The settlement is located on Triquet Island in British Columbia's Central Coast Regional District, and is part of the ancestral lands of the Heiltsuk Nation. The island-dwelling Heiltsuk have inhabited Central Coast for at least 9,000 years, and their oral tradition holds that their settlement is even older than that.
"Heiltsuk oral history talks of a strip of land in that area where the excavation took place. It was a place that never froze during the ice age and it was a place where our ancestors flocked to for survival," said William Housty, a member of Heiltsuk Nation, to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
"This find is very important because it reaffirms a lot of the history that our people have been talking about for thousands of years."
The discovery of the settlement on Triquet Island confirms these claims. The researchers discovered charcoal, fish hooks, fishing spears and numerous other tools including a hand drill that could be used to light fires.
The researchers came from The Hakai Institute with the University of Victoria, and they dated the charcoal to be between 13,600 and 14,100 years old. To give you an idea how old that is, civilization arose in Egypt about 5,100 years ago. The first complex civilization that we know of (Sumer) is about 6,500 years old. Farming is about 12,500 years old.
Significantly, this means that Triquet Island was inhabited by humans during the previous Ice Age which ended 11,700 years ago. If this is the case then it means the island was not heavily affected by the rise in sea levels when the Ice Age ended and sea levels rose.
The Hakai researchers also believe that the discovery is a clue as to how humans made their way to the Americas, a land mass that our species is not native to. The leading theory is that ancient humans crossed over via the Bering Land Bridge that once connected Russia to Alaska before sea levels rose and covered the land bridge around 11,000 years ago.
The settlement on Triquet Island suggests that these early Americans then colonized the west coast of Canada by boat. Previous archaeological findings suggested that the early humans had traveled inland by foot instead.
"The alternative theory, which is supported by our data as well as evidence that has come from stone tools and other carbon dating, is people were capable of travelling by boat. From our site, it is apparent that they were rather adept sea mammal hunters," said Hakai Institute archaeologist Alisha Gauvreau, who led the study.
The Heiltsuk were overjoyed by their discovery, as it could bolster their claims of ancestral land rights. "When we do go into negotiations, our oral history is what we go to the table with," said Housty.
"So now we don't just have oral history, we have this archaeological information. It's not just an arbitrary thing that anyone's making up… We have a history supported from Western science and archaeology."
Ancient as the Triquet Island settlement may be, it doesn't even come close to being the oldest site of human activity in North America. That honor goes to the Bluefish Caves in Yukon, Canada. Animal bones marked by human tools found in the caves have been dated to 28,000 years ago. tools found in the caves have been dated to 28,000 years ago.age, nor did a 5.4-magnitude quake in November 2015.