Tag Archives: mortuary archaeology

ASBC Victoria Public Talk: Tue. Oct. 21 – Darcy Mathews on Funerary Petroforms at Rocky Point

Darcy Matthews leading a UVic field trip to burial features in Metchosin.  Photo:qmackie

Darcy Matthews leading a UVic field trip to burial features in Metchosin. Photo:qmackie


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

Bead-rich human burials in shíshálh territory

NW Coast beads

Examples of typical NW Coast archaeological beads, from B. Thom, reference below.

There have been some exciting finds on the Sunshine Coast (northeastern Strait of Georgia) in shíshálh First Nation territory, including a 4,000 year old burial with over 350,000 beads (!), as this short news item explains (PDF).  This is notable for a bunch of reasons:

Firstly, each bead represents a significant investment of labour.  Even if we conservatively say that you can make a small stone or shell bead in 5 minutes, then at 12 beads per hour, the individual was buried with some 29,000 person hours of labour investment.  That’s about 194 person-months of work, or just over 16 years of full time employment for one person.  (Incidentally, the five minutes is less than half the time UVIC’s own Brian Thom estimates from a brief experiment in Chapter V, here.)  However we may conceptualize the concepts of “work” and “effort” and their relationship to wealth or prestige in the past, we can’t just write off the full time labour of one person for 16 years, or 16 people for one year.  That’s a huge investment of time which could otherwise be used for fishing, hunting, gathering, or creating useful or durable technologies such as houses, canoes, or what have you.  Such measures of labour investment are commonly, if sometimes simplistically,  used to gauge the importance of the deceased individual in both life and death.  Apparently, in addition to this individual, there are other burials, including a young woman buried in a similar manner, from the site (DjRw-14).

Continue reading

ASBC Talk: Tuesday, February 16th

Surveyors in the Uplands development, Victoria, using a burial cairn as a surveying aid. Source; BC Archives.


Feb. 16, 2010, 7:30 pm

Pacific Forestry Centre, 506 West Burnside Road, Victoria, B.C.

Darcy Mathews

The Powerful Dead: The Rocky Point Cemetery and Straits Salish Identity.

Burial cairns and mounds are two types of pre-contact burial features in the Strait of Georgia region of south-western British Columbia. More than a millennium ago, the Straits Salish people, an ethno-linguistic group centered on present day Victoria, constructed a cairn cemetery at the Rocky Point site. Located 18 km southwest of present-day Victoria, this cemetery has over 300 cairns which occur in a variety of patterned shapes and sizes. Analysis of cairn construction and the use of space within this cemetery suggests that there was a strategic use of both material culture and landscape in Salish mortuary ritual, simultaneously expressing individual, household and perhaps even village-wide group identity. Underlying these statements of identity is the material expression of relationships between the living and the powerful dead, which were carefully navigated through the process of the funerary ritual, of which building cairns and mounds was but one part of a long-term process; a process that may have an antiquity of several thousand years. Biography Darcy Mathews is a PhD candidate at the University of Victoria. Working with the Scia’New First Nation, his ongoing dissertation research focuses on the identification, preservation, and study of pre-contact burial cairn and mound cemeteries in the Strait of Georgia.

For information, phone 384-6059 or e-mail asbcvictoria@gmail.com