Tag Archives: Intertidal

ASBC Victoria Talk: Dr. Duncan McLaren on Late Pleistocene Intertidal Archaeology on the Central Coast of BC

calvert-footprints

Footprint (left) enhanced in purple right from the intertidal zone excavations at Calvert Island. Photo and enhancement: Joanne McSporran

This months Archaeological Society of BC monthly lecture in Victoria should be excellent.  Sorry for the short notice but it is tomorrow, Tuesday 18th, at 7.30, at UVIC.  Details below or on this PDF.  It is free and open to the public.

Hakai Institute Scholar and UVIC Anthropology Assistant Professor Dr. Duncan McLaren will be outlining some of the incredible finds from his Hakai Ancient Landscapes Archaeological Project (HALAP). Duncan set out to find early period sites on an area of the coast with relatively little long-term sea level change, following on from his highly successful UVIC dissertation research in the Dundas Group.  The area chosen for the new project was the Hakai Pass / Northern Calvert Island area, not far from the well-known archaeological site of Namu. Duncan will present some of his results, including newly investigated sites with more than 11,000 years of continuous occupation, intriguing lithic and other finds from the intertidal zone, and most intriguingly perhaps, a series of footprints from the intertidal zone which may well be terminal Pleistocene in age – perhaps more than 13,000 years old.

The research was carried out under the generous funding of the Hakai Institute and their Calvert Island research station, and with the active participation of the Heiltsuk and Wuikinuxv First Nations.

Details: Tuesday, Oct 18th , 7:30, Cornett B129, UVic Campus, Victoria. Map.

Duncan takes notes while Daryl Fedje works in the intertidal zone at the footprints site. Photo credit: Joanne McSporran

Duncan takes notes while Daryl Fedje works in the intertidal zone at the footprints site. Photo credit: Joanne McSporran

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ASBC Victoria talk: Tuesday May 20, Michelle Puckett on Quadra Is. Clam Gardens

Gwaii Haanas clam garden.

Clam garden in southern Haida Gwaii.  Note the rock wall forming the flat terrace feature.

Transforming the Beach, Transforming our Thinking: Ancient Clam Gardens of Northern Quadra Island, BC.

Michelle Puckett (presenter) and Amy Groesbeck, Dana Lepofsky, Anne Salomon, Kirsten Rowell, Nicole Smith and Sue Formosa

Tuesday, May 20th, 7:30pm at the University of Victoria, Cornett Building, Room B129.  All welcome, free.

SFU graduate student Michelle Puckett (formerly UVIC’s own) is giving the May ASBC Victoria talk – “clam gardens”.  These intertidal features have taken NW Coast archaeology by storm over the last 15 years or so.  Each one is a deliberate alteration of the beach in order to enhance shellfish productivity.  Hundreds of these are now known, and as archaeologists’ eyes become more tuned to this site type I expect hundreds more to be recorded.  Being, in effect, a kind of mariculture or aquaculture, these are important not only to our understanding of long term histories on the coast (they challenge the anthropological type “hunter-gatherer”) but they will also become important in land claims, I am sure. Click below to read the abstract and bio for this talk.

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ASBC Victoria – Public Talk Tue Oct 18: Daryl Fedje on Gulf Islands Archaeology

Parks Canada - UVIC Archaeological Project in the Intertidal Zone, 2010.

Next up for the local (Victoria) branch of the Archaeological Society of B.C. is a Tuesday, October 18th talk by Daryl Fedje of Parks Canada Archaeology. Details below; it is free and open to the public.  I know of some of this research to be presented and if I can add an editorial comment:it is now clearly demonstrated that the intertidal zone has very high potential for un-disturbed archaeological deposits, some of which show exceptional preservation.  These include not only classic “waterlogged sites” with woody preservation, but also numerous water-saturated shell middens, and even the remains of intact house features.  I think it’s probable that in the Salish Sea at least, the intertidal zone is a hugely unappreciated zone of interest and I hope the Archaeology Branch and Consulting Archaeologists are working together to make sure it gets a thorough examination. And, if they aren’t, then it would be welcome if First Nations were to apply pressure by demanding routine subsurface testing in intertidal zones as a minimum requirement for shoreline archaeological assessments, perhaps commenting to this effect when reviewing permit applications.  Anyway:

Intertidal Archaeology in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve

October 18th, 2011, 7:30
pm Pacific Forestry Centre,
506 West Burnside Road (Map)

FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

Abstract:  Recent investigations in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve included a focus on the intertidal zone. Analyses of cultural and paleoecological data obtained from these investigations has resulted in a more detailed sea level history for the area and, discovery of a suite of archaeological sites associated with sea levels slightly lower than modern. These now-intertidal sites include intact shell middens and apparent house features dating as early as 4,000 years ago.

Bio: The Victoria ASBC Branch president writes,  “Daryl Fedje is a long-time archaeologist with Parks Canada, now based in Sidney, B.C.  He is widely published, with a respected international reputation.  Research in the Gulf Islands that he directs, co-directs, or facilitates is some of the most current work relevant to the Victoria region – but of course with wider ramifications.

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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Intertidal Footprints

6,000 year old human footprint from intertidal sediments near Liverpool. Source: http://www.eyes-and-ears.co.uk

I know of three sites in the world where human footprints more than 5,000 years old are preserved in the intertidal zone: one in Northwestern England, and two in Southeastern Argentina.   These are exceptionally fragile sites – the English ones are often only visible for a single tide cycle.  All three sites find humans co-occurring with other species – Aurochs, canids, birds in England, and a large variety of fauna in Argentina, including extinct megafauna such as giant ground sloths (in both bipedal and quadruped mode) and glyptodonts (a sort of giant armadillo) among other species.  The prints range from single impressions to the trails of individuals walking or running, to clusters of several hundred distinct prints of all ages, to the distinctive prints of playful, gambolling children.

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Annotation: Collison Bay

Annotation of the Collison Bay night-time, low tide excavations.

The Collison Bay site in Haida Gwaii  posed some unusual challenges, some natural and others of our own making.  The site is found in the intertidal zone and dates, like the Kilgii Gwaay site about 10 km away, to a brief window about 10,700 calendar years ago.  I posted the above picture before, but without annotation.  That previous post describes something of the site formation processes, which mean a site which was terrestrial when occupied is now in the intertidal zone, and excavation must take place between the tides.

Looking at the above, you can see we didn’t plan for the tides very well!  other projects required us to be elsewhere and when it was Collison Bay’s turn, the low tides were in the middle of the night.  This meant we had to get up at midnight to work until about 6.00 in the morning the first night to catch the falling tide, then we got up about 12.45, then about 1.30, and so on: tracking the procession of the low tides.  So, to the inherent complications of working in the intertidal zone we did it in the dark, running electric lights from a generator.  This actually worked really well and data recovery was excellent – we dug there on another occasion in the daytime (see below) and there was no real difference in quality of work.  Also part way through this project we were working until mid-morning and could see pretty well!

The site includes numerous water-worn stone tools on the surface and in the upper beach deposits, but in the lower beach deposits the tools are pristine and show no signs of water-rolling.  In many cases they lie flat, also suggesting a lack of disturbance, and they are encased in a thin, brown layer of jelly-like material which is the organic remains of a degraded soil.  Unlike at Kilgii Gwaay, there is no survival of bone or wood.  Nonetheless, the stone tools are very similar to that site, and speak to a terminal Pleistocene technological approach using discoidal and uni-directional cores to create large blade-like flakes.  Too much information for some readers I bet – but the take home message is this way of making stone tools might be peculiar to the  Pacific Rim and not the continental interior and therefore might, perhaps, maybe, one day, turn out to have significance for the coastal route of the First Peopling of the Americas.

Pristine, sharp blade-like flakes used as stone tools from 10,700 year old deposits in the beach at Collison Bay. Flake on right is about 6 cm long. Photo: D. Fedje

Establishing an excavation unit as soon as feasible on a falling tide to maximize digging window.

Photo Essay on the Qwu?gwes Site

EDIT February 22, 2010: Pictures removed after communication from Lee Rentz (see comments).

Dale Croes has been doing great work for years on wet site archaeology, most notably a long association with the Hoko River wet and dry sites on the Olympic Peninsula.  More recently he has spent a decade or so at the Squaxin Tribe’s Qwu?gwes waterlogged site near Olympia, Washington.  I see that Lee Rentz’s Photography blog has a nice photo essay on the Qwu?gwes site called Ghosts Dwell in the Lowering Tide.

Wet sites can produce locally anaerobic (oxygen depleted) environments, preventing or slowing bacterial degradation of organics.  This allows survival of many artifact types which rapidly deteriorate in normal archaeological settings.  At Hoko, there are well preserved wooden artifacts over 2,000 years old, at Qwu?gwes the material is mostly about 700 years old.  Similar sites elsewhere on the Northwest Coast are mostly  less than 5,000 years old, with the notable outlier of Kilgii Gwaay, which is 10,500 years old.  Since some estimates put wood artifacts at 90% or more of NW Coast technology, you can imagine how revealing these rare, and increasingly threatened, waterlogged sites are.

The photos at Lee Rentz’s blog are excellent, and the text is accurate and informative.  Good to see!  If you want to find out more, some scholarly and other articles can be downloaded here, or you can work at Qwu?gwes yourself as part of a field school.