Tag Archives: uvic

Coast Salish Cultural Landscapes on Google Street View

Hwkwitsum (Davis Lagoon) on Google Street View. Screenshot from Google. Click to visit site.

Hwkwitsum (Davis Lagoon) on Google Street View. Screenshot from Google. Click to visit site.

While perhaps best known for having an excellent espresso machine within arm’s reach of his office recliner, UVIC’s own Dr. Brian Thom also runs the Anthropology Department’s Ethnographic Mapping Lab.  One recent creation of this lab is a project to incorporate panoramic, scrollable photos and expository text of certain  Coast Salish cultural landscapes into Google’s street view (Brian has been working on several cool projects with Google’s sponsorship and assistance.)  This is a cool example of applied community-based research brought to the public eye in a sensitive manner. Continue reading

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“Prehistoric Cairns of Vancouver Island”: notes for a lecture given in 1901

Frank Sylvester Burial Cairns Manuscript, Page One. Source: UVic Special Collections: http://goo.gl/mSxBGe

Frank Sylvester Burial Cairns Manuscript, Page One. Source: UVic Special Collections: http://goo.gl/mSxBGe

There’s an interesting manuscript digitized in the University of Victoria’s special collections library, entitled “Prehistoric Cairns of Vancouver Island.”  The accession notes read:

“Handwritten manuscript, on ruled paper with red-lined margin. Pages hand-numbered 1-20. Signed and dated: Frank Sylvester, Victoria, B.C., June 10, 1901. Appears to be notes for a talk that Frank Sylvester gave, concerning burial cairns on Vancouver Island, his method of excavation of the cairns, and his theories as to the meaning of the cairns and the ancestry of the people buried there.”

It’s a curious document, a mixture of interesting observation, shameless plunder and racial theorizing.  It’s also one of the more complete descriptions I’ve seen of the burial cairn excavation activities of the Victoria Natural History Society.  I don’t recall seeing it cited in the literature, so it’s possible others haven’t come across it either.  In the interests of broad circulation and easy reading,  I’ve transcribed it (PDF), and I also put a version on google docs if anyone cares to improve that transcription.

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Visit to the UVic Fieldschool on Prevost Island in the Salish Sea

UVic field school students at work on Prevost Island inland midden site.

UVic field school students at work on Prevost Island inland midden site. Trust me, there really are dense midden deposits at this site.

I had a good visit the other day to the UVic archaeological field school, which is on Prevost Island in the Salish Sea.  Prevost is a large island of about 1700 acres, mostly privately owned by an active farming family, but part of lies within Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.  In some ways, it is the hub of the southern Gulf Islands, lying squarely between Salt Spring, Galiano, Pender and Mayne Islands. There’s no ferry to this island, so it’s surprisingly off the beaten track considering how centrally located it is.  I suspect that’s a car-centric view, and taking the perspective of a maritime cultural landscape, this is one of the best-connected islands in the Salish Sea.

Anyway, the UVic fieldschool is being taught by doctoral student Eric McLay, whose research focuses on inland shell middens in the Salish Sea.  These are middens well away from the high tide line — in the case of Prevost, about 800 metres inland.  Several dozen comparable sites are known, such as the ones near the rockshelter burials on Gabriola Island.  Why people brought substantial quantities of shell to these inland locations is something of a mystery, one which Eric, with the help of the fieldschool students and First Nations participants, and the support of the Wenner-Gren Foundation, aims to shed light on.

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Public Talks on Quadra Island, Monday June 16

Quadra Clam Gardens.  Source: Groesbeck et al. PLOS-1, 2014.

Quadra Island Clam Gardens. Source: Groesbeck et al. PLOS-1, 2014.

Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre and Discovery Passage SeaLife Society present:

1. Sea Level History of the Discovery Islands.
Daryl Fedje, University of Victoria

2. Quadra Island’s Ancient Clam Gardens.
Dana Lepofsky, Simon Fraser University

Monday, June 16th | 7 pm Quadra Island Community Centre

So I usually limit my announcements of public talks to those happening in the Victoria backyard of Blog World Headquarters but it so happens there is one exceptional one coming up on Quadra Island, where I’ll be spending the next week.  The talk, actually two talks, will focus on two archaeological projects underway up there.  The poster advertising the talks is here, or you can read more below.

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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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Two talks in Victoria next seven days

Burial cairn on Race Rocks.  Source: RaceRocks.com

Burial cairn on Race Rocks. Source: RaceRocks.com

Two very cool talks in Victoria over the next few days.  The first is a unique opportunity to hear from Cowichan (Coast Salish) “gravedigger” Harold C. Joe, who for more than 30 years has worked with archaeologists and anthropologists to care for the disturbed ancestral dead, among his other responsibilities.

The second talk is the monthly ASBC event which features Dr. Andreas Fuls of the Berlin Institute of Technology, who will address a topic in Mayan astronomy and the Mayan collapse.

If you’re not in Victoria you can probably stop reading, but if you click below then you’ll find  more details, including abstracts and the where and when.

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Bird bones at the RBCM

Swainson's Hawk skull. Three views from RBCM Avian Osteology site.

I made a post the other day on a cool M.A. thesis about how to tell deer, bear and human wrist and ankle bones apart.  Identification of bones is one of the essential specialist activities in archaeology: the bones don’t come out of the ground labelled, and yet they are a key way to understand past diet, behaviour and environmental change.  Being able to identify a bone from the ground to the species it comes from requires a collection of bones of known species – a comparative collection – and these do not grow on trees.  They are laborious to produce and finicky to curate.  The one at the University of Victoria, for example, contains over 1,500 skeletons and is in constant use by archaeologists and biologists, not to mention the awesomely talented people at Pacific IDentifications. Mind you, the UVIC collection is one of the best anywhere in North America, but most archaeology departments and even many consulting archaeologists attempt to have a basic comparative collection on hand.  This is a burdensome chore!

While looking at pictures will never be a substitute for a three-dimensional bone for comparison, it can nonetheless be better than nothing.  It is therefore nice to see a really useful, if preliminary, set of web pages at the Royal B.C. Museum on Avian osteology.

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