The site, thought to be the “lost village” of Luxvbalis, is in territory of the Heiltsuk and Wuikinuxv (formerly Oweekeenow/Awikenox) peoples. The project was intended to re-locate this village, which figures prominently in Oral History.
Harvey Humchitt, an hereditary chief of the Heiltsuk, said the find is exciting, and fits with oral history.
“Luxvbalis was one of the winter villages of the Heiltsuk,” he said. “Growing up, we didn’t know too much about it, but we often went over there [to Calvert Island] for family gatherings.”
He said Luxvbalis translates as “always rolling, sort of thunder rolling,” and adjacent to the archeological site is a beach where big waves pound ashore from the open Pacific.
Mr. Humchitt said the story is that Luxvbalis had existed for a very long time when it was abandoned after a smallpox epidemic swept the coast in the 1800s.
Relocating the site, he said, would mean a lot to his people.
The site at which the research was undertaken is a notably large, and deep, shell midden with abundant artifacts and fauna. Apart from fitting the description from the Oral History, the site appears to be very old indeed.
While no carbon dates have been run yet, Dr Rahemtulla is quoted that he believes there may be a component dating to 6,000 to 10,000 years ago, based on stone tools of an old style found in the intertidal zone. Such a date range is certainly possible, even probable, considering the site is close to the well known Namu site (2). Namu, with a basal radiocarbon date of about 9700 (~11,000 calendar years ago), and deposits leading to the historic period, is possibly the longest continuously occupied settlement in British Columbia. Also, on nearby Hunter Island, is another site with a basal radiocarbon date (pulled from an auger) of 9940 – about 11,300 calendar years ago (Cannon 2000). This part of the Central Coast of BC therefore appears to have substantial occupation through the last 11,000 years, at least.
Without having seen any examples, it is of course likely that Dr Rahemtulla would accurately assess the stone tool types, as he did his M.A. and Ph.D. thesis on early period stone tool manufacture at Namu.
So, the surrounding archaeological context is plausible for such early dates. The are may be something of a “hinge”, where long term sea level changes were balanced by tectonic and glacial rebound forces, meaning modern coastlines are similar to ancient ones. This means settlements could be occupied over the very long term with no need to move around in adjustment to shifting shorelines. The power of seeking such stable, persistent landforms was ably demonstrated by Duncan McLaren’s recent Ph.D. thesis on the Dundas Island group near Prince Rupert.
More information can be found in this UNBC Press Release, from which I took the photos here. As always, it’s worth reading the comments in the Globe and Mail, which include the usual racist, ignorant and anti-research component but in this case encouragingly balanced by some well-informed push-back comments, including a number which invoke sea-level history and other factual information to create good argumentative points.
Anyway, it’s a great example of how responding to a research question instigated by First Nations communities can lead archaeologists to exciting finds which respond to both Aboriginal concerns and scientific questions.
Reference: Cannon, A. 2000. Settlement and Sea Levels on the Central Coast of British Columbia: Evidence from Shell Midden Cores. American Antiquity 65(1):67–77.