Pickford on Excavation of “Indian Middens”

A.E. Pickford's ideal plan of an earth oven.

A.E. Pickford's ideal plan of an earth oven.

A.E. Pickford was the Assistant in Anthropology at the Royal BC Museum, when it was still known by its proper name of the Provincial Museum of Natural History and Anthropology.  Here I link to his indispensible 1947 article, “Archaeological Excavation of Indian Middens” – the examination of such middens by means of sampling.

The rationale for the publication is interesting:  “In case of private ownership, if a person is unable to restrain the impulse to dig on his own land, we urge that he shall adhere to some such principles as those which follow, then he will have the satisfaction of knowing that his work is well done and, when brought into focus with similar undertakings, will help to build up that sound formation of knowledge, without which the correct story of the early population of this country cannot be written.”

After encouraging the study of lofty topics such as racial and cultural origins, foods, housing …. etc., Pickford busts out his inner schoolmarm: “He who digs for relics alone may be likened to the child who tears a book apart in order to secure the coloured plates which it contains, being the while all unaware that in scattering the printed pages to the wind he is losing forever a valuable source of information about those same plates and the life which they represent”.

Reference: Report for the Year 1947.  Victoria: Provincial Museum of Natural History and Anthropology, Province of British Columbia, Department of Education.  [yes, education].

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