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Hunting Structure Submerged Under Lake Huron A Testament to Ancestors’ Sophistication

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Big game hunters from 9,000 years ago knew what they were doing—and archaeologists at the University of Michigan are getting a glimpse of just how skilled they were. Archaeologists have discovered a complex array of stone lanes and V-shaped structures on an underwater ridge in Lake Huron, marking the most elaborate hunting structure found to date under the Great Lakes.

An article detailing the 9,000-year-old caribou driving lane appeared this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The lane is 26-feet-wide and 98-feet long and ends in a natural cul-de-sac; it also has hunting blinds, structures meant to conceal hunters, built along it.

According to the University of Michigan News, it was discovered on the Alpena-Amberley Ridge, under 121 feet of water, about 35 miles southeast of what is now Alpena, Michigan, on what was once a dry land corridor connecting northeast Michigan to southern Ontario.

“Constructed on level limestone bedrock, the stone lane is comprised of two parallel lines of stones leading toward a cul-de-sac formed by the natural cobble pavement,” explains Michigan News. “Three circular hunting blinds are built into the stone lines, with additional stone alignments that may have served as blinds and obstructions for corralling caribou.”

John O'Shea/University of Michigan

An acoustic image of the caribou hunting site produced via a mosaic of scanning sonar images. Light colored objects are stones that produce a strong acoustic signature while dark areas are acoustic shadows.)

Autumn was the preferable hunting season for caribou, but the orientation of this hunting drive shows it would have only been effective if the animals were moving in a northwesterly direction, which the release says they would have done during spring migration from modern-day Ontario.

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“It is noteworthy that V-shaped hunting blinds located upslope from Drop 45 are oriented to intercept animals moving to the southeast in the autumn,” said John O’Shea, the Emerson F. Greenman Professor of Anthropological Archaeology at the University of Michigan and lead author of the article, in Michigan News. “This concentration of differing types of hunting structures associated with alternative seasons of migration is consistent with caribou herd movement simulation data indicating that the area was a convergence point along different migration routes, where the landform tended to compress the animals in both the spring and autumn.”

University of Michigan

Diver and remote operated vehicle collecting samples at Drop 45 Drive Lane in Lake Huron.

And the hunting was good. “I’m imagining seas of animals going through there,” O’Shea told CTV News London.

Not only that, but the find also suggests a cooperative hunt.

“The larger size and multiple parts of the complex drive lanes would have necessitated a larger cooperating group of individuals involved in the hunt,” O’Shea said in Michigan News. “The smaller V-shaped hunting blinds could be operated by very small family groups relying on the natural shape of the landform to channel caribou towards them.”

John O'Shea/University of Michigan

A stacked stone hunting blind that is incorporated into the ancient caribou hunting site found beneath Lake Huron.