Side view of a 14 year old dog which was shorn each year for its hair. Source: Ian McTaggart-Cowan fonds, UVIC.
The Coast Salish “wool dog” is an interesting example of selective breeding of dogs for a useful trait, in this case, their long, fair hair which could be cut or plucked for weaving. Susan Crockford, in her comprehensive account of Wool Dogs (downloadable!) quotes Captain Vancouver:
The dogs belonging to this tribe of Indians were numerous, and much resembled those of Pomerania, though in general somewhat larger. They were all shorn as close to the skin as sheep are in England; and so compact were their fleeces, that large portions could be lifted up by a corner without causing any separation”
While Crockford writes that the wool dog was extinct as a separate breed by 1858 (it’s raison d’etre replaced by Hudson Bay blankets), it is still interesting to see a couple of pictures dating to ca. World War 2 showing two dogs on the Saanich Peninsula with strong echoes of the Spitz-genre wool dog phenotype – indeed, caption above explicitly notes this dog was “shorn each year.” (See also this poster (PDF) summarizing some wool dog research)
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, First Nations, history, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island
Tagged Coast Salish, dogs, genetics, osteometry, photographs, Straits Salish, wool dogs
Louie Wilson commanding the shovel bums on Quadra Island. Source: qmackie
There’s a cool new video just released about research in the Discovery Islands, mainly Quadra Island, on the central east coast of Vancouver Island (map). The video was produced through the Hakai Institute, a philanthropic organization which over the past decade or so has been funding a lot of primary research in ecology, geology, culture and archaeology on the B.C. Coast. The archaeological project in the video was focused on the terminal Pleistocene and earliest Holocene, with an effort to document long-term sea level history for Quadra Island, and then use LiDAR-derived base maps to help with predictive modelling and other tools to find old sites on old coastal landforms. That was the plan! I mean, of course the real plan was that grad students would do as much of the brainwork as possible, Daryl would dig, and high-quality coffee would be made.
The Archaeological Society of BC winter lecture series kicks off this Tuesday September 27th at the University of Victoria, with a talk by Dr.Pablo Restrepo-Gautier from UVIC’s Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies. Note that the talk is in a new room compared to last year: Cornett A129 – same building but on the south side. The text of the invite is below. The talk is free and open to the public. Prior to the meeting the ASBC will hold a short AGM.
Details of the talk are below: Continue reading
The regional journal BC Studies has a new special issue out focused on local archaeology. Entitled These Outer Shores, the edition is available for a reasonable price (20$) and two of the articles plus the forward are already open access, with the rest to follow in a couple of years. The publisher’s blurb gives a good sense of the edition:
Guest Edited by Alan D. McMillan and Iain McKechnie, These Outer Shores presents recent archaeological research along the outer coast, from southeast Alaska to the entrance to Juan de Fuca Strait. The authors challenge the long-held perception of the western edge of British Columbia as “peripheral” or “remote,” removed from major cultural developments emanating from more interior locations. Instead, recent fieldwork and analyses document a lengthy and persistent occupation of the outer shores over the past 13,000 years. Using a variety of modern approaches and techniques, the authors examine such topics as changing sea levels, human settlement history, fish and shellfish harvesting, whaling, and the integration of Indigenous oral history with archaeology.
Posted in alaska, Archaeology, First Nations, history, Lower Mainland, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island, Washington State
Tagged alaska, Archaeology, BC Studies, british columbia, Coastal Archaeology, Washington State
Dionisio Point, north end of Galiano Island. Main vlillage sites (DgRv 6) in central upper portion of image. Credit: Colin grier via NPR.
A couple of months ago you may have heard of an exciting new study on the sources of rock for making stone tools in the Salish Sea. “Glaciers brought mountain to man“, the headlines said, affirming that archaeologists working on Galiano Island had found nodules of raw material, not yet worked into tools, from the Mt. Garibaldi area of the lower mainland. If, like me, you have a rudimentary knowledge of Salish Sea archaeology, you probably leapt to the conclusion that the raw material would be from the Garibaldi obsidian source. So, cool: the mountain moves to Mohammed after all. But, despite my being fairly disapproving of both sobriety and thinking in general, sober second thought did have me wondering: is it even possible that glaciers carried raw material from Garibaldi to Gabriola? And from the relatively small and isolated high-altitude obsidian sources to a prominent village site? ” It was brought there by glaciers, conveniently, 12,000 years ago”, the article asserts – thousands of years past the local ice maximum. It didn’t easily compute. Luckily I was emailing with one of the paper’s authors, Dr. Colin Grier from Washington State University, and he set me straight on how the new article came to have something of a misleading takeaway point, while shedding some light on his recent interactions with the press.
Posted in Archaeology, Lower Mainland, Northwest Coast, Technology, Vancouver Island
Tagged basalt, Coast Salish, dacite, dionisio point, galiano island, garibaldi, Salish Sea, stone tools
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
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
Grace Islet human burial cairn intersected by concrete house foundation. The cairn is said to be under the plywood and concrete square structure. Could there be a more poignant picture of the present day management of archaeological sites in this province? Source: Grace Islet on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/graceislet
Grace Islet – Shmukw’elu – is a small island (map, pic) in Ganges Harbour, Saltspring Island. It is a Coast Salish cemetery, and it is a settler construction site. How do we reconcile these contradictory uses of this island? I’ve been hesitant to post about this case because I know it’s a long and complicated story of how we got to 2014, when we see burial cairns being literally encased into concrete house foundations. I am quite sure that many people of goodwill made many decisions that seemed right to them at the time. I don’t know what all these decisions are, what happened when, exactly, what the consultant said, how the house owner sleeps at night – I just don’t know all these variables and I am schooled in the idea you should know everything before you say anything. It’s clear though that, somehow, the practice of archaeology in this province led to the Grace Islet outcome. Shouldn’t we try to understand the process? That’s fine in principle, but can be silencing in the face of complexity: as Pierre Bourdieu wrote, “the most successful ideological efforts are those which have no need for words, and then ask no more than complicitous silence.” No more silence, then.
Posted in Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, First Nations, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island
Tagged Archaeology Branch, burial cairns, burials, cemeteries, CRM, Cultural Resource Management, Grace Islet, Saltspring Island
Detail of the Community Mapping event, November 25th, Victoria.
One of the greatest privileges in NW Coast Archaeology is the opportunity to work with First Nations people of all walks of life and to be afforded the chance to tell a small part of their magnificent histories. How many settlers in this area don’t know a single aboriginal person? More than a few, I reckon. Yet how to get that face to face contact so essential for gaining an understanding of the historical circumstances of First Nations if, unlike me, your day job doesn’t have it somewhat built in? If you live in Victoria, you have three great options coming up – and all three include some archaeological content. Perhaps archaeology has the potential, not commonly realized, of forming a space of shared interest where conversations can start. Continue reading