One great thing about not keeping up with a blog is so much stuff accumulates like lint in the internavel that it is easy pickings to get material to post . . . . for example, the not very well known discovery by a fisherman of a Spanish colonial olive jar fragment in the waters off northern Haida Gwaii. There is a nice summary by Jane Stevenson of the find in a 2012 issue of Northword Magazine, and much more information in an open access 1992 article in BC Studies.
The latter article by Hector Williams et al. has some interesting tit-bits, such as that the jar has a nippled bottom. But I digress…..
The find was made by a fisherman in his nets offshore of the Haida Village of Da’dens on SE Langara Island (a.k.a., North Island; Kiis Gwaay). Langara Island was a hot-spot of early European activity on the coast – the Spanish (Juan Perez) were there as early as 1774. Below is a picture of Da’dens taken by George Dawson in 1878 – it is right across the passage from the much better known historic town of Kiusta.
Apart from Kiusta and Da’dens there were a number of other Haida towns in this area, as shown in Newcombe’s map reproduced in Swanton, 1905.
There is a rather nice painting (below) representing Kiusta and its view, while I interpret Da’dens and the find spot to be just out of the frame to the right (east).
At the Bill Reid Centre at SFU, the page on Kiusta notes,
“In 1774, during a ten-month voyage, the Spanish ship Santiago voyaged to British Columbia under Captain Juan Perez. Due to concerns of the ship’s water supply running low the Santiago approached Haida Gwaii (Graham Island) to find a secure harbour to drop anchor. It was here off the coast of Langara Island that three canoes approached the ship and the Spanish traded beads for dried fish. The following day twenty-one canoes appeared, and two of the Haida people boarded the ship.”
Williams et al. subjected a fragment of the amphora to Thermoluminescence dating which can derive the time passed since clay was fired in a kiln. The date they report is 235 years +/- 17, which they calculate as somewhere between 1720 and 1790 CE. The latter part of the range fits well with the earliest Spanish explorations. (As an aside, in the text they report the date was run by Olav Lian, who has been working with us in the last couple of years on Optical Dating (OSL) of sediments on Quadra Island. He contains multitudes, it seems).
Neutron Activation Analysis on the jar was inconclusive due to a lack of comparative samples, though maybe that has been rectified in the past 25 years. The overall assessment of the jar is that it is crudely made and likely to be Spanish colonial wear made in, perhaps, Mexico. While other fragments of Spanish-era pottery have been found on the Northwest Coast (a few pieces at Yuquot, and a brick (I have heard) from Neah Bay), this is probably the best described and analysed.