Category Archives: odd

Upcoming musical about Wilson Duff (!)

John Mann of Spirit of the West in "Beyond Eden"

I can hardly believe this, but the Vancouver Playhouse is mounting a new musical based on an event familiar to to all students of archaeology and anthropology n BC.  The musical stars John Mann from the band Spirit of the West.  From Tom Hawthorn’s blog:

Written by Bruce Ruddell with musical direction by Bill Henderson, formerly of Chilliwack, the musical premieres on Jan. 16 at the Vancouver Playhouse. The musical is based on a 1957 expedition to the Queen Charlotte Islands by the archeologist Wilson Duff and his Haida friend, the artist Bill Reid.

Mr. Mann portrays a character based on the archaeologist, a man who travelled to Haida Gwaii to preserve totem poles, which he bought for $50 each. These can now be seen at the Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria and the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver.

“Off the top he believes his job is to keep those poles alive because you can learn from them,” Mr. Mann said. “If they rot, they’re lost, they’re gone forever. No one will be able to study them.

“In the course of those three days, his mind is changed. Then all hell breaks loose.”

This is remarkable and interesting on a number of levels.   I’d love to see it.

Wilson Duff was one of the first modern Anthropologists and Archaeologists to work in British Columbia and it seems he had just got started when he died by his own hand in 1976, at the age of 51.

Chief Thunder Voice

Bing Crosby being invested as Squamish Chief Thunder Voice.

In 1948, Bing Crosby, then a first-rank international star, visited Vancouver – and ended up being invested as Squamish Chief Thunder Voice, among other civic performances.  The Vancouver City Archives has the video (1.00 minute in).

By the way, what is up with coastal First Nations adopting feather war bonnets?  Is this a kind of weird double reverse emulation: trying to look more stereotypically Chiefly in the eyes of the majority population?  Is it intra-aboriginal cultural appropriation?  Or do they just look freakin’ awesome?  Note the tomahawk as well in the picture above.  Someone should write a paper on “Plains Paraphernalia as  Signifiers of Rank on the Historic Northwest Coast”.  Or maybe they have, already.  I’d read it.



I hereby challenge rockwash to go out and get one of these trowel tattoos.  Or be like Brad and get the coveted Ötzi tattoo.  Or check here for more science tattoo inspiration.  (Ötzi really did have tattoos, BTW).

Icey Dead People.

Sgaawsid K’uuljaad, the Boss Lady Potato.

Sgaawsid K'uuljaad gets funky.

Silly season in Haida Gwaii must have started, as Carey’s potato of unusual size is stolen (and returned), but not before a star appearance or two on youtube.


calvert island face

Carved face on a Calvert Island tree. Photo: Dan Leen.

I’ve mentioned Dan Leen’s excellent web page before.  When I was on Teredo N. with him I heard many excellent stories including how he came across a spectacular carved tree on Calvert Island, near Namu.  Finally I get to see what he meant.  This strikes me as the work of a trippy bush hippy (and maybe Dan himself, heh) more than a NW Coast thing, but it is fun nonetheless.

Incidentally, “Arborglyph” is a Frankenstein word melding Greek and Latin roots and should probably be replaced with “dendroglyph”, which is also easier to say.

Keatley Creak

An unusually strong review of Brian Hayden‘s Keatley Creek excavations on the middle Fraser River, near Lillooet can be found at this site:

” […]Hayden was able to show that the aristocratic owners lived on one side of the house, where the larger hearths, the larger storage pits, and the better tools and ornaments were all found, and their servants or poor relations on the other side.  The bones from the good side of the house were mostly ribs and vertebrae from the best parts of the fish, while the tail bones came mostly from the poor side.  The deer bones were also mostly from the rich side.  So we can imagine the rich folks keeping warm with big fires and eating the best parts of the fish, while their inferiors watched them from the other side of the same room, huddling by tiny fires and gnawing on fish tails.  To this visual image we must add the smell.  Air-drying salmon protects it from harmful rot, but European observers all thought the process left the fish “half tainted.”  The smell in a closed house full of the stuff “was such as nobody who has not grown up with the stench can endure it for even a few minutes.” The more I think about this strange place, the more disoriented and disgusted I become. […] ”

I look forward to more such insight into how the public perceives the fruits of archaeological labours.

Erik the Lost

Erik the Lost

More berzerkness up-island

This site contains an inspired argument that Viking Vinland, Markland and Helluland were on the NW Coast. It’s thought-through to a scary degree, in the way that magnificent obsessions often are.  Though as I always say, if something isn’t worth doing, it isn’t worth doing well. And based on my acquaintance with NW Coast Archaeology, I have to say that the theory falls down at a few key junctures.  Worse, it is part of a long-running narrative in which aboriginal people of the Americas have their finest cultural achievements taken and assigned as the work of Europeans.  See, for example, the Vikings in Minnesota theories, which argue that the great mounds of Mississippian Culture were the construction of White Men from the North.   Do the Minnesota proponents have academic arguments with the Vancouver Island proponents?  Were Vikings everywhere?  Is this a racist narrative?   Too bad all this energy is not put into something worthwhile, there is so much serious work to do.

Annotate This

Surely they could have painted a mammoth on this somewhere.....

Surely they could have painted a mammoth on this somewhere.....

Flickr usr Travis S. does a nice, understated job of annotating this hilarious reconstruction of the “Ice Free corridor” from the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.  Click on the image to go to the original.  This picture pretty much sums up the absurdity of the Ice Free corridor — magical parting of the white sea while the coast is socked in under a mile of solid fog.  Funny how such reconstructions were made before serious geological investigation of their truth content, and funnier still how archaeologists just slurped up the ice free corridor as the answer to their need to get the FIRST AMERICANS (nevar forget!)  into Wyoming, well,  first.

Canadian Archaeocryptozoology

Inexplicably, the Canadian Zooarchaeology website is hosting some pro-creationist articles, as well as lively topics such as “Calgary is in Canada” and “Memories of Canada” (cached version).  It looks like some very odd genre of comment spam, but appears to have been approved by the webmaster over there.  You’d think it was random, especially as they spell it “Canadian Zoo Archaeology”, but then there are actual archaeology pictures there as well.  The whole thing is suspicious, since CZ has a webpage just down the hall, so to speak.  You wouldn’t think there would be anything in it to spoof such a small organization.

Grover Krantz

Dr Krantz, a professor of Anthropology at WASU, was best known in NW Anthropology circles for his Sasquatch research.  The reputation he gained from this unorthodox pursuit followed him to his involvement with the Kennewick Man case.  Now I find out, via John Hawks, that Grover Krantz was “buried” in a drawer at the Smithsonian Institution, along with his dogs.  The Washington Post has an article and jawdropping slideshow of Krantz’s  skeleton mounted and on display at the Smithsonian, along with his dog, Clyde.  (This older article has some nice background and a picture of Grover and Clyde at rest in their usual home).  Is it any wonder  Umatilla eyebrows were raised about his Kennewick involvement and resistance to repatriation of human remains?