Clovis People Hunted Canada’s Camels
In a southwestern corner of what is now Alberta, Canada, camels once roamed. They went extinct at the end the last Ice Age, and their disappearance has generally been attributed to changes in climate and vegetation. But new research suggests that human predators may have contributed to the Western camel’s (Camelops hesternus) demise. A paper in American Antiquity shows that, at a time when ice sheets still covered most of northern Canada, Clovis people on the Western plains were hunting camel for food.
“Our evidence shows that we have to consider that humans may have had some role in their extinction,” said Brian Kooyman, an archeologist at the University of Calgary, and the paper’s lead author.
The study makes the first direct association between Clovis projectile points, stone tools and the remains of a butchered camel. The remains, which radiocarbon dating showed to be about 13,000 years old, were found preserved in windblown sand and silts at Wally’s Beach, an archeological site 108 miles south of Calgary.
“Tracks indicate that [after the horse] they were the second-most common animal at Wally’s Beach and a common part of the fauna,” said Len Hills, a geoscientist at the University of Calgary and collaborator on the study. “Abundant camel tracks at the site clearly show a substantial population.”
Kooyman says this particular camel was likely killed with spears after being ambushed at the top of an embankment leading into a river valley. Hunters may have hidden in nearby shrubs before isolating the animal from the herd. The hunters then chopped their prey into units of eight vertebrae each, while severing and snapping the camel’s torso into sides of ribs.
But did camels make up a significant part of these people’s diet?