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Mobility and the distribution of Beaver River Sandstone in northeastern Alberta and northwestern Saskatchewan



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In the boreal forests of northeastern Alberta and northwestern Saskatchewan, one of the most abundant and reliable sources of lithic material was the Quarry of the Ancestors. This Quarry is located 50 km northwest of Ft. McMurray, AB and is the primary source of Beaver River Sandstone; a lithic raw material that dominates the archaeological stone tool and debitage assemblages in this region. Other lithic materials, such as quartzite, chert, and quartz, were accessible in gravel and glacial tills and in lakeshore and river beds scattered across northern Alberta and Saskatchewan. The analysis of stone tools from 31 archaeological sites spanning 260 km from the Quarry into the Descharme River system, in northwestern Saskatchewan, suggests that as pre-contact people moved across the landscape and away from the Quarry, they maintained and recycled their tools and used whatever other lithic resources were available. In contexts where there were issues with the availability, quality and abundance of lithic raw materials, the mobility of pre-contact hunter-gatherers may have been strongly influenced by the distribution of these lithic sources. However, the availability of food resources may have also been a strong influence over mobility patterns in circumstances where these lithic raw material issues were less marked. Northern Dene groups of this region are known to have travelled hundreds of kilometers seasonally following barren-ground caribou whose wintering grounds extended well into northwestern Saskatchewan. Through the distribution of lithic raw material and the analysis of lithic tool technology, I explore the role these two important resources had in shaping the overall organization of pre-contact hunter-gatherer mobility strategies employed in these two regions.



Pre-contact Hunter-Gatherer, Boreal Forest, Beaver River Sandstone, Lithic Analysis, Mobility



Master of Arts (M.A.)


Archaeology and Anthropology




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