dSpace: Caldwell on Comox Harbour Fishtraps

Chevron-shaped fishtraps in Comox Harbour. From Caldwell 2008.

The University of Manitoba is in on the dSpace trend.  The most notable thesis I found there was Megan Caldwell’s excellent analysis of some Comox Harbour fishtraps in relation to the Q’umu?xs Village site (DkSf-19).  Sixteen carbon dates are now available on these traps, thanks mainly to the work of Nancy Greene.  Caldwell takes a theoretical stance of Optimal Foraging Theory, arguing that fishtraps amount to “artificial patches” which can alter choices made under Patch Selection principles.  Essentially, a similar and more holistic argument could be made using principles of the “built environment” in an Ingoldian sense, but OFT is more structured and maybe more suitable for an MA thesis.  Interestingly, Caldwell’s work on auger sampling of the Q’umu?xs Village site shows a preponderance of herring, which is also interpreted as the target prey of the fishtraps.  This runs against the grain of the ethnographic work she conducted, where she was told that salmon were more important — mind you, salmon have difficult taphonomy and site formation processes, which she acknowledges.  In any case, this is a well organized, focused thesis which reflects a lot of high quality original work and while I haven’t read the whole thing I intend to do so!  Caldwell mentions Nancy Greene is still working on her fish trap study and I hope to see the results of that soon as well — these Comox Harbour trap complexes are very likely the finest of their type anywhere on the Northwest Coast and may well offer key insight into cultural construction of the landscape and its resources.  Download her thesis here!

Map of Fishtrap Stakes in Comox Harbour. From Caldwell 2008.

Schematic of two basic fishtrap designs. From Caldwell 2008.

4 responses to “dSpace: Caldwell on Comox Harbour Fishtraps

  1. Dione da Rocha Bandeira

    Very interesting this blog. I would like to talking to some Canadian archaeologist that researcher with shell middens. I am Brazilian archaeologist and I am in Uvic at moment e would like to change ideas and to know some archaeological sites


  2. Dione — send me an email, qmackie @ gmail dot com if you want to touch base sometime.


  3. Willem-Jan Hogestijn

    I am a dutch archaeologist and currently excavating fish weirs dating from about 4500 cal BP (dutch Bell Beaker culture). At the moment we have uncovered ca. 600 stakes in at least two different major rows. The longest row has been documented over a length of about 90 meters. We have beginning nor end of this part of the weir.
    I would like to correspond with fish weir experts, exhange expertise, and data, for instance about construction, weir location (stream, lake, coast/estuary), weir types and the major fish type caught.

    W.J.H. Hogestijn


  4. Hi Willem-Jan
    I suggest you contact Nancy Green : ngreene@shaw.ca
    She just published a paper in the Canadian Journal of Archaeology mapping 17,000 stakes and dating 57 of them. See:
    Greene, N., David McGee, and Roderick Heitzmann
    2015 The Comox Harbour Fish Trap Complex: A Large-Scale, Technological Sophisticated Intertidal Fishery from British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Archaeology 39:161-212.

    Jesse Morin


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