Archaeologists made a fascinating discovery beneath the waters of Lake Huron. John O’Shea of the University of Michigan reported the discovery of large V-shaped stone walls that date back to a time before Lake Huron reached its modern levels—back during the last Ice Age. O’Shea believes that the structures were used as hunting blinds by the Paleoindians for hunting megafauna. O’Shea said that the stone walls are similar to hunting blinds found on Baffin Island but are much more complex and sophisticated. According to O’Shea, the structures were preserved only because they were underwater and they were likely commonly used across North America.
The discovery gives the lie to the frequent fringe history claim that Native Americans never built anything out of stone, often used to justify claims that Northeastern stone chambers and various other stone walls or wall-like formations could not have been Native American constructions. (Though this is partially right: Many were colonial-era spring houses and cold cellars.)
Similar Native American stacked-stone hunting blinds of later date have been found across the Western United States, the Northeast, and in the Arctic.
The discovery is the latest find in what has become an increasingly large body of evidence that the Paleoindians were much more sophisticated than earlier generations of archaeologists once assumed.
Last year, archaeologists working at Winnemucca Lake in Nevada discovered petroglyphs dating back to 8000 to 12,000 BCE, some of the oldest ever discovered in the Americas. The petroglyphs are sophisticated, including geometric forms and shapes geochemist Larry Benson likened to the veins of a leaf. The shapes suggest abstractions and, if we can judge by cross-cultural comparisons, a well-developed shamanic culture.
Alongside this is the now-famous carving of a North American mastodon on a piece of bone found by Florida collector James Kennedy in 2009 that archaeologists dated to a similar time period. In light of the other finds, there is still less reason to follow Dennis Stanford in assigning this piece of art to European Solutreans. Additionally, discoveries at the pre-Clovis site of Monte Verde indicate a rich culture that included wooden architecture and wide knowledge of the use of herbs and plants.
In the past, it was common to depict Paleoindians as essentially itinerant hunters whose entire culture involved chasing mammoths with pointy sticks. The latest discovery shows that Ice Age hunting techniques were more sophisticated, on par with those of the Old World.
I do wonder, however, how long it will be before fringe theorists see in these stone walls Old World cyclopean architecture, the remains of Bible giants’ temples, or the ruins of the temples and pyramids of Atlantis. After all, both Ignatius Donnelly and Gavin Menzies identified the Great Lakes as an outpost of Atlantis in conjunction with the area’s rich copper deposits, and Frank Joseph spun the alleged “pyramid” (a glacial deposit) beneath a lake near Aztalan in Wisconsin into “proof” that the upper Midwest was in fact the original site of Atlantis, taking the fanciful nineteenth century application of the name of the Aztec homeland, Aztlán, to the site as proof of a connection to Atlantis itself.
As I reported a while back, the name ended up attached to a Wisconsin mound site due to some incorrect calculations by Baron von Humboldt, who took Aztec mythology literally and, through faulty math, calculated that they originated “north of the 42d parallel,” roughly in the area of the Great Lakes. Most archaeologists today place the original Aztec homeland in northern Mexico or, at the most distant, the southwestern United States.
At any rate, the new discovery is extremely interesting and contributes to our picture of the earliest Americans.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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