Saamis Archaeological Site
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Saamis archaeological site is located in Medicine Hat, Alberta in the valley of Seven Persons Creek, a tributary of the South Saskatchewan River. Encompassing an area of 36 hectares, this site has been interpreted as a winter/early spring campsite that was intensively occupied repeatedly between A.D. 1390 and A.D. 1820 within the Late Prehistoric and Protohistoric Periods. It covers two terraces that lie two and three metres of vertical deposits above the modern floodplain. The lower terrace contains evidence of large-scale bison butchering and meat processing activities, while the upper terrace holds evidence of campsite activities represented by a number of campfires (hearths), pits, concentrations of bones and fire broken rock. Artifacts excavated from this site are stored in the Royal Alberta Museum.
The heritage value of the Saamis archaeological site lies in its status as an excellent example of Late Prehistoric and Protohistoric Period camping and bison meat processing activities in the Alberta Plains during the winter/early spring.
The Saamis site represents the activities of indigenous Plains culture at the cusp of early contact with Europeans. Based on archaeological investigations that have been conducted between 1971 and 1993, the site has yielded the remains of nine species of prey animals, as well as stone tools, pottery, European trade goods and items of personal adornment. Lack of skeletal articulation among the bison remains at the site suggests that meat processing activities occurred in this location separately and removed from the communal bison hunting area. Among the stone tools, evidence of trade and travel is found in the presence of materials imported from quarries in Montana and North Dakota. Rarer artifacts recovered from the site include glass trade beads, a metal arrow point, bone and shell beads, a shell pendant and pottery.
Sources: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1207); Milne Brumley, Laurie. 1978. "The Saamis Site: A Late Prehistoric-Protohistoric Campsite in Medicine Hat, Alberta" (National Museum of Man Mercury Series, Archaeological Survey of Canada Paper no. 79. National Museums of Canada: Ottawa).
The character-defining elements of the Saamis archaeological site reflect its historic and scientific information values and include such features as:
- excellent intact record of Late Prehistoric and Protohistoric Period Plains culture, including information about cultural activities, economies, trade, seasonal settlement patterns and tool technology, especially as it relates to bison meat processing;
- varied occupation activities that include intensive bison meat processing and associated camping activities, which occurred in locations separate and removed from those areas where communal hunting and killing occurred;
- association with a distinctive Plains landscape, including an extensive level terraces within a sheltered creek valley that contains plentiful wood and water resources;
- abundant, well preserved cultural materials that represent a diversity of artifacts and bone remains;
- a rich, artifact record that includes a complete record of all known classes of artifacts from the Late Prehistoric Period, including examples of many stages of manufacture;
- numerous features associated with camping and meat processing activities, including living floors, bone piles, campfires (hearths), pits and prepared and unprepared caches reflecting a diverse range of subsistence activities;
- the presence of relatively rare European trade goods in upper terrace occupations;
- assemblages that include rarer elements of Late Prehistoric and Protohistoric Period Plains culture, including pottery, items of personal adornment and rarer non-bison fauna (eagle, antelope, wolf, fox, bear), which provide valuable information on socio-cultural aspects of planes culture.
Province of Alberta
Historical Resources Act
Provincial Historic Resource
Theme - Category and Type
- Peopling the Land
- People and the Environment
- Peopling the Land
- Peopling the Land
- Canada's Earliest Inhabitants
Function - Category and Type
- Animal Products Processing Facility
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 1207)
Cross-Reference to Collection