are the same places that people used yesterday,” said Washington State Historic Preservation Officer, Allyson Brooks, in the report.