ASBC Victoria Public Talk: Tue. Oct. 21 – Darcy Mathews on Funerary Petroforms at Rocky Point

Darcy Matthews leading a UVic field trip to burial features in Metchosin.  Photo:qmackie

Darcy Matthews leading a UVic field trip to burial features in Metchosin. Photo:qmackie


Dr. Darcy Mathews

Funerary Ritual and Ancestral Presence at Rocky Point, British Columbia

Tuesday, October 21, 2014, 7:30 pm

UVIC Cornett Building B129 (map)

Free and open to the public

While you might think you’ll have had your fill of cool archaeology at Saturday’s BC Archaeology Forum in Nanaimo, you won’t have seen the latest from Dr.(!!) Darcy Mathews, who will be presenting his recent UVic Ph.D. research to the ASBC next week. Perhaps benefitting from the finest supervision which single-malt can buy, Darcy’s dissertation is Piled Higher and Deeper with carefully chosen nuggets of the finest methods and theories, much like the cairns funerary petroforms it is based on. Seriously, it is a tour de force which absolutely nails its topic in a way seldom seen. No doubt it’ll be coming soon to a prestigious academic press near you.

Anyway, the ASBC provides the abstract:

Alongside Darcy's thesis, more  evidence of humanity's "piling behaviour"; feature 55 at DcRv 24, Rocky Point, BC.

Alongside Darcy’s thesis, more evidence of humanity’s “piling behaviour”. Source: D. Mathews dissertation.

Abstract: On the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island, between 400–1500 cal A.D., the Straits Salish peoples living at Rocky Point built distinctive funerary petroforms for some of their dead. Two neighboring villages at Rocky Point each have a major cemetery nearby, with smaller satellite cemeteries between and around them. This mortuary landscape is comprised of more than 500 burial funerary petroforms, with these above ground features constructed in a patterned array of sizes and shapes. Analysis of the ways in which these features were built and where they were constructed suggests a ritual process in which specific places were selected for certain kinds of funerary petroforms. Most significantly, there is a paradox of visibility. These are above-ground monuments built is patterned ways and placed on distinctive landscapes, yet they are located in such a way that actively conceals them from view. Triangulating these results with an ethnographic analysis suggests that communities of ritual practice at Rocky Point promoted a sense of community while simultaneously distinguishing and distancing their most powerful dead at the geographical and perceptual threshold of the living. It is these material and spatial ritual practices that accentuated and created relationships of power at multiple scales in the lives of the Rocky Point peoples. But through time as well, these and other funerary petroform cemeteries in the region are landscapes in which the powerful dead continue to have a presence in the world of the living. These places continue to entangle us a millennia after they were built, as the unfolding situation at Grace Islet poignantly reminds us.

Bio: Darcy Mathews is a Hakai post-doctoral research fellow in the School of Environmental Studies and a sessional lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Victoria. His long-term research focuses on Coast Salish funerary practices. More recently, he has begun research with the Hakai Beach Institute on the Central Coast, looking at culture history and the deep history of First Nations ecosystem management practices over the past 5000 years.

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Cairn morphology at Rocky Point.  Source: Darcy Matthews MA thesis.

Funerary petroform morphology at Rocky Point. Source: Darcy Mathews MA thesis.

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