shíshálh Archaeological Research Project Blog. Nice trowel handle! Click to visit blog.
Just a quick note to let you know the shíshálh Archaeological Research Project blog is back up and running. I mentioned this blog before; I gather it (and perhaps the project) didn’t run last year, so it’s good to see it back. This year it will be written by the participating students on the project. Taking place in shíshálh territory on B.C.’s “‘sunshine coast'”, the dig is now directed by (lifelong fan of both the Senators and Leafs) Dr. Terence Clark of the Canadian Museum of History (formerly the Canadian Museum of Civilization – that’s another story). Anyway, for now, if you want to keep up to date with the shíshálh blog then I recommend clicking the “follow this blog by email” button on the right of their front page. No spam, and you’ll be notified of the posts as they happen.
If you know of any other recent project blogs from the NW then let me know and I will link to them also.
Dr. Gary Coupland, U. Toronto (left) training students on transit use and archaeological survey/mapping. Photo: shíshálh blog.
Posted in Archaeology, fieldwork, First Nations, Lower Mainland, Northwest Coast, Teaching
Tagged anthropology, Archaeology, blogs, fieldwork, Sechelt, shíshálh, students, Sunshine Coast
Last summer we had a good discussion of the vast number of beads coming from some human burials being excavated in shíshálh territory (Sechelt). Tose finds are part of a larger joint research program between the shíshálh Nation, National Museum of Civilization, and the University of Toronto, which has resumed and has a blog.
Shell beads from DjRw-14. Large grid is one centimetre, small is one millimetre. Note the interior diameters of less than one millimetre. Picture courtesy of Dr. Terry Clark, CMC. Click to enlarge.
The previous post on the remarkable bead-rich burials in shíshálh territory generated a great discussion including contributions from some of the project leaders. It’d be good to continue that discussion! But one additional point, as Jesse Morin notes in those comments, and as one of the project leaders Terry Clark raised in an email to me, is the question of, quite simply, how are all these beads getting made? As you can see in the picture above, these shell beads have a hole diameter of less than one millimetre. Terry describes some of the holes being not much larger than a human hair!
Posted in Archaeology, Northwest Coast, Technology
Tagged beads, cultural complexity, ground shell, ground stone, organic technology, Sechelt, shíshálh, shell, Technology
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).
Posted in Archaeology, First Nations, Northwest Coast, Shell Middens, Uncategorized
Tagged beads, cultural complexity, human remains, mortuary archaeology, Sechelt, shíshálh, Sunshine Coast, Technology
The Sechelt Image. Detail of Screenshot from the Museum of Vancouver. (click for full screen or scroll down)
The Museum of Vancouver has a pretty slick and punchy website from a design point of view, very “Web 2.0” with bright colours and links to twitter and facebook and the like. But in some respects it fails, and fails badly. Consider the image above: the “Sechelt Image”, a stone sculpture and one of the most famous objects in BC Archaeology. A single low-resolution picture is offered, a link to which is not possible, and downloads of which are deliberately made difficult. And in this protective bubble, the object can only be seen as a pale, grainy image, surrounded by the Museum’s loud and crass colour scheme. (Update: see full screenshot below: the Vancouver Museum overlays its neon social web over the Sculpture much like Vancouver itself overlays aboriginal culture).
Fine – I am used to that ridiculous phenomenon wherein Public Institutions think they own the images that they are entrusted with – if the image is allowed to be seen by the descendent communities (and in this case I wonder if it really is) then why can it not be seen in high resolution, free from the magenta borders and the exhortations to tweet!?
But the real problem is that the web designers, with their stupid and un-necessary banner reading “Sechelt Image carved stone figure”, obscure an important area of the sculpture, including the all-important vulva which reveals, as noted by Wilson Duff, that this sculpture is powerfully hermaphroditic. It is not just bad and regressive museology to cover up an important part of an object, but I believe it is deeply disrespectful as well. By obscuring part of the image and by imprisoning it within their branded frame and obfuscating web design, they, the (hopefully) temporary guardians of this powerful piece of art, are visually co-opting it for what amounts to advertising purposes. There is no reason to put your label over top of that which you claim to be displaying for its own sake; no reason other than marketing zeal and lack of control over the web designers.
You might think it was just prurience over the frankly sexual image, but below we see another image from their website with no shocking! vulva! to conceal, which has been similarly branded and bounded by the MoV. Maybe I am just mad at them still because they’re using a petroglyph boulder as a rock garden (note the obscuring “petroglyph” banner) but really: their website is an egregious example of stealth appropriation and blatant disrespect under the disguise of progressive design and social networking. And I’m just a dumb archaeologist: I’d love to see a Visual Anthropologist dissect the public face they are so eager for the world to see, the face they insist must frame every image on their website.
The Skytte stone bowl. Screenshot from the Museum of Vancouver website. Click for full screen.
The Website sends the Message: "This is Not a Place of Honour. There is No Dignity Here."
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, First Nations, Lower Mainland, Northwest Coast
Tagged hermaphrodites, Museum of Vancouver, museums, sculpture, Sechelt, Vancouver Museum, Visual Anthropology, Wilson Duff