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Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 6

The Excavation and Historical Identification of Rocky Mountain House

by William C. Noble

Artifact Descriptions (continued)


The few aboriginal artifacts found within the fort constitute a low 0.1 per cent of the total specimens recovered. None is so distinctive as to enable direct historic identification with specific Indians known to have frequented the fort. Such tribes included the Kootenays, the Swampy Ground Stonies, Crees and various members of the Blackfoot Confederacy, particularly the Peigan (Muddy River Indians).

Six different classes of aboriginal artifacts are represented.

Table 32: Aboriginal Artifacts

Stone pipe bowls6


Large flesher1

Anvil stone1


Chert flakes2


Stone Pipe Bowls

Six carved pipe bowls are represented in the excavated sample. All are in complete bowls of the monitor type which had separate detachable stems. Soapstone, sandstone, dolomite, steatite and argillite are the five materials utilized. In Table 33, dashed lines indicate absence of decoration or incompleteness of the specimen. Specimens 320 and 821 do not fit together.

All but one of the pipe bowls were found loose within the top 6 in. of turf in the fort. As the distribution table shows, the predominant concentration is in the north half of the fort near buildings I, II and III. Specimen 849, of bluish argillite, was recovered from the 26 in. depth of pit 6. An outcrop of this material occurs on the Pipestone River near Banff, named by Sir James Hector (Canada. Geographic Board 1928: 103). This seems to be a probable source.

Table 33: Stone Pipe Bowls

849blue-black argillite6.9 cm.3.1 cm.0.9 cm.0.6 cm. Single incised Horizontal line 6 mm. below lip

12grey soapstone0.9 cm.0.8 cm.0.5 cm.

641red sandstone2.8 cm.1.6 cm.

320grey dolomite3.6 cm.2.1 cm.vertically carved lines 2.6 cm. apart

821grey dolomite0.3 cm.

307red steatite

Table 34: Distribution of Stone Pipe Bowls

West of building I12

West of building II320

Building III (pit 6)849

Building IV641

Northeast corner of fort821


Three small scrapers, all worked unifacially, were recovered. These are described in detail as they may in future be identified and correlated with historic tribes. In particular, tracing the materials utilized may be helpful.

Flat Tabular Side Scraper

This side scraper of mottled yellow jasper in tabular form has very fine chipping along one side only. It is 2.9 cm. long by 2.5 cm. wide and has a thickness of 0.6 cm. It comes from the top 6 in. of turf just north of building I.

Rectangular Obsidian Side Scraper

One large black obsidian side scraper was recovered loose in the south gateway area. This rectangular scraper has been continuously chipped along two adjacent sides. It measures 3.6 cm. long by 2.7 cm. wide and has a thickness of 1.9 cm.

Oblong Snubnose End Scraper

This oblong pear-shaped specimen is of bluish black chert. Both dorsal and ventral surfaces are flat with a bulb of percussion occurring on the narrow ventral proximal end. The distal cutting end rises in a very steep 82-degree angle to form a snub nose. Although the distal snubnosed end displays the principal chipped surface, there is fine retouch along the right side of the specimen. This scraper was found outside the extended south wall of the palisade west of the south gateway.

Large Flesher

A large fleshing tool of fine-grained pink quartzite came from the site. This has been fashioned from a portion of split cobble of trapezoidal shape. The tool measures 9.1 cm. long with a thickness of 2.2 cm., and has rough chipping along the 6.4 cm. wide distal end. This specimen was recovered loose in the eastern interior of the fort just west of building VI.

Anvil Stone

A round dolomitic cobble anvil stone is from the southwest corner of building V. This specimen is centrally pitted on the ventral surface only. It has a diameter of 6.4 cm. and a thickness of 2.8 cm.


Also in the inventory of aboriginal artifacts is a single randomly battered core of yellow jasper. This small core is 3.3 cm. long by 2.9 cm. wide and 2.2 cm. thick, and was found within building III.

Chert Flakes

Two chert flakes complete the assemblage of items attributable to aboriginal manufacture. The first flake of black chert (specimen 900) was found loose in the centre of the fort. The second specimen (265) is a dolomitic chert flake found within pit 2. Neither flake has been worked.

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