Category Archives: Uncategorized

More on Stone Bowls and Reality Shows

Screenshot from Times-Colonist of Qualicum bowl which may be subjected to reality TV auction by CBC.

Screenshot from Times-Colonist of Qualicum bowl which may be subjected to reality TV auction by CBC.  Click to enlarge.

The Times-Colonist has another article (PDF) on the seated human figure bowl which may go up for auction as part of a crass CBC reality TV show. The new article has some good information about the bowl from Grant Keddie and reactions from the B.C. Archaeology Branch and the CBC.  Thanks to twoeyes for posting this article in comments in the prior post; I thought it needed a new entry of its own.

The bowl was apparently found in Qualicum Beach in 1988, and is known to the Royal BC Museum – it has been photographed by them (see screenshot above).  I’m not sure if there has been any publications about this bowl, if the Qualicum First Nation knew about it before this mini-controversy, or what has been said to the owner about the importance of the item. The Times-Colonist does have some interesting quotes from those involved.

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Jobs on Haida Gwaii and at WSU

Archaeological Science on Haida Gwaii.

Archaeological Science on Haida Gwaii.

So I’ve never posted job ads here before and I may never do so again, but there are two ones posted right now with a lot of potential for readers of this blog: one is an archaeological position with the Council of the Haida Nation (PDF), the other a tenure track position  in archaeological sciences at Washington State University.

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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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Willows Beach Archaeological Site Landowner to Appeal, Again

These darn, hidden sites that no one expects: archaeology at the Willows Beach Site, ca. 1990. (Not the MacKay Property) Source: Millennia Research 1990.

I apologize to readers from afar who may not be interested in the apparently parochial matter of a local woman’s encounter with archaeology on the Oak Bay waterfront, and the incomplete journalism which accompanied it.

But with the news Saturday (PDF*) that the Willows Beach landowner, Wendi MacKay, intends to appeal the earlier decision of Justice Fitzpatrick to the B.C. Court of Appeal, it becomes possible this case (previously 1, 2) will have repercussions for the practice of archaeology across the entire province.  I hadn’t really thought about the implications of an appeal since, well, Fitzpatrick (section 33-38)] essentially says, “I would find the case in your favour if I could, but you gave up your rights to appeal, so I can’t.”

I might be calling wolf in my fears aired below.

But, bear with me.

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Elfshot goes “ground stone”

Ground slate ulu blades in progress. Source: Tim Rast, Elfshot.

I’ve mentioned before the terrific Back East archaeology blog Elfshot, in which Tim Rast documents his journey of “making a living as a 21st century flintknapper”.  Flintknapping is all well and good, of course, but the real magic lies with ground stone, which for many years has been marginalized in archaeology as being, well, obvious and uninteresting.  I think one paper I read digresses with an anecdote about the author’s toddler son independently inventing the technology!   If it is so obvious, though, then why is it only selectively implemented by people in certain environments, at certain times, to certain degrees of intensity?

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Long term salmon resilience

Salmon lice infestation. Source: Georgia Strait Alliance.

I’ve just dipped into an interesting paper (PDF) by Sarah Campbell and Virginia Butler, which explores 7,500 years of relationship between First Nations and Pacific Salmon.  While, as ever, the archaeological evidence is discontinuous and somewhat patchy, the authors reach profound conclusions that go far beyond the usual archaeological focus on the past, as if the past still exists other than in the present.

The Northwest Coast was estimated to have the second highest indigenous population density in North America (after California) at European contact, with population estimates ranging from 102,100 to 210,100 (Ubelaker 2006). Haggan et al. (2006) propose an annual average per person consumption rate of 230 kg/yr based on two 19th- century estimates. At this rate, 200,000 people would annually consume 46,000 metric tons (50,706 tons) of salmon, comparable in magnitude to the average yearly commercial catch between 1901 and 2000 (Jones 2002). (emphasis added)

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Two upcoming events in Vancouver and Victoria


1936 Field Trip by the Vancouver Natural History Society to Musqueam. Source: Vancouver Public Library. VPL Accession Number: 19483

In Vancouver this Sunday, September 19 at 1.00 there is a guided walk of the Ancient Salmon Stream and Musqueam Village, starting at Jericho Beach (details here) with Victor Guerin, “a cultural/linguistic consultant and historian, a member of the Musqueam First Nation and a speaker of the Musqueam dialect of the Central Coast Salish language Halkomelem. He has been learning about his people’s culture and history his entire life, including some 16 years of consultation and documentation with family elders and 4 years formal training in the Musqueam language with linguistic analysts at UBC.”

This talk/walk is one in a series from the False Creek Watershed Society, most of which look like they hold promise for an interesting conversation between historical ecology, traditional knowledge, and landscape development.  It would be good to see connections built or strengthened between restoration groups and archaeologists, who share many of the same values.  You can see the other talks and walks they sponsor here – two of them are actually today, Saturday September 18th.  OK, go to those as well!

The other upcoming event is the  Archaeology Society of B.C. monthly public lecture in Victoria, which is on Tuesday 21 September.  This month’s speaker is Grant Keddie from the Royal B.C. Museum.

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Convictions in Yakima Looting Case, with comments on B.C.

Looting at Wakemap Mound, 1957.

A news snippet from Washington State: from the Yakima Herald-Republic, via the excellent Washington Department of Archaeology and Heritage Preservation Blog.

“Yakima, Wash. — Two Goldendale residents found guilty of looting American Indian artifacts from a Yakama Nation cultural site have been sentenced to pay $6,690 in damages and placed on two years probation. The pair have also been sentenced to 150 hours each of community service.Devin Prouty, 27 and Tiffany E. Larson, 24, both pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to unlawfully removing artifacts, including rocks, rock flakes made by indigenous people and arrowheads from Spearfish Park near the Columbia River in Klickitat County…”

Looting is a serious problem in Washington and Oregon States but is it one in British Columbia as well?

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How to Make a Petroglyph

Replica sandstone petroglyph made by Christine Stathers. Photo credit: Stathers.

I’ve often said the graduate student work is the backbone of the archaeological discipline in British Columbia.  Today I get to report on more student work – but this time its a fascinating study done by an undergraduate student at Camosun College here in Victoria.  The student, Christine Stathers, did an experimental archaeology project for her Anthropology 240 course, and she kindly agreed that I could post some of the results here.  The results are highly informative for our interpretation of petroglyphs, I think.

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UVIC Archaeology Field School

I hear through the grapevine that the 2010 University of Victoria Field School in Archaeology still has a couple of spaces available.  The project, in conjunction with Parks Canada and with the Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group, will run July 5 to August 13 or so in the southern Gulf Islands.  Students will take Anthropology 343 and 344 at UVIC and there will be a camp fee, to cover the costs of running the project and a camp on a Gulf Island for four weeks – one of the unferried ones: Portland Island.  There is more information about the course at the University of Victoria Anthropology Web site, including a PDF application form you can download.  The course will be taught by Dr. Duncan McLaren, who can be reached at dsmclaren {{at}} gmail dot com for more information.  Other UVIC faculty* and Parks Canada archaeologists will be taking part as well, as well as First Nations apprentices.  This particular course will be focused on skills needed in Cultural Resource Management jobs, as well as the cultural history of the Salish Sea and other related topics.  If you know someone who might be interested, or have students looking for a pretty good  fieldschool, consider circulating this information soon, as I hear the field school needs to finalize its numbers soon and there will be a second look at applications received.

*since this is my personal web site and is not affiliated with my day job, you’ll have to click the links to find out who that might be.