Footprint (left) enhanced in purple right from the intertidal zone excavations at Calvert Island. Photo and enhancement: Joanne McSporran
This months Archaeological Society of BC monthly lecture in Victoria should be excellent. Sorry for the short notice but it is tomorrow, Tuesday 18th, at 7.30, at UVIC. Details below or on this PDF. It is free and open to the public.
Hakai Institute Scholar and UVIC Anthropology Assistant Professor Dr. Duncan McLaren will be outlining some of the incredible finds from his Hakai Ancient Landscapes Archaeological Project (HALAP). Duncan set out to find early period sites on an area of the coast with relatively little long-term sea level change, following on from his highly successful UVIC dissertation research in the Dundas Group. The area chosen for the new project was the Hakai Pass / Northern Calvert Island area, not far from the well-known archaeological site of Namu. Duncan will present some of his results, including newly investigated sites with more than 11,000 years of continuous occupation, intriguing lithic and other finds from the intertidal zone, and most intriguingly perhaps, a series of footprints from the intertidal zone which may well be terminal Pleistocene in age – perhaps more than 13,000 years old.
The research was carried out under the generous funding of the Hakai Institute and their Calvert Island research station, and with the active participation of the Heiltsuk and Wuikinuxv First Nations.
Details: Tuesday, Oct 18th , 7:30, Cornett B129, UVic Campus, Victoria. Map.
Duncan takes notes while Daryl Fedje works in the intertidal zone at the footprints site. Photo credit: Joanne McSporran
Posted in Archaeology, fieldwork, Northwest Coast, Uncategorized
Tagged Archaeology, british columbia, Calvert Island, footprints, Hakai Institute, Intertidal, pleistocene, wet sites
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
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
Inside of Cave near Tumbler Ridge with members of Saulteau First Nation. Source: Mark Hume, Globe and Mail.
Tumbler Ridge is a small coal-mining town on the eastern flanks of the Rockies, where British Columbia starts to resemble Alberta. It’s not a million miles, in distance nor in generalized setting, from Fort St. John (map), where Charlie Lake Cave remains one of BC’s most significant archaeological sites. Charlie Lake Cave has radiocarbon dates of up to 10,500 years old (PDF), or possibly as old as 12,750 calendrical years or thereabouts. With interesting finds such as a basally-thinned projectile point reminiscent of a fluted point, and the deliberate burial of two ravens from the lower layers (PDF), combined with it’s location in the “ice free corridor” has made this site really significant for regional cultural history (PDF) as well as for larger issues in the peopling of the Americas debate. (And see the new introduction/context to the Raven paper by Driver here). The Cave was recently purchased by local First Nations, which is an interesting development with the goal of protection and developing a cultural tourism site.
Anyway, this post is not actually about Charlie Lake Cave, just to introduce the archaeological potential of caves in this general part of the province, a potential that is not really been realized yet. It’s cool then to see pictures of a newly discovered cave with some superficial archaeological findings near Tumbler Ridge, as pictured above and outlined in this good article by Mark Hume in the Globe and Mail.
Posted in Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, Northwest Interior, Uncategorized
Tagged Archaeology, caves, Charlie Lake Cave, clovis, Fort St. John, pleistocene, Saulteau, Saulteau First Nation, Tumbler Ridge
Millennia Research is one of the longest established and most respected consulting archaeologist firms in British Columbia, not least because they have an occasional blog. They’re doing some really cool and advanced work on 3-D imaging using LiDAR and photogrammetry – you can see for yourself some of those posts, e.g. and e.g.’er. But today’s topic, while cutting edge in its own way, is more at the speed of your humble scribe – some very small engraving tools they’ve uncovered in Prince Rupert Harbour, site GbTo-54. The reason I’m posting it here is because they’re looking for input on the function of these and for any comparable artifacts people might know of, and I want to cast the net wider through this blog’s readership. I’ll get the ball rolling.
Posted in Archaeology, Northwest Coast, Technology, Uncategorized
Tagged antler, drills, engravers, horn, Millennia Research, Prince Rupert, Technology, Tsimshian
Tlingit house with stone wall foundation. “Photograph of a Taku village homes, photo likely by Partridge, circa 1887. Village site was located on the mainland across from Douglas Island, south of present-day Juneau”: SHI Archives, Richard Wood collection. http://goo.gl/hH9Pfl
We’re a little obsessed with wooden architecture in the NW Coast archaeology world – with good reason, I guess, since monumental wooden houses are such a prominent feature of the recent past. I suppose we sometimes stereotype these houses a little – a point some commenters made in the Houses on Stilts post here a while back – we think: “large rectangular house squatting in midden supported by giant house posts.” Not always the case, certainly not through time.
In general, we may underestimate large scale constructions in stone. Burial cairns and mounds (one of Darcy’s consists of 18 dump-trucks worth of soil), rock wall defensive sites, trench embankments, canoe runs, fish traps, and of course, clam gardens, all involved massive deployments of stone, with associated labour investments and creation of a durable built environment. Anyway, we’ve recently been running into enigmatic rock structures on the central coast and Quadra Island, and in particular, the possibility of dwelling structures partially based on stone walls. So it’s quite cool to run across the picture above from the SHI photo collections, showing a Taku Tlingit house from the historic period, sitting on a platform which has a stone wall as a foundation.
Posted in alaska, history, Northwest Coast, Technology, Uncategorized, Vancouver Island
Tagged architecture, features, Heiltsuk, household archaeology, houses, photography, stone walls, tlingit
UVic field school students at work on Prevost Island inland midden site. Trust me, there really are dense midden deposits at this site.
I had a good visit the other day to the UVic archaeological field school, which is on Prevost Island in the Salish Sea. Prevost is a large island of about 1700 acres, mostly privately owned by an active farming family, but part of lies within Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. In some ways, it is the hub of the southern Gulf Islands, lying squarely between Salt Spring, Galiano, Pender and Mayne Islands. There’s no ferry to this island, so it’s surprisingly off the beaten track considering how centrally located it is. I suspect that’s a car-centric view, and taking the perspective of a maritime cultural landscape, this is one of the best-connected islands in the Salish Sea.
Anyway, the UVic fieldschool is being taught by doctoral student Eric McLay, whose research focuses on inland shell middens in the Salish Sea. These are middens well away from the high tide line — in the case of Prevost, about 800 metres inland. Several dozen comparable sites are known, such as the ones near the rockshelter burials on Gabriola Island. Why people brought substantial quantities of shell to these inland locations is something of a mystery, one which Eric, with the help of the fieldschool students and First Nations participants, and the support of the Wenner-Gren Foundation, aims to shed light on.
Posted in Archaeology, fieldwork, Northwest Coast, Shell Middens, Teaching, Uncategorized, Vancouver Island
Tagged Archaeology, Coast Salish, fieldschools, Prevost Island, ritual, Salish Sea, shell middens, Straits Salish, uvic