Underwater arrowheads, tools dazzle Maritime historians

Archeologists investigate the discovery of hundreds of Mi'kmaq artifacts in the mud along Nova Scotia's Mersey River.

Archaeologists are showing off a treasure trove they call one of the most significant discoveries of Mi'kmaq artifacts in Nova Scotia.

Hundreds of arrowheads and tools, some 8,000 years old, were discovered last summer along the Mersey River, near Kejimkujik National Park in the southwest region of the province.

Workers from Nova Scotia Power were doing repairs to generating stations on the river. As water levels dropped in some areas, the riverbed was exposed for the first time since dams were built 70 years ago.

Suddenly hundreds of artifacts appeared in the mud.

"The quantity of material, the quality of material, the age range represented by the material, all is just fascinating for us," said archaeologist Bruce Stewart, who was hired to investigate.

Pottery fragments, spear points, knives and other items were found around 109 ancient campsites.

One barbed harpoon was once used to spear salmon and eels 3,000 years ago, Stewart said.

Since the artifacts were lying on the surface, the RCMP was brought in to control looting. Even the discovery was kept a secret.

"I think this is vitally important," Mi'kmaq historian Daniel Paul said of the find.

"There was a real functioning civilization here when the Europeans began to come here en masse, but the proof has been virtually destroyed. And all of a sudden we are finding the proof."

The Mersey River encampments are once again under water.

The artifacts will be sent to the Nova Scotia Museum once Stewart and his team finishes sorting them.