Plant seeds, stone flakes and animal bones discovered at the Walterdale Bridge site may not look like much, but the artifacts have provided significant insight into how indigenous people used the land 1,400 years ago.

The historical artifacts were discovered two metres below the surface during an archaeological dig before construction began at the Walterdale Bridge site in 2012. 

Carbon dating confirmed that people used the site on the south side of the North Saskatchewan River about 1,400 years ago.

Gareth Spicer, the lead archaeologist in the excavation, said the artifacts paint a picture of an organized group of people skilled at fishing, hunting and utilizing plants in the area.

walterdale artifacts

Historical artifacts were discovered two metres below the surface during an archaeological dig before construction began at the Walterdale Bridge site. (CBC News)

“I think the site speaks to all the different things people used in order to live and how wealthy they really were,” Spicer said.

“You have evidence of people using all kinds of different animals, rabbits and birds and fish, but also it speaks to plants people were gathering, so they’re moving about from place to place, living on the land and using it in its entirety.”

The artifacts were believed to have been left behind by indigenous people after they moved on from a camp they set up by the river.

The Walterdale Bridge project hasn’t been without controversy, with many people concerned the new bridge will be located too close to an ancient burial ground. However, the city says it did consultations with 21 aboriginal groups.

“We knew that there were people that had a lot of interest in the site so we wanted to reach out and talk to as many people as we could,” said Byron Nicholson, the Director of Special Projects, Roads Design and Construction for the city.

“For me again [the artifacts] just supports what I’ve been told time and time again, the stories that have been shared by the elders,” said Carol Wildcat, the consultation manager with the Ermineskin Cree Nation.

“It gives that evidence this is how we lived.”

Although it is not clear how long the indigenous people stayed at the camp, it was long enough to paint a picture of the lifestyle lived more than 1,000 years ago.