Category Archives: Shell Middens

Archaeological project blog from shíshálh territory

    Archaeologists in shíshálh territory using iPads during excavation. Source: http://shishalharchaeology.wordpress.com/

Archaeologists in shíshálh territory using iPads during excavation. Source: http://shishalharchaeology.wordpress.com/

Last summer we had a good discussion of the vast number of beads coming from some human burials being excavated in shíshálh territory (Sechelt). Tose finds are part of a larger joint research program between the shíshálh Nation, National Museum of Civilization, and the University of Toronto, which has resumed and has a blog.

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ASBC Victoria Tue Feb 19th: Coastal Archaeology in Huu-ay-aht territory, Vancouver Island

Archaeological work in Huu-ay-aht territory, 2012

Archaeological work in Huu-ay-aht territory, 2012

Quick note to say that the upcoming February meeting of the Victoria Chapter of the Archaeological Society of B.C.  should be a good one (sadly I am back east at the time):

Coastal Field Archaeology in Huu-ay-aht Territory: Highlights from the 2012 Bamfield Marine Science Centre Archaeological Field School

Tuesday February 19th, 2013, 7:30 pm Pacific Forestry Centre,
506 West Burnside Road. map

Free and Open to the Public

Abstract: In July and August of 2012, the Huu-ay-aht First Nation and the Bamfield Marine Science Centre co-hosted a ‘Coastal Field Archaeology’ course on Huu-ay-aht Government Lands in Barkley Sound on western Vancouver Island. Continue reading

Bead-rich human burials in shíshálh territory

NW Coast beads

Examples of typical NW Coast archaeological beads, from B. Thom, reference below.

There have been some exciting finds on the Sunshine Coast (northeastern Strait of Georgia) in shíshálh First Nation territory, including a 4,000 year old burial with over 350,000 beads (!), as this short news item explains (PDF).  This is notable for a bunch of reasons:

Firstly, each bead represents a significant investment of labour.  Even if we conservatively say that you can make a small stone or shell bead in 5 minutes, then at 12 beads per hour, the individual was buried with some 29,000 person hours of labour investment.  That’s about 194 person-months of work, or just over 16 years of full time employment for one person.  (Incidentally, the five minutes is less than half the time UVIC’s own Brian Thom estimates from a brief experiment in Chapter V, here.)  However we may conceptualize the concepts of “work” and “effort” and their relationship to wealth or prestige in the past, we can’t just write off the full time labour of one person for 16 years, or 16 people for one year.  That’s a huge investment of time which could otherwise be used for fishing, hunting, gathering, or creating useful or durable technologies such as houses, canoes, or what have you.  Such measures of labour investment are commonly, if sometimes simplistically,  used to gauge the importance of the deceased individual in both life and death.  Apparently, in addition to this individual, there are other burials, including a young woman buried in a similar manner, from the site (DjRw-14).

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ASBC Victoria – Public Talk Tue Oct 18: Daryl Fedje on Gulf Islands Archaeology

Parks Canada - UVIC Archaeological Project in the Intertidal Zone, 2010.

Next up for the local (Victoria) branch of the Archaeological Society of B.C. is a Tuesday, October 18th talk by Daryl Fedje of Parks Canada Archaeology. Details below; it is free and open to the public.  I know of some of this research to be presented and if I can add an editorial comment:it is now clearly demonstrated that the intertidal zone has very high potential for un-disturbed archaeological deposits, some of which show exceptional preservation.  These include not only classic “waterlogged sites” with woody preservation, but also numerous water-saturated shell middens, and even the remains of intact house features.  I think it’s probable that in the Salish Sea at least, the intertidal zone is a hugely unappreciated zone of interest and I hope the Archaeology Branch and Consulting Archaeologists are working together to make sure it gets a thorough examination. And, if they aren’t, then it would be welcome if First Nations were to apply pressure by demanding routine subsurface testing in intertidal zones as a minimum requirement for shoreline archaeological assessments, perhaps commenting to this effect when reviewing permit applications.  Anyway:

Intertidal Archaeology in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve

October 18th, 2011, 7:30
pm Pacific Forestry Centre,
506 West Burnside Road (Map)

FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

Abstract:  Recent investigations in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve included a focus on the intertidal zone. Analyses of cultural and paleoecological data obtained from these investigations has resulted in a more detailed sea level history for the area and, discovery of a suite of archaeological sites associated with sea levels slightly lower than modern. These now-intertidal sites include intact shell middens and apparent house features dating as early as 4,000 years ago.

Bio: The Victoria ASBC Branch president writes,  “Daryl Fedje is a long-time archaeologist with Parks Canada, now based in Sidney, B.C.  He is widely published, with a respected international reputation.  Research in the Gulf Islands that he directs, co-directs, or facilitates is some of the most current work relevant to the Victoria region – but of course with wider ramifications.

Old site on Calvert Island, Central Coast of B.C.

UNBC student Cory Hackett excavates a unit in shell midden (photo credit: B. Alway, via UNBC)

There’s a good, recent article in the Globe and Mail (PDF) on some exciting preliminary findings by Dr Farid Rahemtulla of UNBC at a site on Calvert Island (map).

The site, thought to be the “lost village” of Luxvbalis, is in territory of the Heiltsuk and Wuikinuxv (formerly Oweekeenow/Awikenox) peoples.  The project was intended to re-locate this village, which figures prominently in Oral History.  Continue reading

Waatch River: a raised beach site on the Olympic Peninsula

View from West up Waatch River Valley to Neah Bay; Vancouver Island in the distance. Source: Panoramio user Sam Beebe.

The Waatch River flows in a low valley that connects Neah Bay across the Olympic Peninsula to Makah Bay.  When sea levels were higher, it would flood with sea water and turn Cape Flattery into an island.  Interesting, then, to see that an old raised beach site has been found on the Waatch River at an elevation of about 13 metres above, and 2 km away from, the modern shoreline.

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Tse-whit-zen interactive pages and slide show

Whale vertebrae modified into a spindle whorl, from the Tse-whit-zen site. Source: Seattle Times

I mentioned the Tse-whit-zen site a few days ago, in reference to the recent discovery of a small whale sculpture found there in 2009.  The Seattle Times had a superb web site on this ancient Klallam village, but unfortunately, many of the links are broken (how does that even happen, anyway?).  But the four part illustrated slide show with extensive audio commentary by Klallam, archaeologists and other people is still available and is well worth watching – in fact its one of the best such slideshows I’ve seen.  The Interactive Village component of the site is still active as well, and also definitely worth checking out.

As with so many of these sad stories of site disturbance through development, there is a silver lining as the dig itself, and the objects found, have contributed to a vitalization of Klallam traditional practices and increased interest in Klallam traditional culture within their younger generation.  At a severe price, though: over three hundred burials were excavated and removed from the site before the project, a massive graving dock, was brought to a halt – a halt which, according to some, cost over 100 million dollars.  I’m posting some of the pictures in case the Times site loses even more functionality.

Comb recovered from Tse-whit-zen site. Source: Seattle Times.

One of the more than 800 remarkable etched stones found at Tse-whit-zen, some in association with human remains. Source: Seattle Times

More than 300 human burials were disturbed by the graving dock project. Here, some await reburial in a warehouse on site. Source: Seattle Times.