Shallow "cave" with local ritual significance in highly folded orthoquartzite of Hurwitz FormationShallow "cave" with local ritual significance in highly folded orthoquartzite of Hurwitz Formation
This shallow cave is in an east-facing escarpment in a break in a prominent ridge of orthoquartzite of the Hurwitz Formation, about 75m above modern sea level, but below the level of postglacial submergence in the Tyrrell Sea. It is located on the south shore of the prominent sickle-shaped northwest arm of Kaminak Lake. The ridge is adorned with flights of raised beaches formed during its emergence from the sea due to glacioisostatic rebound, roughly 4000-5000 years ago. This cave was created and is maintained by frost shattering of highly fractured orthoquartzite which is deformed into a small anticline. The core of the anticline crumbles into 1m (+) blocks, and the mouth of the cave and the cave itself have migrated several meters westward since its emergence from the sea. Coastal Innuit from Whale Cove, who were trying to establish a commercial fishery * in this part of Kaminak Lake during 1970-1971, visited our camp on the north shore, directly across from the cave, and told us that it was a 'holy place' to the Caribou Innuit, who lived by hunting and following the caribou herds that migrated through this area on their way to the calving grounds in the vicinity of Kaminuriak Lake. The cave was considered to be a religious site, similar to those on Marble Island in Hudson Bay and another area near Baker Lake. The cave contained numerous artifacts, spear heads, tobacco tins, etc., apparently deposited there to assure good fortune in hunting. Within 500 meters of the cave, between the island near the west end of the northwest arm and its south shore, the lake bottom is covered with the bones of many caribou, which were presumably driven into the lake and harvested. I assume that there is some correlation between the two sites. Coarse residue of blocks from the migrating cave may provide much older artifacts, as this site must have been important for at least a few thousand years. In my opinion, this is an important archeological site, albeit difficult of access.
* The fishery that was started on Kaminak Lake in 1970 was moved to Kaminuriak Lake in the mid-1970s because the fish harvested in Kaminak were found to have unacceptably high levels of mercury (Shilts, W. W. and Coker, W. B., 1995; Mercury anomalies in lake water and in commercially harvested fish, Kaminak Lake Area, District of Keewatin, Canada; Water, Air, and Soil Pollution; 80: pp. 881-884). An ambitious Geological Survey of Canada geochemical study had detected fairly high and strongly variable natural levels of Mercury in Kaminak lake water, presumably related to numerous small occurrences of base metal sulfide deposits in the rocks underlying and surrounding the lake. Fish taken from nearby Kaminuriak Lake evidenced no such elevated levels of mercury.
Updated 04/07/2010 AW