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)
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Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, First Nations, history, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island
Tagged Coast Salish, dogs, genetics, osteometry, photographs, Straits Salish, wool dogs
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.
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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.
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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.
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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
Coast Salish artifacts for sale at Granny and Grumpa’s store, Abbotsford, B.C.. Photo: B. Thom
I like hanging around junk shops as much as anyone, in fact more than most, if my new Monkey-Darwin-Skull office lamp is anything to go by. Very occasionally will I see a local archaeological artifact in one of these shops. However, my colleague at my day job (yes I have a job, honest), Dr. Brian Thom, sent me some pictures and an account of his encounter with a very large collection of Coast Salish artifacts. And they’re for sale.
Now, Brian may have the most magnificent Star Trek memorabilia collection to sit squarely atop the 49th parallel, but no sites were harmed in his collecting behaviour. The law around the ownership and sale of ancient artifacts in B.C. is regrettably unclear (as was hashed out in the fractious comments of this previous blog post and here too: 1, 2, 3). As I note lower down, below Brian’s comments, some of the clearest direction on this front comes not from the Act, but from recent public statements from BC Archaeology Branch director Justine Batten. It’s always tempting to write some huge essay when I’m trying to figure something out, but it’d be better to let Brian kick things off. His commentary and links are below, reproduced with his permission.
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Posted in Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, First Nations, history, Lower Mainland, Northwest Coast
Tagged Abbotsford, Coast Salish, collecting, collectors, CRM, Cultural Resource Management, Fraser River, looting, Salish Sea, Sto:lo
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
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, Vancouver Island, Northwest Coast, First Nations
Tagged cairns, Coast Salish, funerary archaeology, funerary petroforms, Metchosin, mortuary archaeology, Rocky Point, Salis Sea, Straits Salish
“The giant of Happy Valley Esquivalt(?) [sic]. Sent to Professor Flower at Nat Hist Mus and returned to the owner Left McCallum.” Source: British Museum.
When I was looking for more information about the Coast Salish grave houses I pictured a few days ago
, I ran into these images from the British Museum. They show the torso and head of a large human figure, carved out of wood. The height of the sculpture is 4 foot 9 inches, meaning the whole sculpture, assuming it once had legs, would have stood well over seven feet tall. So, a giant indeed. There is very little information about the sculpture, other than it comes from happy Valley, “Esquivalt” – clearly meaning Esquimalt – a neighbouring municipality to the west of Victoria. The next municipality to the west is Colwood, and indeed it has a prominent “Happy Valley Road” running through it into Metchosin
. While at the first glance the sculpture doesn’t appear to be a typical NW Coast sculpture, I think there’s reason to at least consider that possibility.
[edit: be sure to see the comment from Pete at the bottom]
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Posted in anthropology, First Nations, history, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island
Tagged art, Coast Salish, Colwood, Esquimalt, Metchosin, Salish, sculpture, Songhees, Victoria BC
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.
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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
Burial cairn on Race Rocks. Source: RaceRocks.com
Two very cool talks in Victoria over the next few days. The first is a unique opportunity to hear from Cowichan (Coast Salish) “gravedigger” Harold C. Joe, who for more than 30 years has worked with archaeologists and anthropologists to care for the disturbed ancestral dead, among his other responsibilities.
The second talk is the monthly ASBC event which features Dr. Andreas Fuls of the Berlin Institute of Technology, who will address a topic in Mayan astronomy and the Mayan collapse.
If you’re not in Victoria you can probably stop reading, but if you click below then you’ll find more details, including abstracts and the where and when.
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Posted in Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, First Nations, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island
Tagged Archaeological Society of BC, Archaeology, ASBC, Astronomy, burials, Coast Salish, Cowichan, Maya, uvic