Tag Archives: fishtraps

ASBC Victoria November 21st Public Talk: Underwater Survey for Late Pleistocene Archaeological Sites, Haida Gwaii

Autonomous Underwater Vehicle on surface of Juan Perez Sound, Haida Gwaii, with Parks Canada support vessel behind.

Autonomous Underwater Vehicle on surface of Juan Perez Sound, Haida Gwaii, with Parks Canada support vessel behind.

With sea levels rising by at least 120m globally at the end of the last ice age, conventional archaeological wisdom has been that sites on ancient coastlines are now deeply drowned. As is so often the case, conventional wisdom is over-simplified.  The B.C. coast is a good example, since the effect of ice weighting in some places counterbalanced the lower sea levels, meaning significant chunks of the coastal plain and paleo-coastlines were never-drowned.  Nonetheless, the underwater environment off the west coast doubtless contains thousands of early-period archaeological sites. Looking on land is more convenient, easier, cheaper, and allows one to breathe air – all good things. But looking underwater has some attractions too: methodological challenges, modelling issues, thinking about human life on a shrinking landmass, and a ridiculous amount of media coverage. The last is particularly important to University Administrators. Anyway, this month’s ASBC Victoria talk (poster, PDF) is on a project from a couple of years back which focused on attempting to find a particular kind of archaeological site on the sea floor: drowned fish weirs, especially rock wall ones, starting from the premise that such sites, which are often substantial in size,  should be confined to stream channels and might be directly visible to sidescan sonar.  For more information on the talk, click below.

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More on Comox Harbour Fishtraps

Fishtrap stakes delineating chevron patterns in the intertidal zone of Comox Harbour. Photo credit: Greene 2010.

I posted once before some time ago on the incredible fishtrap complexes in Comox Harbour on eastern Vancouver Island, highlighting Megan Caldwell’s M.A. thesis (downloadable) on the topic, and mentioning in passing that primacy of investigation should perhaps go to Nancy Greene, who has been mapping and dating these features for about a decade.  I was glad to find the other day that Nancy Greene has a 2010 downloadable poster on the topic (link starts a 4 meg PDF)  from an academic conference: WARP, the Wetland Archaeological Research Project, which itself has a nifty new website.

These Comox Harbour fishtraps are one of the wonders of B.C. Archaeology and it is highly welcome to see some more of Greene’s reconstructions and mapping.

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Videos of Gwaii Haanas Archaeology

Daryl braves the barrage of bras to set the Vancouver Aquarium straight on the value of dead fish over living fish. Click to play part 1.

Rockwash superstars Nicole and Daryl show off their cool wares in a couple of videos I just found online – I vaguely remember them going off to give this talk at the Vancouver Aquarium.  It’s in two parts: 1 and 2.  Nicole looks fabulous and Daryl has trimmed his beard!  Win-Win.  The projects they describe sure were a lot of fun to take part in.   There are a few other talks up including Lyle Dick and Norm Sloan on Sea Otters on the Gwaii Haanas Youtube Channel.

A sandhill crane is a tough act fo follow but Nicole hammers home the righteous message of dead fish. Click to play part 2.

dSpace: Elroy White (Xanius) on Fishtraps

FbTa 59, a possible clam garden on the central coast.

FbTa 59, a possible clam garden on the central coast. Source: Elroy White / Xanius M.A. thesis.

I’ve only met Elroy once or twice but he seems like a sharp guy and I was looking forward to reading his 2006 thesis, which turns out to be an exceptional work – ambitiously trying to implement Eldon Yellowhorn’s “internalist archaeology” in his home territory (Heiltsuk) on the central coast.  This project, which focuses on fishtraps, is exemplary in a couple of ways.  First, as a cutting edge exercise in the practice of archaeology, indeed, practice as theory.  The combination of field archaeology, internalist work with a dozen elders, and extensive videography was a great exercise.  (PS Elroy, post some videos!).   Second, well, fishtraps are exceptionally interesting and need more study.  Essentially, we are just guessing about the specific functions and efficiencies of these features.  Elroy gathers a lot of information from elders, including interesting longitudinal data showing how quickly these features silt up — evidence in some ways for their silt retention qualities and also a suggestion there may be a lot of partially or totally obscured fishtraps out there.  And, as above, Elroy appears to find some “clam gardens” (diagram) in Heiltsuk territory.  Maybe it’s because my doctoral SSHRC project was going to be on fishtraps until I got talked out of that and into a GIStraightjacket, but I love’em.  Anyway, you can get yourself a copy of this high quality MA theses here, at SFU dSpace.

Incidentally, for an earlier, wider scope take on subsistence and settlement and fish traps on the central coast, you can also download John Pomeroy’s 1980 PhD thesis (which doesn’t show up under “archaeology” in their classification or keyword scheme for some reason.)

Elroy White (Xanius) with intertida fishtraps.  Credit: Ecostrust Canada.

Elroy White (Xanius) with intertidal fishtraps. Credit: Ecotrust Canada.