Tag Archives: Salish

Final Qwu?gwes wet site report is available for download

Toy war club from Qwu?gwes site.  Source: Qwu?gwes Report.

Toy war club from Qwu?gwes site. Source: Qwu?gwes Report. Click to enlarge.

Dale Croes kindly sent me a link to the final report for the Qwu?gwes wet site (45TN240), which is  is located on Mud Bay at the southern end of Eld Inlet, Puget Sound, near Olympia, Washington (map). The site was apparently first occupied about 800 years ago.  This report, hosted at NewsWARP, checks in at almost 1,000 pages and about 80 megs, and is the product of more than 10 years of field-school and collaborative research with the Squaxin Tribe.  There look to be about two dozen authors. If you’re not up for the whole thing right away,  there’s a much shorter executive summary you can download here. But it’s a really impressive report covering everything from stone to bone to wood, bark, root, wood I.D., ethnobotany, paleo-seismology, fishtraps, and more.  It’s very clearly written at an accessible, non-technical  level, largely by students. I’ll pick out a few of many highlights below. Continue reading

Burnt Embers blog: Oak Bay Cairns Mark Songhees History

Cropped screenshot of detail of cairn marking Sahsima, south Oak Bay. Source: Burnt Embers blog; click to visit.

I recently have started following a wonderful new blog called Burnt Embers.  It’s mostly a photo blog of the author’s surroundings – which appear to be deepest south Oak Bay, which is a municipality adjacent to Victoria, B.C. It’s a wealthy municipality not really known for being sensitive to archaeological concerns or First Nations history: for example, it’s the locale of the rather messy Esplanade controversy I documented last year (1, 2, 3).

Anyway, the blogger at Burnt Embers, one “ehpem”, has recently done a great service by bringing to light a series of attractive cairns, emblazoned with art by Tsartlip artist Charles Elliot (Temoseng), which pay tribute to Songhees and Straits Salish places, history, and names.  As ehpem points out, Oak Bay Council has erected these cairns but provides no other information about them, whether on their website or anywhere else.  They’ve  been sort of bolted onto the Oak Bay landscape.  No matter: ehpem has photographed them beautifully and assembled a great series of pages documenting each one and also created a google map which is really handy for getting around from cairn to cairn. The cairns are, in the order which ehpem documents them:

Sahsima – a transformer stone near the Chinese Cemetery.  Sahsima, meaning “harpoon”, was the original name identified by Songhees elder James Fraser for the point where the Chinese Cemetery is located: Hayls the Transformer, with spirit companions, Raven and Mink, came by in his canoe, frightening away the seal the harpooner had been stalking. The harpooner rebuked them, Hayls turned him to stone as he stood there poised to throw the harpoon, saying “You’ll be the boss for seals … from Sooke to Nanaimo.” Continue reading

Victoria ASBC Public Talk, Tuesday May 17: Locarno Houses?!

UVIC students visiting "Aquattro Site" near Esquimalt Lagoon, 2008.

The next scheduled public talk of the Archaeological Society of BC, Victoria Chapter, will be held next Tuesday evening at 7.30 at the Pacific Forestry Centre, 506 West Burnside Road (map).  The talk is free and open to any member of the public.

The talk is entitled Preliminary Investigation Results from DcRu-1151: A Locarno-Age Living and Processing Site at Esquimalt Lagoon, and will be given by local archaeologists Kristi Bowie and Kira Kristensen.

I had the pleasure of visiting this site while it was being excavated a few years ago.  All signs were that the site included the remains of a house dating to between 2500 and 3500 years ago, the “Locarno Beach” period, though at that time the feature was not directly dated.  Very little is known of domestic structures from this time and so the finds could be quite exciting. I’m looking forward to hearing more about this site, though it is doubtful I will be able to attend this talk due to the ongoing circumstances which also keep this blog running slowly.  I am pasting in the abstract and speaker biographies below, or else click here for the PDF.

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Happy “Birthday”, Vancouver

Unidentified Musqueam Chief as portrayed by Cardero in 1792. Source: Vancouver Sun.

The City of Vancouver had its 125th anniversary yesterday, and the local press was full of reflective pieces on civic leaders, famous visitors, notable crimes and, of course, sports.  Well, it would be churlish not to wish Vancouver Happy Birthday!  Well done, Vancouverites.  But in all the coverage of this momentous event, I only see one single article which acknowledges that people might have lived at the mouth of the Fraser River for a tad longer than 125 years.  And a curious article (PDF)  it is: Ancient history of Vancouver’s first peoples: The city’s history predates its 1886 founding, with a native midden dating back 9,000 years

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Bridge River Housepit Geophysics

Magnetometry map of the Bridge River Site housepits. Source: Prentiss et al. 2009

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to see what was underground without having to go through the time-consuming, expensive and destructive process of digging it up?  There are some nice geophysics techniques in archaeology for doing just that, though none are yet a substitute for excavation.  I noticed the other day (and you were quizzed on it) that there is a very comprehensive recent report online (45 meg PDF) by Anna Marie Prentiss and colleagues, on work at the middle Fraser pithouse village of Bridge River (EeRl-4).  This village lies in the territory of Bridge River Band (Xwisten) and the St’át’imc Nation.  While there is a huge amount of archaeological interest across the 350 page report as a whole, it was the use of geophysics on an interior pithouse village which got my attention.

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NW Geology Field Trips Lead to Chert?

The Aldergrove Glacial Erratic. source: geocaching.com

This is something a little different, leading to something cool: the NW Geology Blog has assembled quite a few self-guided geological fieldtrips, mostly in the Seattle to Vancouver corridor.  There are two in the Fraser Valley: the Aldergrove glacial erratic, and the Shasta erratic in Coquitlam.  The other BC field trip is to the recent, massive debris flow at Capricorn Creek.

But it was one of the Washington State trips which caught my eye though: a trip to a formation of Stilpnomelane at Blanchard Mountain, Skagit County, near Bellingham Washington.  The reason this caught my eye: the formation is intersected by massive, green chert beds.

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The Skagit River Atlatl

The Skagit River Atlatl. Image © UBC Museum of Anthropology, Photographed by Derek Tan. CC Licenced.

An atlatl, or spear thrower, is a device used to increase the velocity, and hence range or striking power, of a projectile.  These are usually made of wood or other organic material, and hence they seldom survive in the archaeological record.  Some years ago though, one was dragged up in a fishing net from waterlogged conditions in the Skagit River estuary in northern Washington State near Anacortes.  As the UBC Museum of Anthropology describes:

Made of yew, a hard yet flexible wood, the weapon survived 1,700 years buried in alluvium in the Skagit estuary until it was dredged from these silts by a seine fisher’s net in 1939 in the Lower Skagit between Townhead Island and Bald Head Island. It is believed that it hung in a fish shed, perhaps to dry slowly thus preventing some deterioration, until archaeologists became aware of it in the 1950’s.

Rather incongruously, the Southwest Archaeology blog Gambler’s House has had two in-depth posts about this artifact, here and here.  It’s worth reading both as they give excellent background and tons of links.

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