ASBC Victoria: Public Talk Tuesday Sept 20, Barkley Sound Archaeology

Kelsey, Rodney and Jinky in the older deposits at Hiikwis.

The local (Victoria) branch of the Archaeological Society of B.C. is firing up it’s winter lecture series.  The first talk is on Tuesday, and features UVic’s own Kelsey MacLean, speaking on the enigmatic stone tool assemblage from Hiikwis, in Barkley Sound.  Details below; it is free and open to the public.

Kelsey MacLean

M.A. Candidate, University of Victoria

Chipped Stone in Barkley Sound.

Abstract: In 2008, Hiikwis became the first archaeological site in Barkley Sound with a significant sample of chipped stone materials. This material provides new insights into the culture history of Barkley Sound and the Nuu-chah-nulth peoples. It is well known that settlement patterns changed drastically in Barkley Sound from approximately 1500 to 1000 AD (Marshall 1993:40), which is a period of occupation represented at Hiikwis. Although the population movements both before and during this time have been theorized about before, Hiikwis is causing researchers to reconsider their previous assertions. Analysis of the chipped stone materials aims to determine who created these stone tools, and why there is a relative abundance of these tools at this site in contrast to the surrounding excavated locations. Essentially, why are there chipped stone tools here, but not next door?

Bio: Kelsey MacLean is currently an MA candidate at the University of Victoria. She is an executive member of the Victoria Branch of the Archaeological Society of BC and has a BA in Anthropology and Sociology from the University of Victoria. Her first fieldwork experience was in Barkley Sound in 2008 and she has returned each summer for further research. Her interest in the Tseshaht and the Barkley Sound region led to her pursuing her MA thesis project within this extended archaeological project.

SEP. 20, 2011, 7:30
pm Pacific Forestry Centre,
506 West Burnside Road.


12 responses to “ASBC Victoria: Public Talk Tuesday Sept 20, Barkley Sound Archaeology

  1. It looks like a strong fall lineup for the ASBC with rumours that the next two speakers are Daryl Fedje on October 18 and Duncan McLaren on November 15.

    Also, if you are at UVIC on Monday, you could do worse than attend the Anthropology colloquium which features an update on West African archaeology from Department Chair Ann Stahl. Details here:


  2. It would be great if someone could report on this talk. Re-reading the Conclusions in Michael C.Wilson’s paper on Regional Geology in Ts’ishaa: Archaeology and Ethnography… Provides suggestions forfurther work that canbedoe to establish provnance (trade, quarry sites etc) of the various chipped stone assemblages.
    Especially those of locations with high concentratins of this sort of material.
    Hope to see more on this here.
    Also: Ch’uumata. From off shore I have been noticing that the creek bed on the west side must have been scoured more severly than in previous years. Low vegetation salmon/thimble berry bushes have a wide swatch showing through them. Maybe the creek was dammed and then a rain event during a if new material is showing from this cut through the middenmaterial or if new material has washed out on the beach. Will take some puics.winter downpour caused this. I hope to kayak out there sometime soon andsee ifthe creek has acrtually changed course


    • Hi Edgewater

      Maybe Kelsey will see this and she might have some material to share, e.g. a slide or pic or something. Otherwise if I make it out there (aiming for it) then I’ll write it up a bit.

      Thanks for the note about erosion at Chu’umata. I’d love to say there is a program of proactive heritage conservation but there really isn’t, except as one-offs. Chu’umata may be on reserve land as well – you’d likely know. If it is, then protection of the site falls under a whole different slew of regulations and there might be more that could be done I suppose.


  3. Looking forward to your comments on the talk and maybe we will see something early from ms Kelsey.

    Ch’uumata (DfSi 4) was apparently unoccupied when the reserve commissioner came by. So not a Toquaht Reserve. Not sure if recent treaty agreements changed the status of this land.
    T’ukw’aa (DfSj 23) nearby is a reserve.


  4. Hurray for Kelsey! Go Barkley Sound!

    Interesting reference to Marshall (1993:40) but she seems to be referring to only one site at the head of Barkley Sound (Shoemaker Bay) during the period “between about 1500 and 1000 A.D” while later in the same paragraph she mentions “from 1500 to 1000 years ago” so I’m not sure which is which…

    Marshall, Yvonne (1993) A Political History of the Nuu-chah-nulth People: A Case Study of the Mowachaht and Muchalaht Tribes. PhD Dissertation, Simon Fraser University.


  5. Hi Edgewater,

    The talk was very good: very clear and informative and nicely presented.
    The take home message so far is pretty simple, but needs a brief note of context.

    Some years ago – early 1990s I guess, Allan McMillan proposed a “Wakashan Migration Hypothesis” which sought to account for a suite of slightly anomolous data: notably the Nuxalk Coast Salish linguistic isolate on the central coast, and some apparent abrupt archaeological changes in Barkley Sound and Queen Charlotte Strait.

    In the latter case, Mitchell had pointed to the apparent superposition of West Coast of Vancouver Island-like artifacts and fauna over top of an earlier occupation more similar to the Gulf of Georgia. being a cautious scholar, he didn’t make too big a deal of it, but did suggest this was perhaps evidence of population expansion from Vancouver Island into the Queen Charlotte Strait, perhaps around 2000 years ago. This was worthy of comment because the over-arching story in coastal BC archaeology is one of long term cultural continuity and inremental change, whereas Mitchell saw quite an abrupt change, from heavy use of flaked stone tools and a diverse marine-terrestrial economy to a reliance on bone tools and a much more marine mammal-fish economy.

    Anyway, int he early 1990s some more evidence started to come to light, including surface collections from Bamfield and Clayoquot Sound which appeared to be out of place for what was known of the outer coast of Vancouver Island. The big find was at Ucluelet, where a deeply buried site dating to between 2000 and 4000 years ago appeared to be closely related to Gulf of Georgia sequences, especially in the flaked stone tools. At that time, the West Coast of Vancouver Island was understood to have essentially no flaked stone technology.

    Then, soon after, McMillan begain to find comparable, old, assemblages at the backs of sites nearby and in Barkley Sound. Most of these were components more than 2,000 years old, and the flaked stone assemblage was small. McMillan solidified Mitchell’s suggestion, melding multiple lines of evidence into a model of expanding speakers or at least cultural traits of Wakashan language speakers sometime around 2000 years ago.

    Now, more recently at the Hiikwis and Uukwatis sites in NE Barkley Sound, McMillan and St. Claire directed a project where some units revealed a substantial amount of flaked stone.

    This assemblage forms the basis for Kelsey’s thesis. At the talk, she contextualized the project as per the above, and noted a few very preliminary thoughts:

    – the set of complete projectile points of flaked stones are probably exotic and imported whole
    – the large amount of flakes she is analyzing are mostly chert and not the same material as the formed tools
    – those flakes were the result of making both bifacial and unifacial stone technology
    – there are some interesting microlithic tools which will bear comment
    – there is an interesting quartz bipolar assemblage from the earlier bits that bears comparison at a regional scale and might help unlock some secrets
    – some of the technology does indeed echo that found in places like the Gulf of Georgia historically occupied by speakers of Salishan languages
    – but the dates on some of this suggest that if there was a population shift, it happened more recently here than in the more western parts of Barkley Sound.

    But overall, it’s too soon to tell what the assemblage tells us about McMillan’s Wakashan migration hypothesis. Wakashan is a language group, and stone tools are stone tools. Making a close connection is difficult. Uukwatis will help tell the story but there is a lot of work that could be done before it is laid to rest – ideally many more deeply exacavated sites along some sort of “outer to inner” transect married to sophisticated thinking about the connection between material culture and ethnicity.

    Kelsey got a lot of good questions from quite a stellar range of experienced archaeologists who came to her talk and there was a very good discussion.


  6. Thanks Quentin, that’s very helpful, considering we live in ‘On the Edge in Paradise’, which is a long way from where these events take place. I much appreciate the detail of your report. Now, you list other future presenters with interesting topics. Do you suppose….? If not you, perhaps someone else could do the same for us ‘at large’?
    I have been in touch with Dr Alan McMillan about the Wakashan Migration Hypothesis because I had been looking at the older dates and evidence of chipped stone assemblies of some of the sites like Sand Point and Wayatch and started to wonder if there might be a connection with WMH. McMillan said ‘not likely’, too far and different neighbours. Besides the Wayatch site material has a problem with lack of context. Is that how you say this? Sorry for my ignorance. For me this is Arch 101. If you guys have a problem with this I’ll just read your stuff and withhold my comments. I find it all pretty fascinating. Especially since I live right in the middle of it. It is nice to be retired.
    Still planning to get to Ch’uumata before long to have a look. Even around Christmas and New Year’s we may get some kayaking weather.


  7. Hi Edgewater,
    The blog started as a public education device, and then got hijacked by archaeologists! So you are more than welcome. I’ll see if someone wants to take notes at the next meeting, or I will take them myself.
    Alan McMillan is the expert of course, so I’d go with his opinion. More generally, if there is a flaked stone assemblage within current Nuu-chah-nulth territory then one might be looking at the following:

    1. it might be substantially old, that is, perhaps a paleo-intertidal site dating to 8,000 years ago or something (if on WCoast VI). That’s possible.
    2. it might be part of a, for lack of a better word, proto-Salishan cultural expression of the type that forms the basis of McMillan’s model. That’s possible.
    3. It might be that in different sub-regions there was different technology even by broadly the same group of people – balkanization of technology, so to speak.

    Speaking to your examples, those are both on the Olympic Peninsula, right? It would seem the Makah are part of the WMH, but at the same time, the peninsula is a big place and Croes’ stylistic analysis of Hoko River basketry shows that the relation between material culture and ethnicity is highly problematic, or at least, it differs between stone technology and organic-textile technology. So the waters are muddy and I would want to know more before throwing my hat in the ring. (By the way, we looked at the Waatch River site on this blog and noted the presence of a bipolar quartz technology perhaps quite similar to Hoko and to Hiikwis: (Is this Wayatch – the Wessen dig referenced is too recent to have made it into McMillan’s book – but maybe earlier dig there. Anyone?)

    Picking between these would of course require actual archaeological context, which you say is lacking. It’s a good example of why archaeologists hate to see sites disturbed. But, at the same time, as the Grappler inlet site shows, even a limited amount of context, or sometimes even stylistically-distinct artifacts a long way from the focal area of their distribution, can tell an incomplete story and thereby trigger further research.

    PS if you live out there in the middle of paradise obviously you should sponsor an archaeologist’s retreat!


    • Thanks for explaining. I’ll digest some of this first.
      Allan McMillan wrote that Wessen is planning to go back to wayatch to have another look. Yes, Sand River (near Ozette) and Wayatch (closer to Cape Flattery I think) are located on the west side of Olympic Peninsula.
      -What happenedat Grappler Inlet (Bamfiled right?). Is there a literature reference for that?
      -As far as your P.S. goes. We are surrounded by B&B’s and only over my dead body would we entertain having one. Also, our property is too small to even provide a camping spot. Sorry. really!


      • Hi Edgewater,

        “Grappler Inlet” site refers to a set of flaked stone artifacts including types typical of certain periods of the Gulf of Georgia, surface collected from disturbed context near Bamfield. If I recall correctly, the site was (is) on a raised marine terrace which is suggestive of earlier times – typically such sites in that region date to before 2,000 years ago, and earlier. There is no publication on that site that I know of, but it is mentioned in a 1992 conference presentation which accumulates evidence for early flaked stone industries on the west Coast of Vancouver Island:

        NUU-CHAH-NULTH CULTURE HISTORY: Is Something Missing?
        Alexander Mackie
        Paper Presented at 45 Annual Northwest Anthropological Conference Simon Fraser University, 1992

        I don’t know for sure, but I think McMillan cites this paper as part of his comprehensive overview of the topic.


  8. Hi Quentin-
    Thanks you for the details on Grappler. So much more work can (and must) be done. So few $$ of course. I will check that 1992 SF conference paper..
    Are procedings usually available? Is there a list of topics I can see somewhere?


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