Category Archives: Lower Mainland

These Outer Shores: A special edition of BC Studies

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 7.47.48 PMThe regional journal BC Studies has a new special issue out focused on local archaeology. Entitled These Outer Shores, the edition is available for a reasonable price (20$) and two of the articles plus the forward are already open access, with the rest to follow in a couple of years.  The publisher’s blurb gives a good sense of the edition:

Guest Edited by Alan D. McMillan and Iain McKechnie, These Outer Shores presents recent archaeological research along the outer coast, from southeast Alaska to the entrance to Juan de Fuca Strait. The authors challenge the long-held perception of the western edge of British Columbia as “peripheral” or “remote,” removed from major cultural developments emanating from more interior locations. Instead, recent fieldwork and analyses document a lengthy and persistent occupation of the outer shores over the past 13,000 years. Using a variety of modern approaches and techniques, the authors examine such topics as changing sea levels, human settlement history, fish and shellfish harvesting, whaling, and the integration of Indigenous oral history with archaeology.

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Glaciers brought mountain to man (not really)

Dionisio Point. Main vlillage sites in central upper portion of image. Credit: Colin grier via NPR.

Dionisio Point, north end of Galiano Island. Main vlillage sites (DgRv 6) in central upper portion of image. Credit: Colin grier via NPR.

A couple of months ago you may have heard of an exciting new study on the sources of rock for making stone tools in the Salish Sea.  “Glaciers brought mountain to man“, the headlines said, affirming that archaeologists working on Galiano Island had found nodules of raw material, not yet worked into tools, from the Mt. Garibaldi area of the lower mainland.  If, like me, you have a rudimentary knowledge of Salish Sea archaeology, you probably leapt to the conclusion that the raw material would be from the Garibaldi obsidian source.  So, cool: the mountain moves to Mohammed after all.  But, despite my being fairly disapproving of both sobriety and thinking in general, sober second thought did have me wondering: is it even possible that glaciers carried raw material from Garibaldi to Gabriola?  And from the relatively small and isolated high-altitude obsidian sources to a prominent village site?  ” It was brought there by glaciers, conveniently, 12,000 years ago”, the article asserts – thousands of years past the local ice maximum.  It didn’t easily compute. Luckily I was emailing with one of the paper’s authors, Dr. Colin Grier from Washington State University, and he set me straight on how the new article came to have something of a misleading takeaway point, while shedding some light on his recent interactions with the press.

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Still selling First Nations’ Archaeological Heritage

Coast Salish artifacts for sale at Granny and Grumpa's store. Photo: B. Thom

Coast Salish artifacts for sale at Granny and Grumpa’s store, Abbotsford, B.C.. Photo: B. Thom

I like hanging around junk shops as much as anyone, in fact more than most, if my new Monkey-Darwin-Skull office lamp is anything to go by. Very occasionally will I see a local archaeological artifact in one of these shops.  However, my colleague at my day job (yes I have a job, honest), Dr. Brian Thom, sent me some pictures and an account of his encounter with a very large collection of Coast Salish artifacts.  And they’re for sale.

Now, Brian may have the most magnificent Star Trek memorabilia collection to sit squarely atop the 49th parallel, but no sites were harmed in his collecting behaviour. The law around the ownership and sale of ancient artifacts in B.C. is regrettably unclear (as was hashed out in the fractious comments of this previous blog post and here too: 1, 2, 3).  As I note lower down,  below Brian’s comments, some of the clearest direction on this front comes not from the Act, but from recent public statements from BC Archaeology Branch director Justine Batten.  It’s always tempting to write some huge essay when I’m trying to figure something out, but it’d be better to let Brian kick things off. His commentary and links are below, reproduced with his permission.

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The shíshálh Archaeological Research Project blog is back.

shíshálh Archaeological Research Project Blog

shíshálh Archaeological Research Project Blog. Nice trowel handle! Click to visit blog.

Just a quick note to let you know the shíshálh Archaeological Research Project blog is back up and running.  I mentioned this blog before; I gather it (and perhaps the project) didn’t run last year, so it’s good to see it back.  This year it will be written by the participating students on the project. Taking place in shíshálh territory on B.C.’s “‘sunshine coast'”, the dig is now directed by (lifelong fan of both the Senators and Leafs) Dr. Terence Clark of the Canadian Museum of History (formerly the Canadian Museum of Civilization – that’s another story).  Anyway, for now, if you want to keep up to date with the shíshálh blog then I recommend clicking the “follow this blog by email” button on the right of their front page.  No spam, and you’ll be notified of the posts as they happen.

If you know of any other recent project blogs from the NW then let me know and I will link to them also.

    Gary Coupland (left) training students on transit use and archaeological survey/mapping. Photo: shíshálh blog.

Dr. Gary Coupland, U. Toronto (left) training students on transit use and archaeological survey/mapping. Photo: shíshálh blog.

Happy “Birthday”, Vancouver

Unidentified Musqueam Chief as portrayed by Cardero in 1792. Source: Vancouver Sun.

The City of Vancouver had its 125th anniversary yesterday, and the local press was full of reflective pieces on civic leaders, famous visitors, notable crimes and, of course, sports.  Well, it would be churlish not to wish Vancouver Happy Birthday!  Well done, Vancouverites.  But in all the coverage of this momentous event, I only see one single article which acknowledges that people might have lived at the mouth of the Fraser River for a tad longer than 125 years.  And a curious article (PDF)  it is: Ancient history of Vancouver’s first peoples: The city’s history predates its 1886 founding, with a native midden dating back 9,000 years

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BC Archaeology Forum Roundup

Musqueam Potlatch Dish, made 1895. Photo by Derek Tan. Source: MoA, CC Licenced.

It was fun to attend the BC Archaeology Forum on the weekend.  First and foremost, the Musqueam First Nation were gracious hosts who provided a warm and thoughtful welcome, and plentiful, delicious meals. Together with the organizing committee from the UBC’s Laboratory of Archaeology, the event was an incredible bargain for 30 bucks, including dinner. I took in most of the talks. The short review is that it was an extremely successful forum, well attended, with interesting papers spanning the province and important issues raised.  The long review has become really long, so you’ll have to continue reading on page 2.

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Glenrose Cannery Under Threat?

Anthropomorphic and zoomorphic sculpture from Glenrose and St Mungo Cannery sites. Source: Delta heritage passport

The Glenrose Cannery site, which lies on the Fraser River near the Alex Fraser bridge, is one of the mose significant archaeological sites in BC.  The human figure on the left, above, dates to the ‘St Mungo” phase, putting it at between 3500 and 5000 years old.  It might be the oldest known representation of a human being in British Columbia – well, to my knowledge, it is.  Yet, you can already see elements of the formline art appearing – look at the eyebrows, for example.  More importantly, look at the beard.  Look at the hair, pulled into a bun.  This is a portrait of an individual.  The artifact, which is probably a small handle for a chisel, is a masterpiece of Canadian art. The site in which it was found shows continuous occupation from the present to about 9,000 years ago and spans up to eight metres of vertical deposits.

So it is disturbing to think that Glenrose might be further affected by development, in this case, road building associated with the “Gateway Project”, a transportation infrastructure megathrust to get stuff to and from the Ports of Vancouver faster. There is a short article in The Province yesterday (archive) in which UBC Professor Emeritus RG Matson, one of the key figures in BC Archaeology, visits the site.   We can’t preserve everything from the past, clearly, or all cultures at all times would have been glued to the footprints of their forebears.  But a site of such demonstrated significance as Glenrose should probably be completely off limits.

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