ASBC Victoria talk: Tuesday May 20, Michelle Puckett on Quadra Is. Clam Gardens

Gwaii Haanas clam garden.

Clam garden in southern Haida Gwaii.  Note the rock wall forming the flat terrace feature.

Transforming the Beach, Transforming our Thinking: Ancient Clam Gardens of Northern Quadra Island, BC.

Michelle Puckett (presenter) and Amy Groesbeck, Dana Lepofsky, Anne Salomon, Kirsten Rowell, Nicole Smith and Sue Formosa

Tuesday, May 20th, 7:30pm at the University of Victoria, Cornett Building, Room B129.  All welcome, free.

SFU graduate student Michelle Puckett (formerly UVIC’s own) is giving the May ASBC Victoria talk – “clam gardens”.  These intertidal features have taken NW Coast archaeology by storm over the last 15 years or so.  Each one is a deliberate alteration of the beach in order to enhance shellfish productivity.  Hundreds of these are now known, and as archaeologists’ eyes become more tuned to this site type I expect hundreds more to be recorded.  Being, in effect, a kind of mariculture or aquaculture, these are important not only to our understanding of long term histories on the coast (they challenge the anthropological type “hunter-gatherer”) but they will also become important in land claims, I am sure. Click below to read the abstract and bio for this talk.

Abstract: The indigenous people of the Northwest Coast practiced a variety of resource and environmental management strategies to maintain and enhance foods, and other valued resources. This paper focuses on one form of ancient marine management, locally known as “clam gardens”. These managed beaches consist of a wall built at the extreme low tide and the associated cleared beach. These rock walls and cleared beaches likely expanded suitable bivalve habitat seaward. Despite the documentation of several hundred clam gardens from Alaska to Washington, there has been no comprehensive research effort focused on their ecological and social contexts. Our interdisciplinary research team merges archaeological and ecological data to test the hypothesis that clam gardens enhanced bivalve productivity. We focus on northern Quadra Island, where there is a very high density of these anthropogenic features. In this presentation, we discuss the findings of recent ecological surveys and ongoing archaeological research on these gardens. Through midden excavations, we assess for evidence of increased littleneck and butter clam productivity. We also discuss our excavations of clam garden beaches and walls attempting to directly date the initial construction and maintenance of clam gardens.

Bio: Michelle Puckett is presently working on a Master’s in Archaeology at Simon Fraser University, supervised by Dr. Dana Lepofsky. Her research is nested within the larger Quadra Island Clam Garden Study headed by Dr. Dana Lepfosky (SFU Archeology), Dr. Anne Salomon (SFU REM), and Dr. Kirsten Rowell (U of Washington Biology). Her thesis studies the ecological impacts of clam gardens in northern Quadra Island as seen through midden deposits spatially associated with clam gardens. She is interested in the rejuvenation of traditional food systems, indigenous food systems, food security and food diversity.

UVIC field school student helping map in a clam garden on Russell Island, Salish Sea.

UVIC field school student helping map in a clam garden on Russell Island, Salish Sea.

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