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U of C students, staff partner with city to unearth ancient Indigenous belongings at Nose Hill Park

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Students and staff with the University of Calgary's anthropology and archaeology department are halfway through an archaeological dig at the top of Nose Hill Park, finding evidence of stone circles and tools used by Indigenous people prior to contact with European settlers.

"Any time you see remnants of past lives, it gives the public an opportunity to connect," said Laureen Bryant, cultural landscape planner with the city's parks and open spaces department.

Bryant says the city has been aware of the stone circle site for years and wants to learn more about the landscape and area many within the Blackfoot community called home.

"For most people, they're familiar with a teepee holding down the outside hide with rocks," Bryant said.

"Now, if you are a mobile hunter-gatherer of society, you're not going to be taking those heavy rocks with you to the next location."

The group began its dig on May 13 and plans to stay at the site above the 14th Street Parking Lot until June 7.

"The thing about here is actually that the site could be 100 years old, it could be 8,000 years old," said Lindsay Amundsen-Meyer, archaeologist and assistant professor with the U of C's anthropology and archaeology department.

She says stone circles can be found anywhere on the land, especially in the Calgary area, with many more at Nose Hill Park yet to be uncovered.

"Most of them date to what we call late pre-contact, which is about the last 1,500 years," Amundsen-Meyer said.

"But they do go back a lot further in time than that, for sure. As much as 5,000 years."

She says the current site they are digging at saw many people try and cut through it, for a shorter route, after the city rerouted the pathway around it in 2006.

But the stones began eroding and the students have unearthed some hammer stones, and shell cases, which may at one point have been in the Bow River but were most certainly brought to the site, which has no rivers or streams nearby.

"Nose Hill itself is a glacial remnant landform, so it's one of the oldest landforms in the Calgary area," Amundsen-Meyer said.

Miranda Betterton is a first-year undergrad student and she says the dig has been eye-opening.

"You can see the stories in the landscapes, so like Old Woman's Buffalo Jump is cut in half," she said.

"And that's from Napi hitting it with a stick. ... Just seeing how the Blackfoot have been connected to this land for thousands of years, it's something really cool. It's something I'm very honoured to be part of."

She says she found a core, which Indigenous peoples used for crafting tools.

The dig is important to her in trying to understand the culture a little bit more.

"(It's) giving the past its agency back because of that history of colonialism, trying to erase it, and getting to give people their history back, saying, yes, you are here and what you're saying is right," she said.

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