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Archaeological find provides link to past

March 31, 2012
The Daily News

The Upper Peninsula is made up of a relatively young landscape, having been scraped out by the last ice age, which ended when glaciers receded through the area about 11,000 to 12,000 years ago.

The receding and melting ice left a land full of new things, including the Great Lakes and hundreds of rivers and inland lakes, which drew a variety of wildlife and plant species.

Humans soon followed, but it was never documented just how early man arrived - until a discovery 25 years ago this month.

Local amateur archaeologists Jim Paquette and John Gorto took advantage of an early snowmelt and arrival of spring in March 1987 to do some exploring near Ishpeming.

They were aided greatly by another occurrence, the drawdown of the Deer Lake Basin in an effort to remediate mercury contamination. With the basin shrunk down from its 900-acre size to near the original 100-acre lake that existed before the dam was built, Paquette and Gorto had the pleasure of scouring a lakeshore area that hadn't been exposed for many years.

While searching an area along the northeast shore, Gorto spied what looked like an old spear point, and it was - about 10,000 years old to be exact.

Knowing the site had to be preserved and properly documented, the pair called in Marla Buckmaster, who at the time was a professor of archaeology at Northern Michigan University.

The trio and a few helpers worked the site and ended up finding 36 spear points, which were determined to be made of Hixton Silicified Sandstone, the Paleo Indians favored stone for making tools and spear points. The spear points were dated to be about 10,000 years old, providing the proof needed to put Paleo Indians in Marquette County soon after the ice age.

Perhaps it was a combination of Paquette's determination to persevere in his search for links with his Native American and French Canadian roots in the area and the unusual exposure of the Deer Lake Basin Lake bed that led to the discovery.

Because of these factors, we now know who the early men, women and children were who traveled some of the same woods, riverbanks and lakeshores that U.P. inhabitants enjoy visiting today.

The Mining Journal




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