Tag Archives: conservation

Laser imaging of Sitka poles

Lidar model merged with photograph to document carved pole, Sitka, Alaska.  Source: NPS.

Lidar model merged with photograph to document carved pole, Sitka, Alaska. Source: National Park Service.

This is an interesting application of Lidar technology – creating a durable, highly precise, digital image of a standing pole, which can then be wrapped with high-resolution photographs and used in a “virtual tour” context. It can also be  an archive for conservation.  The project is underway to record a couple of dozen Tlingit poles in an outdoor setting in Sitka, Alaska.

Lidar stands for “light distancing and ranging” and is basically like radar or sonar, only using laser beams.  Thousands of individual laser bursts can measure the three-dimensional surface of something like a totem pole to accuracy of a millimetre or less.  This creates an accurate digital record of the shape of the pole which can then be rendered on-screen in various three-dimensional ways.  Lidar has seen a fair bit of use in archaeological survey (especially its ability to digitally clearcut the trees) and also has seen quite a bit of table-top use to record artifacts in exquisite detail.  The “meso-scale” recording of features like poles is less common though, especially outside of historical and classical archaeology.  There is a lot of potential for recording petroglyphs I think — for example this recent dissertation (which I need to order) apparently shows proof of concept at Writing-On-Stone in southern Alberta.

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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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More ice patch archaeology bork bork bork

3400 year old shoe from a Norwegian ice patch. Source: Reuters.

It’s interesting to see some ice patch archaeology emerging in Norway now.   Reuters has a good story and short video about some cool finds from 1800 metres above sea level in the Jotunheimen Mountains, which lie northeast of Bergen.  The most spectacular find is the 3,400 year old leather shoe, shown above.

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Basket Conservation at the Langley Centennial Museum

N'laka'pamux Basket undergoing conservation treatment. Source: LangleyMueum.org

I know I occasionally grumble about how regional, publicly funded museums in B.C. are almost devoid of archaeological and aboriginal substance, especially on the web.  A happy exception to this is the Langley Centennial Museum near Vancouver, which has an unusual and interesting virtual exhibit of N’laka’pamux basketry.  The museum is in the possession of a large collection of these baskets, made by an interesting historical figure from the Yale-Lytton area of the Fraser River: one Kathleen Pearson. The exhibit consists of a number of pages, including a short essay (5 pages) which is strangely not clearly linked, based around Boas et al.’s 1928 Bureau of American Ethnology Publication.  The museum goes beyond the historical frame by discussing recent named weavers such as Mary Ann James, and the continuing tradition of N’laka’pamux basket making.

It is really great to see a relatively small museum explicitly recognizing that the world didn’t begin in 1846 and going beyond the story of white settlers as if they were a self contained pod of culture beamed down from Queen Victoria’s forehead.  The other thing  I particularly like about this small web exhibit is that the museum highlights the activities of another group of unsung heroes in the world of heritage conservation: the conservators who restore, stabilize and protect the artifacts entrusted to museums.

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New Finds from NWT Ice Patches

340 year old bow made from willow wood - bow was found in multiple fragments. Photo: Tom Andrews via livescience.com.

In many parts of Northwest North America glaciers and ice patches are melting at unprecedented rates.  In some cases, these are revealing extraordinary archaeological remains, as I have noted before for Alaska.  There’s recently been some short news reports about new finds in the Northwest Territories, to add to the substantial work already done there.  Most of these reports rehash the same news release from the Arctic Institute of the Americas, which sponsored the research through International Polar Year funding (now ended).  Only a few sites have photos, though.

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Montana Creek Fish Trap, Alaska

Montana Creek Fishtrap being excavated, 1989. Source: Sealaska

In 1989 a nearly complete fish trap was found in Montana Creek, near Juneau Alaska in Aak’w Kwáan Tlingit territory. The cylindrical trap, measuring 3 metres long and 1 metre in diameter, was excavated and found to date to about 600 years ago.  The trap was preliminarily reported in Kathryn Bernick’s 1998 book Hidden Dimensions (UBC Press).  Fishtraps were supported by wood and/or stone weir structures which also  act to direct fish into the trap.  The trap would be removed at the end of each season and stored nearby or at camp.  Of course, being wood, they intrinsically don’t preserve very well except in anaerobic and wet conditions.  They are therefore rather rare since they would need to be left in the creek after use in order to preserve.  So this one is very unusual, and especially so since it was essentially complete (other than being flattened).  All credit to the finder, Paul Kissner, for being alert, recognizing the trap, and reporting it promptly.

But now, the fishtrap has become very much a living object.

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More views of the Museum of Vancouver petroglyph problem

Petroglyph from Lone Creek Cabin, Stl’atl’imx Territory, now in an outdoor courtyard at the Museum of Vancouver. Source: Squamish-Lil'wat Centre.

I’ve posted before on the large petroglyph boulder from the central Fraser River that is being kept in a sub-standard context at the Museum of Vancouver.  I found some more pictures of it, from the website of the Squamish-Lil’wat Cultural Centre (which is excellent).  These additional pictures confirm there is a serious conservation issue at the Museum of Vancouver.  I don’t want to beat a dead horse but I am still mad about this situation. Continue reading