Getting Some Weir Looks

Stone wall fishing structure being used near Hagwilget, LowerBulkley River near Skeena River, Wet'suwet'en Territory, ca. 1910. Source: BC Archives

Stone wall fishing structure being used near Hagwilget, LowerBulkley River just upstream of confluence with Skeena River at ‘Ksan and Gitanmaax, Wet’suwet’en Territory, ca. 1910. Source: BC Archives https://goo.gl/EKKB2S

This post is just a random collection of lesser-known historic images of fish weirs and traps from the Northwest Coast and Interior. There’s lots to learn for archaeologists from historic pictures generally, but the way that images circulate and are reproduced means we often see the same ones over and over again. I’ve found a few archival pics which may be familiar to some, but possibly novel to many.

For example, the picture above shows a surprisingly large (to me) stone weir near Hagwilget Canyon, which is a major fishing station on the Bulkley River. I think it must be in the large kidney-shaped pool just downstream of the bridge (map). While the main structure may be partially or wholly a natural cobble bar feature, to the left there is a smaller weir that definitely appears cultural. Note the drying structures and smoke houses in the background, detail below.

Drying fish in structures at Hagwilget, ca. 1890s. Source: BC Archives https://goo.gl/4aAy6w

Drying fish in structures at Hagwilget, ca. 1890s. Source: BC Archives https://goo.gl/4aAy6w

We discussed  Hagwilget once before when looking at the incredible bridge which used to span the river.  At that time I complained about copyright claims, and my opinion still holds when it comes to material digitized by public agencies. Anyway, the successor to the original Hagwilget bridge  bridge was not much more reassuring, and even the present day bridge is pretty hairy for the faint of butt.  Continue reading

Jarring Finds

Tom Beasley with olive jar from seafloor near Langara Island. Source: Northword Magazine.

Tom Beasley with Spanish olive jar from seafloor near Langara Island. Source: Northword Magazine.

One great thing about not keeping up with a blog is so much stuff accumulates like lint in the internavel that it is easy pickings to get material to post . . . . for example, the not very well known discovery by a fisherman of a Spanish colonial olive jar fragment in the waters off northern Haida Gwaii.  There is a nice summary by Jane Stevenson of the find in a 2012 issue of Northword Magazine, and much more information in an open access 1992 article in BC Studies.

The latter article by Hector Williams et al. has some interesting tit-bits, such as that the jar has a nippled bottom. But I digress….. Continue reading

The Midden, Reborn

Cover, Volume 1, Number 1 (Nov. 1968) of the ASBC newsletter, soon to become The Midden.

Cover, Volume 1, Number 1 (Nov. 1968) of the ASBC newsletter, soon to become The Midden.

As many readers will know, The Midden is the newsletter and journal of the Archaeological Society of B.C. The ASBC has fallen on some hard times in recent years with the Nanaimo Branch and the Vancouver Executive Branch both falling by the wayside. Luckily, the Victoria Branch, in recent years largely run by Graduate Students out of the Archaeology Lab at the University of Victoria, has retained its vitality and, after a hiatus and some thin issues, has recently started producing The Midden in its full glory again.

Even better news, the entire back run of The Midden since its first issue in 1968 is now available open access and online, with the exception that the most recent six months will be available to members only. It is to the enormous credit of the Victoria Group, who I have occasionally observed in their toils from faraway perch in Blog World Headquarters, that the ASBC and The Midden continue to express the vision of its founders over fifty years ago. The core group of the Victoria ASBC in recent years has including longtime members Pete Dady, Tom Bown and the late Gerry Merner, and more recently (and spearheading the digitization project) Jacob Earnshaw, Nicole Westre, Cal Abbott, Seonaid Duffield, and Colton Vogelaar (recent UVIC grads), and Genevieve Hill of the RBCM. Thanks also to the UVIC Library for hosting the journal. (If I’ve forgotten someone then apologies, and I will add them, just let me know). The ASBC has always been run by volunteers and has played a huge role in public education and promotion of archaeology in the Northwest, so the long-standing members and volunteers should also be thanked – of particular note perhaps, long-standing editor in the 1980s and 1990s, Kathryn Bernick.

Continue reading

The Rough Guide to the B.C. Gold Rushes

Anderson's map Kamloops area 1858. Note R. aux Chapeaux (Hat Creek) and R. de la Cache (Cache Creek to west; Shushwap Lake (Kamloops Lake) and the North Branch (of the Thompson River).

Anderson’s map of the Kamloops area 1858. Note R. aux Chapeaux (Hat Creek) and R. de la Cache (Cache Creek) to west; Shushwap Lake (Kamloops Lake) and the North Branch (of the Thompson River). Kumcheen / Little Fork, just upstream of Spence’s Bridge at the Nicola – Thompson confluence, lower left.

There were a lot of ways to make money from the B.C. Gold rushes which started in the mid 1850s. One of these was to publish a guide book to help prospecters enter the Gold Fields from starting points at The Dalles on the lower Columbia River or at Fort Langley, east of present-day Vancouver. Few were better prepared to write such a guide book (price: $1.50) than Alexander Caulfield Anderson, who had at least a decade of experience surveying for accessible routes into the interior of BC, especially Brigade Trails along which horse trains could pass.

The Gold Rush was, of course, one the of the main spearheads of colonialism and instigated or continued a lot of painful dispossession of Interior First Nations.  Anderson’s guide, available online (lower resolution 20 meg PDF direct download) can be read in many ways, but it is a valuable document of a slice of time (it is dated May 3rd, 1858, a watershed year in the history of B.C.), just as the middle Fraser Gold Rush was gaining steam but before the Cariboo Rush of the 1860s. It’s a pragmatic guide that gives landmarks, travel times, names of First Nations’ villages, where to catch sturgeon, how to hire a canoe, and other practical information and, of course, it includes an interesting map on the last pages, showing overland routes into and around the Interior.

Continue reading

Compilation of Work from Tse’K’wa (Charlie Lake Cave)

Cover of TseK'Wa Site Compilation, downloadable from Simon Fraser University

Cover of TseK’Wa Site Compilation showing “fluted point’ – the document is downloadable from Simon Fraser University

Charlie Lake Cave, also known as Tse’K’wa (the Rock House), is one of the best known archaeological sites in Western North America. Lying in the far NE of British Columbia, it containins a “fluted” projectile point, evidence of bison and small mammal/bird hunting, and shows basal dates of ca. 12,500 years ago. For decades it has been a key link in the understanding of the post-glacial occupation of the Americas.  It lies in the “Ice Free Corridor” which is a major focus of continuing research into the earliest periods in North America, and while the situation is very much unresolved, its safe to say that not everyone thinks the corridor was the route of first peoples into the Americas

It’s very cool and welcome, therefore, to see that many of the major scientific papers from this site (many authored or co-authored by Knut Fladmark and Jon Driver – two of B.C.’s pre-eminent archaeologists) are now downloadable for free from Simon Fraser University. The download is on this page, which contains a link to a PDF or an ePUB – but be aware that the PDF is about 100 megs.

The download itself is not the only cool thing of note here, though.

Continue reading

ASBC Victoria November 21st Public Talk: Underwater Survey for Late Pleistocene Archaeological Sites, Haida Gwaii

Autonomous Underwater Vehicle on surface of Juan Perez Sound, Haida Gwaii, with Parks Canada support vessel behind.

Autonomous Underwater Vehicle on surface of Juan Perez Sound, Haida Gwaii, with Parks Canada support vessel behind.

With sea levels rising by at least 120m globally at the end of the last ice age, conventional archaeological wisdom has been that sites on ancient coastlines are now deeply drowned. As is so often the case, conventional wisdom is over-simplified.  The B.C. coast is a good example, since the effect of ice weighting in some places counterbalanced the lower sea levels, meaning significant chunks of the coastal plain and paleo-coastlines were never-drowned.  Nonetheless, the underwater environment off the west coast doubtless contains thousands of early-period archaeological sites. Looking on land is more convenient, easier, cheaper, and allows one to breathe air – all good things. But looking underwater has some attractions too: methodological challenges, modelling issues, thinking about human life on a shrinking landmass, and a ridiculous amount of media coverage. The last is particularly important to University Administrators. Anyway, this month’s ASBC Victoria talk (poster, PDF) is on a project from a couple of years back which focused on attempting to find a particular kind of archaeological site on the sea floor: drowned fish weirs, especially rock wall ones, starting from the premise that such sites, which are often substantial in size,  should be confined to stream channels and might be directly visible to sidescan sonar.  For more information on the talk, click below.

Continue reading

The BC Archaeology Forum is Almost Here – Kamloops, November 18 & 19, 2017

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Blogs are so old fashioned and slow that I am sure you have all already heard of the when and where of the 2017 BC Archaeology forum – but I was asked to post a reminder and so here it is (it’s more than 144 characters so take a deep breath):

The Secwepemc Museum and Heritage Park and Tk’emlups te Secwepemc, welcomes the BC Archaeology Forum 2017 on Saturday, November 18th at the Moccasin Square Gardens (old KIRS Gym, Kamloops Indian Band). Saturday the 18th is reserved for a full day of speakers and presentations, followed by an evening event. Attendants are also invited to attend the Repository Roundtable discussions on Sunday Nov 19th.

It appears that you can still propose a paper, according to a nice email I got from one of the organizers (thanks, Carryl!).  It looks like you can get full information on the web here, or on facebook here.

The forum is usually one of the best ways to get up to date on new finds and issues in BC Archaeology, and is one of the rare events where First Nations Cultural Specialists, Cultural Resource Management Archaeologists, Academic and Student Archaeologists, and Government Archaeologists all get together in one place and at one time to compare notes. Looks like questions can be sent to bcarchforum17 [at] gmail.com, or see the poster below for an additional email.

Arch Forum Poster