Cache of early 19th century Russian Axe Heads, on Kruzof Island, Alaska. Source: Dave McMahan via NSF.
In late 1812 or early 1813, the London-built, Russian-owned frigate Neva foundered on rocks somewhere near Sitka Sound, in Tlingit territory on Baranof or Kruzof Islands, SE Alaska, (map). The Neva was a prominent ship of Russian colonial Alaska having, for example, taken part in the 1804 Battle of Sitka as well as making multiple round trips during the maritime fur trade hauling sea otter pelts to Chinese and Russian ports. The actual wreck site has never been found. However, in 2012 archaeologists led by Dave McMahon and the Sitka Historical Society found a small historical-era site which they thought might be where the 28 survivors of the wreck sheltered for a month before being rescued in January 1813. An intriguing and suggestive find in 2012 was an apparent cache of Russian made axeheads (above), suggesting further work was called for. In 2015, a fuller excavation took place finding a remarkable assemblage “focused on survival”, not at all typical of early historic settlement sites. So, while there is no smoking gun yet, such as crockery with the Neva’s monogram, there are plenty of indicators that this site is where the survivors sheltered in the not-entirely benign Alaskan winter while awaiting a rescue that might never come.
Posted in alaska, Archaeology, history, Northwest Coast, Technology, Uncategorized, underwater archaeology
Tagged alaska, Baranof Island, castaways, historical archaeology, Kruzov Island, Neva, Russia, shipwrecks, Sitka, tlingit
View of the glacial edge high in the Tatsenshini where Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi was found in 1999. Photo credit: Al Mackie
[Edit: November 2017: The Book is now available, also through Amazon, etc.]
I don’t usually plug public talks in cities that don’t contain the Shining Tower of Blog HQ, but I’m making an exception for this one. BlogBrother Alexander and BlogSisterInLaw Kjerstin are speaking on Tuesday evening in Portland on the topic of “The Kwädąy Dän Ts’ìnchį Project, a Collaborative Study of a Man Frozen in a Glacier and His Belongings.”
Posted in Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, First Nations, history, Northwest Interior, Northwest Coast, Oregon
Tagged Archaeology, british columbia, Champagne-Aishihik First Nation, glaciers, KDT, Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi, Oregon, Portland
Unusual object in the Mayne Island Museum, and two celts.
The above is maybe the most unusual object I saw in the archaeological cases in my visit to the Mayne Island museum. As you can see, it’s labelled as a “large stone abrader” and may well be, I suppose. It’s thin, an the reddish cast and sort of laminate structure of the rock makes me think it is schist, a material commonly used for flaked “slate” as well as for saws. If it’s an abrader, I’d say it’d be a saw, since no sign (on this face) of any smooth abraded areas. However, the general shape seems pretty elaborate for any abrader or saw from my experience. Maybe an elaborate ulu-style knife intended to be hafted across the neck. Or, what I was wondering when I was there, maybe triggered by a false association to the shape, was something like the ground slate mirrors from the North Coast. These would be polished to a sheen, then wetted, thus providing a reflection, and if memory serves (and it often doesn’t) were used in rituals more than for popping blackheads. But it doesn’t seem polished enough for that. All the same, the shape rings a bell and rather than spend too much time looking through old Syesis’s (Syeses? Syesisis?? ‘copies of the journal Syesis’ – phew) I’m throwing it out here for comment.
There’s a few other pictures form the museum below.
Posted in Archaeology, First Nations, Northwest Coast, Technology, Vancouver Island
Tagged Archaeology, artifacts, canoes, Coast Salish, Helen Point, mauls, Mayne Island, museums, Salish, Salish Sea, Woodworking
The only thing better than small town museums are small town thrift shops, but it’s close. I stuck my nose into the Mayne Island — a small island in the Salish Sea — Museum a day or two ago, which is housed in the former gaol (that’s “jail” for my diverse readers). These museums can be fun, but you do have to put on your “this place is historically situated” eyeglasses. As in, there is usually an enormous preponderance of Settler material, and often there is a fairly reductionist, colonialist or otherwisely unfortunate depiction of First Nations. The Mayne museum doesn’t escape this altogether. The First Nations display is probably 5% of the total, both in material display, and in the timeline presented (I didn’t take a picture but it is typed out pretty much verbatim here, compare to my pie chart timeline). Anyway, I don’t want to focus on any negative vibes from the museum, they share the general issues of almost every community museum I’ve been to, but neither do I want to ignore them completely. To their credit they have a good section the Japanese Internment Camps and the fate of Japanese-Canadian islanders during World War II. Anyway, I took a few lousy pictures with my phone and I’ll share these below and in a subsequent post (since really who wants to read 2,000 words of pontification in one sitting?) We’re going to start with my favourite artifact type.
Posted in Archaeology, archives, Cultural Resource Management, history, Miscellaneous, Northwest Coast, Technology, Uncategorized, Vancouver Island
Tagged Adzes, Celts, Chisels, Coast Salish, Gulf Islands, Mayne Island, museums, Salish, Salish Sea, Woodworking
Cod bones (cleithra) recovered from the Mary Rose, with a stained modern example for comparison. Credit: Sheila Hamilton-Dyer
So the Upward Sun post yesterday was based partially on a combined ancient DNA and stable isotope analysis of ancient salmon bones. This triggered one of my own fossil memories of a cool, recent case study from England of all places. Indeed, not far from my alma mater Southampton, which in some ways forms the intellectual antipodal point to Blog World Headquarters (now temporarily ensconced in this hellhole). So the case study concerns tracking the 16th century trade or acquisition network of cod bones across the North Atlantic, based on a large comparative dataset of bones from many different region and a sample of cod bones from the Mary Rose, a sunken warship of King Henry VIII dating to 1545. Relevance to the Northwest Coast is unclear but possible. Bear with me, it gets a little long. And I’m totally not a fish guy.
Just reusing the 2010 Archaeology Forum graphic here.
I think it was the day after the last Musqueam – Lab or Anthropology Archaeology Forum that I had to post this, so time flies, and not always exactly like a banana. In more recent dismal events, my laptop got disturbed, which, even though a quality it now shares with me, has disrupted this blog of the last week or two, not to mention my day job. Anyway, I wanted to get out this announcment which twoeyes kindly forwarded a week or so ago: the 2015 BC Archy Forum is being co-hosted by the Musqueam Indian Band and the Laboratory of Archaeology at UBC, and runs from Friday October 16 to Sunday October 18. So, soon. What follows is the text of their announcement email within UBC circles.
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.
Posted in Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, First Nations, history, Lower Mainland, Northwest Coast
Tagged Abbotsford, Coast Salish, collecting, collectors, CRM, Cultural Resource Management, Fraser River, looting, Salish Sea, Sto:lo
Hwkwitsum (Davis Lagoon) on Google Street View. Screenshot from Google. Click to visit site.
While perhaps best known for having an excellent espresso machine within arm’s reach of his office recliner, UVIC’s own Dr. Brian Thom also runs the Anthropology Department’s Ethnographic Mapping Lab. One recent creation of this lab is a project to incorporate panoramic, scrollable photos and expository text of certain Coast Salish cultural landscapes into Google’s street view (Brian has been working on several cool projects with Google’s sponsorship and assistance.) This is a cool example of applied community-based research brought to the public eye in a sensitive manner. Continue reading
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, First Nations, history, Northwest Coast, Teaching, Vancouver Island
Tagged Coast Salish, ethnographic mapping, ethnography, google, google street view, Gulf Islands, Lyackson, Penelakut, Salish, Salish Sea, uvic
If someone out there in webland makes a link to my blog, and then someone else clicks on that link, I might be able to tell which site is referring to me. Sometimes this leads to unexpected discoveries. One of these incoming links is a query to an artifact collecting forum (boo) from a collector in southern California, who found the above small sculpture in Chumash territory. As is so common in the collector world, there is no other contextual information about this piece, which to my eye, appears to be an early historic Haida carving in argillite. Knowledgeable readers may wish to weigh in below in the comments section about the motifs and provenance of this sculpture – there are more fairly low-quality pictures here. How it made its way to the Santa Barbara area is anyone’s guess, it may have been a simple curio bought by a tourist, or it may be a now-lost bit of evocative human history like the one I suggested here for Haida argillite found on San Juan Island.
Posted in Archaeology, California, Cultural Resource Management, Haida Gwaii, history, Northwest Coast
Tagged Archaeology, argillite, art, british columbia, California, Chumash, collecting, Haida, Haida Gwaii, pothunting, sculpture
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.
Dr. Gary Coupland, U. Toronto (left) training students on transit use and archaeological survey/mapping. Photo: shíshálh blog.
Posted in Archaeology, fieldwork, First Nations, Lower Mainland, Northwest Coast, Teaching
Tagged anthropology, Archaeology, blogs, fieldwork, Sechelt, shíshálh, students, Sunshine Coast