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
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, First Nations, history, Vancouver Island
Tagged blogs, burnt embers, Charles Elliot, Lekwungen, Oak Bay, photography, Salish, Songhees, Straits Salish, Temoseng, Victoria BC
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.
Posted in Archaeology, Vancouver Island, Northwest Coast, Cultural Resource Management, fieldwork
Tagged Songhees, Esquimalt, CRM, Cultural Resource Management, household archaeology, Salish, ASBC, Straits Salish
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
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.
Posted in Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, Northwest Interior, Technology
Tagged Fraser River, geophysics, household archaeology, housepits, magnetometry, pithouses, Salish, St'at'imc First Nations
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.
The Skagit River Atlatl. Image © UBC Museum of Anthropology, Photographed by Derek Tan. CC Licenced.
, 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.
Pulling a cedar bark strip. The scarred face will heal in a highly characteristic way. Source: In-SHUCK-ch live.com (click)
I came across a nice set of 18 pictures of members of the In-SHUCK-ch First Nation stripping cedar bark for use in traditional manufactures, especially basketry, cordage, matting, and clothing. This nation is on the lower Fraser in the general Lillooet-Harrison Lake area. It’s true you have to turn your head sideways on a lot of the pictures, but at the same time you would have to crane your head way back if you were stripping bark, so that’s ok. Continue reading
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, Northwest Interior, pics
Tagged anthropology, Archaeology, cedar, CMT, Culturally Modified Tree, First Nations, In-SHUCK-ch First Nation, organic technology, Salish
Haida carved cockle. Source: Peabody.
The Peabody Museum at Harvard has a predictably great collection from the Northwest Coast. I’m more drawn to the archaeological-type artifacts vs. the masks and baskets and argillite, but fill your eyes with the charming Haida carving of a cockle, above, collected in “Massett Bay”.
One nice thing about this collection is the accession ledger is also scanned in and made available. For example, if you go the the page for the cockle above here, you can click on the cockle picture for a higher resolution, on the first ledger page for the left hand side of the ledger book, and on the second for the right hand side. It is possible in this way to do some ad hoc fact checking of their descriptions to finding additional information. For example, the cockle’s second page contains the notation “taken from the interior of R/200″. Accession number R/200 turns out to be this unusual ?argillite carved box with inlaid shell.
Some of the other objects are equally unusual – I’d say there are more “wow – never seen one of those before” moments in this collection than any other I have seen.
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, archives, First Nations, Haida Gwaii, history, Northwest Coast
Tagged clubs, digging sticks, Haida, Harvard, mauls, Nuu-chah-nulth, Peabody Museum, Salish, sculpture
Projectile points and other artifacts from Lasqueti Island.
So many of the Gulf Island of the BC Coast are essentially unknown to archaeologists. This goes for the larger ones as well as the small: I’d count Lasqueti, Hornby, Texada, Saturna, and Prevost Islands among those, while even major islands like Mayne Island and Quadra Island are often known only from one site, dug long ago.
This doesn’t mean there hasn’t been any work, or that there aren’t interesting and revealing collections of archaeological material already in existence. So it is great to see that Dana Lepofsky of SFU has put together a small web site on the archaeology of Lasqueti Island. She deftly combines some ethnographic and traditional practice information with a series of photographs of private collections of artifacts. Among these are projectile points apparently assignable to the Charles Phase, which dates around 5400 to 3600 years ago. Also note the beautiful ground stone adze or chisel in this picture: the luminous green nephrite (B.C. “jade”) would have been imported from the Central Fraser River, probably no closer than the Hope area. This flaked and ground sandstone club is an unusual find, probably used in hunting or fishing, but perhaps also in warfare.
If you click the photographs, then a window will open; if you click the “image details” link on the pop-up window then you will be taken to more information about that photo, if available. There are also two PDFs linked, one to the role of herring in traditional subsistence, and another on mapping a fishtrap. These stem from Lepofsky’s ongoing work (and excellent website) in Tla’amin territory on the Sunshine Coast (previously), where she will be running an archaeological fieldschool again this summer. While this only scratches the surface of Lasqueti Archaeology, it does point to the usefulness of looking at what citizens have picked up over the years as a guide to some of the time depth and activities of an area.
Sadly, of course, some of the artifacts picked up may have resulted from, or even caused, unnecessary disturbances to the archaeological record. Lepofsky provides a helpful “call before you dig” article as well – specific to Lasqueti yet applicable elsewhere. In typical Dana fashion, as a Lasquetian herself, the number to call is her own!
Lasqueti Island intertidal fishtrap. Photo: Dana Lepofsky.
Whale sculpture from the Tse-whit-zen archaeological site, Port Angeles. Source: Peninsula News.
The Tse-whit-zen site is a former Klallam Tribe village that was discovered by the construction of a graving dock at Port Angeles, Washington State. The subsequent disturbance and archaeological project led to an astonishing series of events with over 300 human burials recovered, many more disturbed, 65,000 artifacts recovered and after a huge investment the abandonment of the graving dock project at a cost some estimate in excess of 100 million dollars. This is a story I want to know more about and will probably post on from time to time.
But for today, set aside the sad history and feast your eyes on the above small sculpture of a whale discovered during the summer of 2009 at Tse-whit-zen during mopping up remediation. The artist has captured the essence of whale! The article doesn’t say, but there may be a socket on the lower back of the whale just in front of the tail – perhaps this was the handle for a small chisel, or a knife. I also wonder if it doesn’t go the other way up — the mouth is asymmetric and the arching back of a diving whale would be a more natural posture. Either way, this is a happy little sculpture, probably dating from about 2,000 years ago.
Posted in Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, Northwest Coast, Shell Middens, Washington State
Tagged Archaeology, artifacts, Klallam, Northwest Coast, Port Angeles, Salish, Salish Sea, Tse-whit-zen, Washington State