ASBC Victoria Talk: Tuesday September 16, Jenny Cohen on Paleoethnobotany of Kilgii Gwaay

2002 excavations at Kilgii Gwaay Site.

2002 excavations at Kilgii Gwaay Site.

Paleoethnobotany of Kilgii Gwaay: a 10,700 year old Ancestral Haida Archaeological Wet Site

Jenny Cohen

Tuesday, September 16, 2014, 7:30 pm

Cornett Building B129

(North End of Cornett building)

University of Victoria (map)

The Victoria Chapter of the Archaeological Society of BC (ASBC) has a long-running monthly Fall-Spring speaker series which is starting again next week.  The speaker is UVic Anthropology graduate student Jenny Cohen, speaking on results from her paleobotanical analysis of the 10,700 year old intertidal wet site, Kilgii Gwaay, in southern Haida Gwaii.  It’s a fascinating site which gives real insight into the way of life of Ancestral Haida at the Pleistocene-Holocene transition and I’m sure Jenny’s thesis, nearing completion, will be of wide interest.

If you don’t have enough Kilgii Gwaay in your life then I recommend you jump over to the Burnt Embers blog, where there are some excellent photos from the tricky intertidal excavations at that site a few years ago: Setting Up;  Keeping Water Out; Putting Water InWater Screening; and Kilgii Gwaay Finds.

Abstract: Kilgii Gwaay is an intertidal archaeological site, located in southern Haida Gwaii, British Columbia. Worked wood artifacts revealed the site’s significance as one of the earliest known examples of preserved plant usage on the Northwest Coast. Further excavations and analyses as part of my thesis research have added considerably to the known plant technologies and local paleoecology. Anatomical and morphological analyses of waterlogged material indicate the use of several species by ancestral Haida, including Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), Western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), alder (Alnus sp.), salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis), and red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa). These preliminary findings are consistent with local resource use and demonstrate the occurrence of technological practices, such as root- and wood-splitting, millennia before the widespread advent of western redcedar (Thuja plicata) in the region.

Bio: Jenny Cohen is finishing her Masters at the University of Victoria under the supervision of Dr. Quentin Mackie. She has been with Parks Canada and UVic on various Northwest Coast archaeological research projects since 2009. She also does artifact illustration and has worked in consulting archaeology. Her main interest areas are paleoethnobotany and environmental archaeology of early Holocene coastal sites. She incorporates previous training in horticulture, herbalism and fine arts into her research.

For information, phone 384-6059



Sticks/withes wrapped with split spruce root from Kilgii Gwaay site.

Sticks/withes wrapped with split spruce root from Kilgii Gwaay site.  Photo: D. Fedje.

12 responses to “ASBC Victoria Talk: Tuesday September 16, Jenny Cohen on Paleoethnobotany of Kilgii Gwaay

  1. Thanks for the reference to my posts – it’s great to have archaeologists and others interested in archaeology reading them!


  2. Pingback: Around the Archaeology Blog-o-sphere Digest #2 | Doug's Archaeology

  3. Can you tell when is your next conference so I can again be there with my rare NWCoastt books Best David Ellid Bookseller

    Sent from Samsung Mobile


  4. Pingback: Around the Archaeology Blog-o-sphere Digest #3 | Doug's Archaeology

  5. I was puzzled until I realized the inquiry was from David Ellis (not “Ellid” from Queen Charlotte City.

    Yes, Canadian Archaeological Society Meeting is in St. John’s, Newfoundland, April 29-May 3. They normally have a few book tables.


  6. I hadn’t made the connection, thanks Q.


  7. Duh!… it’s Canadian Archaeological Association, not “Society”. Geez, my own worst editor…


  8. Hello Dr. Mackie,

    I know this is sort of a weird place to ask this but I was wondering if there is a follow up to this story:

    If you’ve posted something here on your blog already about it I apologize, but if not I’d love to know more about this.

    Thanks so much


    • Hi skampie,

      Sorry for the delayed reply here. The media sort of blew the finds out of proportion a little bit. I feel pretty confident that at least some of the sonar images do reflect (ha!) cultural features on the seafloor. Unfortunately not just the blog but I also went on hiatus for the past nine months or so, so nothing new to report on the project. And I haven’t posted anything about it here. Daryl gave a talk at the SAA conference on the project but again careful to try not to overstate the finds. Every reason to believe there is indeed an archaeological record of drowned Hecate Strait. It’s expensive and complicated to pursue though, of course.


      • Thanks so much for the response! I can certainly understand that the site is prohibitive for further exploration. I hope that someday it can be explored but I understand why it hasn’t been. I’d love for your suspicions to be proven right!


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