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SFU archeology students discover tablets that could be 2,000 years old

Simon Fraser University archeology professor Bob Muir displays one of about 80 unique tablets found at their field-school site at the Puntledge RV Campground. - PHOTO BY ERIN HALUSCHAK
Simon Fraser University archeology professor Bob Muir displays one of about 80 unique tablets found at their field-school site at the Puntledge RV Campground.
— image credit: PHOTO BY ERIN HALUSCHAK

In his more than 30 years as an archeologist, Bob Muir admitted he has never seen a site quite like the one the Simon Fraser University professor is exploring with his students.

The area, located at the Puntledge RV Campground off Condensory Road, while extremely rich in midden - a deposit containing shells, animal bones and other items that indicate the site of human settlement - contains a find which Muir best described as “a little mystifying.”

Throughout the course of their six-week field school, Muir, along with a fellow SFU professor and 21 third-and fourth-year students, have uncovered around 80 tablets and pebbles at their 100x120m exploration site on the traditional territory of the K’ómoks First Nation.

“I’ve never heard of (them) - I was a little skeptical at first. I was in disbelief; I couldn’t believe we found them,” he noted.

Muir described the pebbles or tablets as flat pieces of stone with images sketched on one side - symbols which could be interpreted as a tree, feather or a symbol of fertility.

“In some ways, this site is very unusual.”

The “well-preserved and pristine” area is only one of three sites within the Comox Valley where the tablets with intricate designs have been found in the province.

The site was initially discovered last year following a barbecue held by the K’ómoks First Nation. Shell was discovered when a roasting pit was dug for the event, Muir explained.

“They thought, ‘Uh oh, there’s a site here,’ and we figured out how large it really is.”

As the students began digging for well-preserved shell and animal bone, they discovered many bone needles used for fishing, harpoon points, herring rakes, and sewing or leather work. They also found preserved deer, elk, dog bones and skulls, but arguably the most exciting discovery was the tablets.

Muir estimated they are about 2,000 years old.

While he said it’s difficult to see any connection between the symbols and patterns on the tablets as some are hard to see with the eye, all of the items excavated will be taken back to SFU for documentation and photos.

While the field school wraps up Friday, students will spend the next two weeks back on campus, undertaking individual projects related to their findings.

Muir will spend more time examining the finds and tablets, and at the end of the year or early next year, the items will be boxed and returned to the K’ómoks First Nation for display.

 

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