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Are you more interested in the living? If so, this folder is just for you! Knowing about the flora and fauna of the past is essential to understand the history of the earliest inhabitants. It helps deduce the climate and food sources that were available back then. Watch the clip and the expert video to find out more.

Enjoy exploring!

Clip produced by the Sherbrooke Museum of Nature and Science
Date: September 2018
Length: 6:48

An animated character, Éric Graillon, presents discoveries made by analyzing pollen, spores, and bones sampled in the Eastern Townships. The identification of animal and plant species provides an overview of the living conditions of the earliest inhabitants and of the evolution of landscapes since the retreat of the glaciers.

On-screen text: Flora and fauna

[ Animated character ] Flora and fauna

Images of deciduous trees along a river are displayed.

[A.C.] Why study fauna and flora? What is the link between archaeology and the earliest inhabitants? The link is not about current-day flora and fauna, but of that which was prevalent when the earliest inhabitants arrived.

On-screen text: Vegetative reproduction

[A.C.] Vegetative reproduction

On-screen: A close-up of a bee pollinating yellow flowers.

[A.C.] Among plants that produce flowers, reproduction occurs through pollination.

A clip showing the inside of a flower is displayed. The pollen and pistil are identified. Next is a flower in the form of pollen whose seeds fly away.

[A.C.] Individuals with male flowers produce pollen. The wind, water, insects, and animals carry pollen to the flower pistils of trees with female flowers. This is how a seed is born. Each species of tree produces its own type of pollen.

Scrolling photos of plants and flowers, each accompanied by a microscope image of its respective pollen seed: alder, pine, birch, willow, and bracken.

[A.C.] Palynologists are able to identify tree and plant species by observing their pollen under a microscope. They can also identify plants from their spores, seeds, and fruit. Where would one find signs of ancient vegetation?

On-screen text: Searching for signs of plant life

[A.C.] Searching for signs of plant life

Visuals of a swamp followed by a small green plant growing in the forest are displayed.

[A.C.] Palynologists look for signs of ancient vegetation in lake sediments, bog layers, humus, and layers of organic matter buried in soil. Such settings are genuine archives that preserve plant pollen, spores, and seeds.

Scrolling photos: Winter landscape with three experts at the edge of a forest handling a clump of soil using a tree branch and a screwdriver. Next, at the edge of the forest, three people are working on a flat surface: one is turning a wheel, another is looking at a pipe, and a third person is watching the other two.

[A.C.] Using a long steel tube, they are removing a sample of sediment by core sampling. Pollen grains and other remnants are then extracted from the core, layer by layer or centimetre by centimetre. The depth of the samples indicate their relative age. The oldest are those buried the deepest.

On-screen: An illustration of a red and purple molecule that is spinning.

[A.C.] Dating is done using the carbon-14 technique. Using a microscope or a magnifying glass, palynologists identify and count the diverse components from their specific morphological characteristics. Then, they compare ancient pollen assemblages with those produced in modern-day natural milieus. If they find charcoal dust, they conclude that a fire occurred.

What are the results of their search in the Eastern Townships?

On-screen text: Results of pollen analysis in the Eastern Townships

[A.C.] Results of pollen analysis in the Eastern Townships

An image of grassy tundra soil in the Lake St.Francis region and another of the desert-like soil of Megantic, 12 500 years ago.

[A.C.] In the Eastern Townships, sediment core samples have been taken from the Lake Megantic and Lake St. Francis region. The results have shown differences in successive layers, depending on altitude.

On-screen: An image of bushy soil in the Lake St. Francis region and another image of grassy tundra soil from Megantic 12 000 years ago.

[A.C.] This means that the periglacial desert period subsequent to deglaciation lasted longer in the Megantic region. About 12 000 years ago, the area previously desert-like for a millennium became grassy, then bushy tundra, with dwarf birch trees.

On-screen: An image of the ground covered in dwarf birches in the Lake St. Francis region and another image of bushy soil cover from Megantic, 11 000 years ago.

[A.C.] Some may think that the people who first arrived gathered berries like cloudberries and Arctic blueberries.

On-screen: An image of a forest of aspen and red oaks in the Lake St. Francis region and another image of a white birch forest from Megantic 10 000 years ago.

[A.C.] In the Lake St. Francis region, some trembling aspen and red oaks were scattered through the area, whereas in the Megantic region, there were more white birch.

On-screen: An image of a deciduous forest in the Lake St. Francis region and another image of a coniferous forest in Megantic 9 000 years ago.

[A.C.] After a thousand years of climate warming, the area became a forest of fir trees, with some white birch and red oak trees, except at higher altitudes. Little by little, the forest became more dense, maples appeared, along with yellow birches and white pines. 7 000 years ago, vegetation was similar to what it is today.

An image of a burning forest is displayed.

[ A.C. ] Since then, forest communities have been impacted primarily by disruptions like fires, epidemics, and windfalls.

And what about the fauna all this time?

On-screen text: Animals

[A.C.] Animals

An image of an animal jawbone on rocks in the forest is displayed.

[A.C.] Animal bones are very rarely found at old archaeological sites.

On-screen: An image of flames.

[A.C.] Only bones that have been heated, i.e. bones from “table scraps” can survive. In the absence of bones, archaeologists must proceed by inference.

An image of caribou bones discovered in the northeastern United States is displayed.

Scrolling images: Two square-shaped projectile points, projectile hollowed out in the middle and in the shape of a parallelogram, triangle-shaped arrowhead with a rectangular base.

[A.C.] Projectile points have been unearthed in the Megantic region, where the area was covered with mosses and lichens. From that find, archaelologists deduced that the earliest inhabitants had been following caribou.

Scrolling video images: Close-up of lichen, clip of a mammoth on the move, and clip of a mammoth skeleton moving.

[A.C.] In this era, there may also have been woolly mammoths and American mastodons. A mastodon tooth was found in Lac St. Jean and mastodon remains have been found in New England. However, there is no evidence to confirm that they were ever in the Eastern Townships.

Scrolling video images and photos: Herd of caribou on a plain, Arctic wolf, flock of snow geese, snowy owl, crow, insects flying into shrubs.

[A.C.] Given that the animals living on the current-day Arctic tundra arrived from elsewhere, it is possible that there were lemmings, Arctic hare, Arctic foxes, and Arctic wolves on the tundra in the Eastern Townships. As for birds, it is likely that there were snow geese, snowy owls, and ravens. In addition, there must have been many insects to help with plant pollination.

On-screen: An image of an aerial view of a dense forest.

[A.C.] Warming temperatures led to the diversification of the flora and fauna. 10 000 years ago, when the area had been turned into a forest, the fauna was already very diverse.

On-screen: An image of a clipboard with the inscription 8 687 wildlife remains, on a background of wild boars walking in a field. A circular graph showing “64% undetermined” and “35.99% mammals.”

[A.C.] On the Kruger 2 site, in Sherbrooke, 8 687 wildlife remains were found between 2013 and 2017! Most of these bones were completely charred and fragmented, so much so that they were hardly identifiable. About 64% of these bones could not be classified and 36%, i.e. 3 014 bones had belonged to mammals. From this number, only 10% of the skeletal remains could be identified.

An image of transparent containers on which identification labels are visible is displayed. There are bones in the containers.

[A.C.] Identification is made by comparing the bones with those from the reference collection at the Ostéothèque de Montréal.

Scrolling video images: Beaver in water and porcupine climbing a rock in the forest.

[A.C.] This comparison confirmed that 10 000 years ago in Sherbrooke, there were beavers, porcupines, muskrats, woodchucks, and black bears.

On-screen: Image of a clipboard on which is indicated 8 687 wildlife remains, and a circular graph featuring: 11 fish bones, with the image of a sturgeon.

[A.C.] Among the 8 687 wildlife remains, there were 11 fish bones, one of which has been associated with a sturgeon, the first found in Eastern Canada dating back to this era! The earliest inhabitants also fished.

On-screen text: Conclusion.

Scrolling images: Image of grains of pollen magnified under a microscope, image of three experts handling a soil core sample using a branch of wood, caribou whose head and antlers are visible, branch of wood in flames.

[A.C.] The reconstitution of the changing landscapes from the retreat of the glaciers until today is based on analysis of pollen grains and fossil remains forms. Samples of these indicators are taken from layers of sediments at the bottom of lakes and from bogs. By referring to current-day ecology and food chains, vegetation analysis makes it possible to deduce the climate and animal species. Animal bones are rarely found at former archaeological sites; only cooked table scraps have been preserved, but they are not always identifiable. On the Kruger 2 site in Sherbrooke, several wildlife remains have confirmed the presence of several species of mammals and even of sturgeons.