Tag Archives: fish traps

The Schieffelin Brothers Yukon River Prospecting Trip of 1882

Tanana woman returning from the hunt, 1882. Source: AKDC

Browsing in the Alaska Digital Archives I found an interesting photo album documenting a prospecting trip up the Yukon River by the Schieffelin Brothers, Ed and Al, who just a few years earlier had founded the famous desert mining town of Tombstone, Arizona.  Two pictures from this album struck me as particularly interesting, though the whole thing is worth browsing.

The first of these is the remarkable picture above, showing a Tanana woman with a long-gun, powder horn, and a couple of large rabbits.  While anthropologists and archaeologists have grudgingly revised their “Man the Hunter” stereotypes in recent years, it is nonetheless rare to see such a frank portrait of a competent woman with her prey.  I’ll be using this one in class, starting next week.

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dSpace: Caldwell on Comox Harbour Fishtraps

Chevron-shaped fishtraps in Comox Harbour. From Caldwell 2008.

The University of Manitoba is in on the dSpace trend.  The most notable thesis I found there was Megan Caldwell’s excellent analysis of some Comox Harbour fishtraps in relation to the Q’umu?xs Village site (DkSf-19).  Sixteen carbon dates are now available on these traps, thanks mainly to the work of Nancy Greene.  Caldwell takes a theoretical stance of Optimal Foraging Theory, arguing that fishtraps amount to “artificial patches” which can alter choices made under Patch Selection principles.  Essentially, a similar and more holistic argument could be made using principles of the “built environment” in an Ingoldian sense, but OFT is more structured and maybe more suitable for an MA thesis.  Interestingly, Caldwell’s work on auger sampling of the Q’umu?xs Village site shows a preponderance of herring, which is also interpreted as the target prey of the fishtraps.  This runs against the grain of the ethnographic work she conducted, where she was told that salmon were more important — mind you, salmon have difficult taphonomy and site formation processes, which she acknowledges.  In any case, this is a well organized, focused thesis which reflects a lot of high quality original work and while I haven’t read the whole thing I intend to do so!  Caldwell mentions Nancy Greene is still working on her fish trap study and I hope to see the results of that soon as well — these Comox Harbour trap complexes are very likely the finest of their type anywhere on the Northwest Coast and may well offer key insight into cultural construction of the landscape and its resources.  Download her thesis here!

Map of Fishtrap Stakes in Comox Harbour. From Caldwell 2008.

Schematic of two basic fishtrap designs. From Caldwell 2008.