This expedition will include mapping the Alpena-Amberley Ridge within Lake Huron to identify potential archaeological or paleoenvironmental sites for further investigation with a remotely operated vehicle and divers in order to create a virtual reality reconstruction of the area when it was dryland and occupied by early humans.
Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary was established in 2000 to protect one of the nation’s most historically significant collections of shipwrecks. Importantly, it also contains archaeological traces of a cultural occupation dating back to the last ice age. Evidence of 9,000-year-old stone structures, artifacts, and ancient environmental materials have been found on the Alpena-Amberley Ridge (AAR), a landform which was once dry land but is now underwater in the middle of Lake Huron.
Through the Discovering the Submerged Prehistory of the Alpena-Amberley Ridge in Central Lake Huron expedition, the team seeks to better understand the peoples and cultures living in the Great Lakes region 9,000 years ago. The AAR offers explorers an ideal laboratory to investigate very ancient, but pristine archaeological sites. This new research will take place in central Lake Huron and will include: 1) the use of multibeam sonar to map the AAR, 2) the identification of any archaeological or paleoenvironmental sites from the sonar, 3) the study and sampling of these locations with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and scuba divers, and 4) the creation and evaluation of a virtual reality reconstruction of the AAR when it was dryland.
This research is extremely important as archaeological sites of this age are rarely found intact on land and are poorly understood. This expedition will provide critical information about an unknown area of Lake Huron, refine methods for conducting archaeology underwater,and increase understanding of how people in the past responded to climate change and rising water levels. Through the expedition, the team will also help train the next generation of ocean (and lake!) explorers by working with local high school students in Alpena, Michigan, and providing an interactive summer class for undergraduate students.
NOAA Ocean Exploration is providing support for this expedition through the Fiscal Year 2020 Federal Funding Opportunity for Ocean Exploration.
Published September 15, 2021