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Posted on Mon, Dec 12, 2011 : 6:47 p.m.

U-M divers retrieve 8,900-year-old piece of wood from Lake Huron

By Julie Baker

University of Michigan researchers announced they have found a 5 1/2 foot long, pole-shaped piece of wood that is 8,900 years old in Lake Huron.

The wood, which is tapered and beveled on one side in a way that looks deliberate, may provide important clues to a mysterious period in North American prehistory, according to a U-M news release.

"This was the stage when humans gradually shifted from hunting large mammals like mastodon and caribou to fishing, gathering and agriculture," anthropologist John O'Shea said in a statement. "But because most of the places in this area that prehistoric people lived are now under water, we don't have good evidence of this important shift itself - just clues from before and after the change."

O'Shea and U-M professor Guy Meadows began exploring the area in the middle of modern Lake Huron, about 40 to 60 miles from Alpena, several years ago, according to U-M. They were supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In 2009, the divers discovered "drive lanes" used by ancient PaleoIndian hunters to funnel caribou. From there, they further explored the area, locating human campsites, which is where researchers discovered the ancient wood about 100 feet down.

The specimen's age has now been fixed using carbon dating. It is currently undergoing more detailed analyses to determine whether there has been human modification, which visual examination suggests, according to U-M.

See U-M's video report on the ancient wood below:



Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:24 p.m.

It was trapped under the wreckage of a 9100 year old snowmobile.

Seasoned Cit

Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 7:54 p.m.

Sounds like proof that global warming started long ago. If these sites are now underwater...doesn't that mean the lakes have risen.. just like they are saying the oceans will ?

Daniel Soebbing

Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 9:45 p.m.

I don't know about fluctuations in water levels in the Great Lakes, but it sounds like there was something else at play other than thermal expansion. But there definitely have been changes in the earth's climate over the last 8,900 years. At that time temperatures were still recovering from the last ice age. Maybe the ice age itself was responsible for lower lake levels. With more water locked up in ice caps and glaciers and less precipitation due to lower temperatures, one would expect lower levels in the Great Lakes, which ultimately draw most of their water from precipitation.


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 3:59 p.m.

Doesn't say ATT on it, does it?

Scott W

Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 3:45 p.m.

Interesting stuff. How does one sign-up as a diver for these expeditions?


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 6:37 p.m.

Scott check out The Ford Seahorses Scuba Diving Club, they do a lot of seaching and have found a number of wreaks. They also put on a great festival every year. The 2012 Great Lakes Shipwreck festival is scheduled for Saturday February 25, 2012. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 3:23 p.m.

Reminds us that there were folk around here LONG before the Europeans -- as our history books used to proclaim -- that the explorers from Europe &quot;discovered&quot; America. How can one &quot;discover&quot; something that is already there, and is already inhabited?


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 6:53 a.m.

Pretty good light for a depth of 100 feet. Generally, at depths of 30 feet or more, divers see almost no light. Very clear water (for Michigan waters) will enable seeing at deeper levels - 70 to 100 or more feet. Cool discovery - and God bless government research grants. Constantly increasing knowledge of our world, our universe and saving lives as well. Of course, yet to be discovered is a cure for TeaPartyism. Bless those groping little minds, help is coming, my darlings. ;-)


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 7:42 p.m.

Sorry, do you mean that there's generally almost no light below 30 feet in the Great Lakes? I haven't been diving here in Michigan so that may be true. But everywhere else I've been (Hawaii, Caribbean, Florida, etc.), there's plenty of light down to 100 feet and beyond. Admittedly that's why I'm diving there...because the conditions are nice.


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 3:42 a.m.

&quot;Piece of wood&quot;? How about &quot;wooden artifact,&quot; indicating that it likely was shaped by human hands.

Kai Petainen

Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 3:27 a.m.

this is seriously cool stuff. i'd love to see it in person if possible. since we're dealing with underwater finds... can someone answer this question: look at a google map of lake superior. change it to satellite view. look between Isle Royale National Park and Sleeping Bear Provincial Park... What is that formation that sits underwater? Volcanic? Crater? can someone with a ROV take me there?

Kai Petainen

Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 12:26 a.m.

@waterdipper Thanks so much for the answer! This 'feature'/error has been bugging me for quite a while, and I'm happy that someone finally explained it to me. You gotta admit -- if it wasn't a data error, it sure would be interesting to look into. Hopefully, they can continue the work with Lake Superior... its geologic history is quite fascinating.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 10:46 p.m.

Kai (not sure you'll ever see this, as it's two days later) I worked for many years on Great Lakes bathymetry and was part of the team that helped Google create the 3-D bottom topography you see on Google earth. The feature you're asking about was produced by an error in the data - there should be a shallow depression at that location (similar to what you see immediately SW of the feature in question), but when the contour was registered into the gridded data used for topographic rendering, it was incorrectly recorded as much shallower than actual (e.g., it should have been on the order of 130m, but was registered as 30m, but I don't have the actual values with me). That, combined with vertical exaggeration and oblique angle lighting to give the 3D effect serve to make the error look like a sharp circular ridge. I think the actual data are correct or have been corrected, but not on Google earth. You can explore Great lakes bathymetry in more detail at <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Unfortunately the project ran out of funds before Lake Superior could be completed.


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 3 a.m.

Cool find. This is the kind of thing that makes me second guess my day job, and the ability to endlessly search the internet and get sucked into the comments section of the local newspaper wannabee. I think I would have been much more content with the responbsibility of constructing a &quot;drive lane.&quot;


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 12:18 p.m.

Better than being relegated to digging a ditch though, right? For some, that is their fate.

Kai Petainen

Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 2:46 a.m.

wow. awesome stuff.


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 1:16 a.m.

Our tax dollars at work....... Maybe they can sell the wood and repay their federal grants..... Thank goodness for the NSF and NOAA.... are starving in Appalachia..

Billy Bob Schwartz

Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 11:45 p.m.

Yah. Duh, we don't need no more goldang nollij. we gots all we can use already, fercrying out loud. We want to be as dumm as them stoney aged guys under water. Hey! How could they stay under a hunnert feet o water and not gets drownded? Wow. I likes to use stiks two. They are neete. An they kilt raindere two? Wow. Why do so many people think that life can get better by denying learning? Sheesh!


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 4:37 p.m.

Food stamps are passe. They now get a bridge card


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 1:35 p.m.

If you're that worried about kids starving, raise taxes on the rich.


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 1:45 a.m.

Your right I am so sick of science and discovery. I don't think we need to learn anything more about the world. I'm happy just the way things are.


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 1:38 a.m.

No they aren't, they get food stamps.


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 12:44 a.m.

What a great story. Thank you to all responsible.

John of Saline

Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 12:12 a.m.

Thanks, guys. I wondered where I'd dropped that thing.