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Royal Alberta Museum to crack open 1,600 year old roasting pit with meal still inside


Royal Alberta Museum archaeologists are about to start a lengthy and intricate process of figuring out what ancient Albertans cooked for supper.

Royal Alberta Museum to crack open 1,600-year-old roasting pit with meal still inside
Royal Alberta Museum archaeologists beginning excavation in September 2016 at Head-Smashed-in Buffalo Juamp 
[Credit: Royal Alberta Museum]
Last year, they dug up a 1,600-year-old roasting pit at Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo Jump in southern Alberta. The oven was intact and still had a prepared meal inside, which could make it the only known artifact of its kind.

Royal Alberta Museum to crack open 1,600-year-old roasting pit with meal still inside
Royal Alberta Museum archaeologists uncovering bison bones and ancient campsite debris from the area 
right above the roasting pit [Credit: Royal Alberta Museum]
“Somebody — probably celebrating the success of a hunt — had a big feast afterward and prepared a bison calf and some kind of a dog, maybe part-wolf, in a pit side by side,” Bob Dawe, the Royal Alberta Museum’s lead archaeologist on the project, said. “They roasted it overnight in the ground. It would have been a delectable feast in the morning.”

Royal Alberta Museum to crack open 1,600-year-old roasting pit with meal still inside
The 1600-year-old roasting pit was revealed in September 2016 
[Credit: Royal Alberta Museum]
The roasting pit was first discovered in 1990, but archaeologists didn’t excavate it until last year, before packing it up and moving it to Edmonton. That process involved laying fiberglass-reinforced plaster strips all over it until they hardened. Dawe said when the plaster hardened, they could pick up the pit with a crane and put it on a truck bound for Edmonton. That was a lot of work, but there’s still a lot left to do.

Royal Alberta Museum to crack open 1,600-year-old roasting pit with meal still inside
Royal Alberta Museum archaeologists dug up a 1,600-year-old roasting pit at Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo Jump 
in southern Alberta. This photo shows the preservation of the pit and plaster jacketing being started 
[Credit: Royal Alberta Museum]
“It looks like a 3,000-pound plaster lozenge, not quite two metres in diametre and about half a metre thick,” Dawe laughed. “We retrieved this assembly of rocks and sediment and bones intact with some great difficulty.”

Royal Alberta Museum to crack open 1,600-year-old roasting pit with meal still inside
The roasting pit is completely covered in a fibreglass reinforced plaster jacket 
[Credit: Royal Alberta Museum]
Dawe expects it to take months to cut off the top, scrape away the dirt, and carefully clean and preserve every bone. They want it ready to display when the new museum opens in downtown Edmonton later this year. One of the barriers to the work will be psychological, since one set of remains belongs to a dog.

Royal Alberta Museum to crack open 1,600-year-old roasting pit with meal still inside
The 1600-year-old roasting pit is picked up and sent to the Royal Alberta Museum
[Credit: Royal Alberta Museum]
“A lot of dog-lovers are a little concerned that a dog was part of the meal, and as a dog lover myself I find that a little bit bothersome, but people have been using dogs as food in the Americas for 10,000 years and they still use dogs as food all over the world,” said Dawe. “I have a dog, and I’m sure my dog would be unhappy to hear that I’m digging up one of his ancestors.”

Author: Brenton Driedger | Source: Global News [January 17, 2017]
TANN

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