Frank Sylvester Burial Cairns Manuscript, Page One. Source: UVic Special Collections: http://goo.gl/mSxBGe
There’s an interesting manuscript digitized in the University of Victoria’s special collections library, entitled “Prehistoric Cairns of Vancouver Island.” The accession notes read:
“Handwritten manuscript, on ruled paper with red-lined margin. Pages hand-numbered 1-20. Signed and dated: Frank Sylvester, Victoria, B.C., June 10, 1901. Appears to be notes for a talk that Frank Sylvester gave, concerning burial cairns on Vancouver Island, his method of excavation of the cairns, and his theories as to the meaning of the cairns and the ancestry of the people buried there.”
It’s a curious document, a mixture of interesting observation, shameless plunder and racial theorizing. It’s also one of the more complete descriptions I’ve seen of the burial cairn excavation activities of the Victoria Natural History Society. I don’t recall seeing it cited in the literature, so it’s possible others haven’t come across it either. In the interests of broad circulation and easy reading, I’ve transcribed it (PDF), and I also put a version on google docs if anyone cares to improve that transcription.
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, archives, First Nations, history, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island
Tagged burials, cairns, cemeteries, Esquimalt, Frank Sylvester, Songhees, uvic
Darcy Matthews leading a UVic field trip to burial features in Metchosin. Photo:qmackie
ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA, VICTORIA, OCTOBER MEETING:
Dr. Darcy Mathews
Funerary Ritual and Ancestral Presence at Rocky Point, British Columbia
Tuesday, October 21, 2014, 7:30 pm
UVIC Cornett Building B129 (map)
Free and open to the public
While you might think you’ll have had your fill of cool archaeology at Saturday’s BC Archaeology Forum in Nanaimo, you won’t have seen the latest from Dr.(!!) Darcy Mathews, who will be presenting his recent UVic Ph.D. research to the ASBC next week. Perhaps benefitting from the finest supervision which single-malt can buy, Darcy’s dissertation is Piled Higher and Deeper with carefully chosen nuggets of the finest methods and theories, much like the
cairns funerary petroforms it is based on. Seriously, it is a tour de force which absolutely nails its topic in a way seldom seen. No doubt it’ll be coming soon to a prestigious academic press near you.
Anyway, the ASBC provides the abstract: Continue reading
Posted in Archaeology, First Nations, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island
Tagged cairns, Coast Salish, funerary archaeology, funerary petroforms, Metchosin, mortuary archaeology, Rocky Point, Salis Sea, Straits Salish
Surveyors in the Uplands development, Victoria, using a burial cairn as a surveying aid. Source; BC Archives.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA, VICTORIA, February 2010 MEETING
Feb. 16, 2010, 7:30 pm
Pacific Forestry Centre, 506 West Burnside Road, Victoria, B.C.
The Powerful Dead: The Rocky Point Cemetery and Straits Salish Identity.
Burial cairns and mounds are two types of pre-contact burial features in the Strait of Georgia region of south-western British Columbia. More than a millennium ago, the Straits Salish people, an ethno-linguistic group centered on present day Victoria, constructed a cairn cemetery at the Rocky Point site. Located 18 km southwest of present-day Victoria, this cemetery has over 300 cairns which occur in a variety of patterned shapes and sizes. Analysis of cairn construction and the use of space within this cemetery suggests that there was a strategic use of both material culture and landscape in Salish mortuary ritual, simultaneously expressing individual, household and perhaps even village-wide group identity. Underlying these statements of identity is the material expression of relationships between the living and the powerful dead, which were carefully navigated through the process of the funerary ritual, of which building cairns and mounds was but one part of a long-term process; a process that may have an antiquity of several thousand years. Biography Darcy Mathews is a PhD candidate at the University of Victoria. Working with the Scia’New First Nation, his ongoing dissertation research focuses on the identification, preservation, and study of pre-contact burial cairn and mound cemeteries in the Strait of Georgia.
For information, phone 384-6059 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Lekwungen women harvesting camas bulbs on Beacon Hill. Illustration by Victoria graphic artist Gordon Friesen. (Edit: a bunch of their pictures are down, even on their site. Click to go to story)
Two small articles look at the archaeology of Beacon Hill Park in central Victoria. Camas country includes charming illustrations and a knowledgeable write-up by Janis Ringuette, who also summarizes the remarkable story of how Beacon Hill Park workers consolidated a series of burial cairns (in the 1980s, no less), in order to facilitate mowing. As she aptly notes:
Parks and Recreation Committee Chairman Geoff Young promised an interpretative sign. He said the Committee had been planning a marker well before the stones were “accidently disturbed.” He agreed a sign was needed because “They just look like ordinary rocks on the surface. It’s not a spectacular site. You have to know them.” Parks Director Al Smith said, “It’s going to be one of the more interesting features of the park, especially when we get the marker in place. We should have something showing the Indians were the original owners of the land.”