K1 Cave

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Culture(s) Pleistocene/Holocene
Temporal Period(s) Paleo-Indian Period

Summary Details

Location: Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada (Approx. 52° 41' 22" N, 131° 47' 19" W)
Period: Paleo-Indian Period
Date Range:


K1 cave is the noteworthy site that provided the radiocarbon dated remains of bear from 14,400BP. The authors of the K1 cave report find the bear remains that date to 14,400BP curious because this date does not fully correspond with the understood deglaciation in the region (Ramsey et al., 2004). This geographic location experienced very localized reactions to climate change that was affecting much of the Northern hemisphere at this time, the end of the Pleistocene. Research indicates that deglaciation of Haida Gwaii was occurring by 16,000BP, however glaciers were covering the north of Vancouver Island until at least 15,500BP, and evidence from the Northeast of Haida Gwaii indicates that the oldest sediments here are from between 16,000BP and 14,700BP. In sum, this research indicates that the presence of these bears in the K1 cave at the 14,400BP mark shows that they either survived the last glacial maximum in the region as a localized refugium or that these remains are of the very earliest bears arriving from the north and remaining here as areas further south were still glaciated and could not support them. Both of these scenarios, however, are important for human migration models because bears and humans share an ecological niche. If bear migration is possible, in either way, so is human migration.

Research History, Major Finds/Insights

Geologists explored into the cave in 2000 and 2001 and found the remains of various fauna including deer, dog, deer mouse, duck, and bear (Ramsey et al., 2004). The excavators attribute the high amount of bear bones to the fact that their collection was restricted to the surface, which differentially selects for larger bones. This collection represents a wide array of time as deer were only introduced to Haida Gwaii in the early 20th century.

Current Investigations

Formation and Occupational History

The cave is a solutional cave formed from rainfall affecting the local limestone.

Material Culture

Lithic Assemblage

Excavators also recovered two spearpoint bases, one associated with a layer dated to 10,600-10,525BP and the other in a layer dated to 10,960-10510BP. Despite these two finds, none of the faunal specimens show any sort of anthropogenic markings on them, only the marks of carnivore activity (Mackie et al., 2011).

General Notes

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