EAGLENEST PORTAGE SITE
(Part of the) Eaglenest Lake Historical Resources Management Area
Eaglenest Portage Archaeological Site
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Eaglenest Portage Site is located in the Birch Mountains of northeastern Alberta, 125km northwest of Fort McMurray. It is situated on a terrace above a small stream flowing from Eaglenest Lake, where the drainage from Eaglenest and Clear Lakes flows toward Sandy Lake. Covering an area of approximately two hectares, the site consists of a series of buried cultural components representing repeated occupations that occurred during the Middle and Late Prehistoric Periods, approximately between 8,500 and 200 years ago. Due to its location in the central Birch Mountain depression, the site most likely functioned as a summer residence where small groups of people gathered, including those from the Athabasca River valley. Artifacts collected from the site are housed at the Royal Alberta Museum
The heritage value of the Eaglenest Portage Site lies in its contribution to understanding Middle and Late Prehistoric Period lifeways (hunting strategies, tool technology and settlement patterns) of people in northeastern Alberta.
The Eaglenest Portage Site was first recorded in 1975. At that time, testing indicated that it was one of the most productive prehistoric sites discovered in the Birch Mountain upland. More detailed investigation in 1976 and 1980 resulted in a rich cultural material assemblage comprised of 6,700 artifacts, including a variety of tools and projectile (arrow and spear) points. In addition, Historic Period artifacts associated with one or more cabins from the early 1900s were also identified at the site.
The projectile points recovered from the site are comparable to others found north of Lake Athabasca, in the central District of Mackenzie (Northwest Territories) and Fisherman Lake (Yukon Territory). Many of the projectile points resemble those of northern areas that have been identified with the Middle and Late Taltheilei Tradition. Evidence of material trade is also found among the artifacts, with the presence of materials such as obsidian and welded tuff. These may indicate that ancient people from the Eaglenest Portage Site had contact with areas or people of northern British Columbia (obsidian) and the Keele River in the Northwest Territories (welded tuff).
Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1236)
The character-defining elements of the Eaglenest Portage Site include:
- an extremely rich and varied series of prehistoric cultural assemblages that make the site critical in assisting with the interpretation of Middle and Late prehistoric technologies and lifeways in the northeastern boreal forest environments of Alberta;
- a relatively strategic physical location in the Birch Mountain depression which may have made it useful for a variety of subsistence activities, including the hunting of woodland bison and caribou and fishing;
- a large collection of tools and projectile points recovered from the site's cultural components during excavations, which is unique in the northeastern boreal forest and assists in defining the regional prehistoric cultural sequence for northeastern Alberta;.
- distribution of artifacts that occur in the form of activity 'clusters', which permit interpretation of the characteristics and spatial patterning of different individual subsistence activities through time and which may assist in the interpretation of other sites;
- the presence of more 'exotic' stone materials such as obsidian and welded tuff provide evidence of long-distance trade in materials, and contact of the people at Eaglenest Portage Site with others in northern British Columbia and the Yukon Territory.
Province of Alberta
Historical Resources Act
Provincial Historic Resource
Theme - Category and Type
- Peopling the Land
- People and the Environment
- Peopling the Land
- Migration and Immigration
- Peopling the Land
- Canada's Earliest Inhabitants
Function - Category and Type
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. 1236)
Cross-Reference to Collection