Brandon University archaeologist Dr. Mary Malainey and the Manitoba Archaeological Society are inviting the public to visit the Olson Archeology site near Melita. Artifacts from the site show that years ago indigenous farmers used a pair of bison shoulder blades as gardening hoes.
Eric Olson, a student at the University of Manitoba, spotted the artifacts along a creek south of the town of Melita in 2018. A 2014 flood likely brought the bones to the surface. This site is one of only two sites in Manitoba where tools like this have been found.
Other artifacts, discovered near Lockport, were from a site that contained items from several different time periods. This made them more difficult to interpret. “Archaeologists rely on the context of the find, not just the individual artifacts, but where they are in relation to everything else in order to… tell the story of the lives of the people who formerly occupied the site,” says Malainey.
Hundreds of years ago, most Indigenous people living in western Canada were hunter-gatherers who moved from place to place to take advantage of seasonal resources. But evidence of agriculture at the Melita site points toward a more permanent settlement. This world class discovery has attracted the attention of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
The site is located about 15 km south of Melita, just west of Highway 83 in the Pierson Wildlife Management Area. Site excavations will be taking place in the Gainsborough Creek valley. Dr. Malainey will be discussing the site and the artifacts at the valley crest.
Public Archaeology Day site tours will be held from July 30 to August 2. There will be presentations and site tours where interested individuals will have the opportunity to help professional archaeologists excavate the site. To participate, meet in the grassy plain west of Hwy 83 (500 m north of the junction with 10N) on those days at either 10 a.m. or 12 noon.