Excavations at Collison Bay, 2006
This is another intertidal dig – the Collison Bay site, which shares a lot of similarities with Kilgii Gwaay. Both sites date to about 9450 C14 years ago and contain buried deposits in primary context below the modern beach. While Kilgii Gwaay contains a rich organic assemblage, Collison Bay does not, though there is evidence for a brown palaeosol at varyiong depths. In and around that palaeosol are numerous pristine lithics: stones tools and flakes that are sharp and clearly have not een rolled on a beach. One of the striking things about these two sites is they show how a major event like a marine transgression can nonetheless leave intact cultural deposits. We suspect that much of this has to do with the local topography. Ideally, a bedrock rock rim allows for a small lagoon to form, creating an interlude of very low wave energy between when sea level rises over the site and when the full weight of waves can start to act on the surrounding shore. By the time the waves are able to penetrate, the archaeological materials are already several metres below low tide which affords quite a lot of protection.
As with Kilgii Gwaay, working in the intertidal zone poses certain challenges, such as having only a six hour window to work. In the case of Collison Bay, we compounded the issue by timing the project for when the best tides were in the middle of the night, which meant getting up at midnight and working to dawn in some cases (though we did have some good daytime digging as well). In this picture you can see we are using electric lights run off a generator while Cynthia does the hard work down on the beach; this is probably around 2.00 in the morning.
Parks Canada Underwater Archaeologist at Section Cove, 2006
Parks Canada has a great underwater archaeology unit. They have been coming out to dive on targets we’ve identified on the drowned terrestrial landscape of Haida Gwaii. This picture shows an archaeologist with a suction hose on the bottom near (though, sadly, not on) the target we identified at the outlet of the lake that formerly sat in Section Cove, near Huxley Island. This target is at about 33 metres below the surface, while the diver here is at about 27 metres down, so on a small bump above ancient landform of interest – not a place with zero potential, but not a huge amount either, we don’t think. The hose sucked out the bottom sediments into a mesh bag which could then be lifted by crane onboard the mother ship, and screened on deck. Therefore, it was not really a lift hose, but the system worked pretty well though as I say, it was not applied to the precise location of the high potential. In future years once this dive team perfects their procedures for working in this difficult location and at challenging depths we hope to find some very cool archaeological stuff dating to the terminal Pleistocene / end of the last ice age.
Cowichan Spindle Whorl, ©National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution (15/8959)
These seem to be squirreled away on the website in the “media releases” section at the Smithsonian! It is well worth getting the high-resolution images. There is one solid, NWC art page here (from where the lovely Cowichan spindle whorl to the left is from) but additionally here are high resolution pictures of:
an Alutiiq (Koniag) hunter’s hat, ca. 1950 Kodiak Island, Alaska (Spruce root, paint, glass beads, dentalium shells, wool cloth, sea lion whiskers National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution Image: 6/9253)
Quinalt woman’s dentalia breastplate ca. 1880 Washington state (Hide, dentalium shells, glass beads, cordage National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution Image: 2/7703)
Tlingit Rattle, ca. 1880 Alaska (Alder or maple wood, hide National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution Image: 8/1650AQ)
Raven Steals the Sun (in blown glass! by Preston Singletary (Tlingit) Seattle, Washington, 2003)
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This is a nice little animated demonstration of the massive glacial changes in Puget Sound, found via the Burke Museum’s nice Waterlines online exhibit, which is a history of the geo-engineering of Seattle.