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
Duwamish composite stone anchor. Source: UW.
I was talking the other day about how under-represented organic technology is in archaeology generally, and especially on the Northwest Coast, where the old adage is that 95% of the technology was made out of plants (trees, wood, bark, roots, grasses, seaweeds). A classic example of this phenomenon are anchor stones and sinker stones. While some of these stones had grooves or perforated holes (and are thereby very visible and durable in the archaeological record), many may have been made by the more simple, subtle and expedient method of simply wrapping line or basketry around an unmodified rock. When the organic component rots away, as it will most of the time, then the archaeologist has, well, an unmodified rock.
Anyway, it was a lucky stroke for my current interest that I came across the above photo from the University of Washington Digital Archives.
Posted in Archaeology, Northwest Coast, Technology, Washington State
Tagged Archaeology, Duwamish, Hoko River, organic technology, reef netting, Technology, underwater archaeology, waterlogged sites, wet sites
Inflating the stomach of a beluga whale. Source: Yupikscience.org
“Yuungnaqpiallerput (The Way We Genuinely Live): Masterworks of Yup’ik Science and Survival” is a fascinating and informative (and large!) website companion to a 2008 exhibition by the same name at the Anchorage Museum. Books and catalogues are also available and look to be excellent.
I know that Yup’ik territory, on the southern flanks of the Bering Straits, is a long way from the Northwest Coast. But there are many similarities in the ingenious tricks and tools of the trade needed for a maritime lifestyle, and this exhibition deftly combines historical, archaeological and ethnographic accounts into a compelling vision of people at ease on land and sea.
Railroad wheelbarrows from McLennan and McFeely catalogue.
I posted previously about this excellent resource which the City of Vancouver Archives has put online: the McLennan and McFeely catalogue of industrial, farm and fishing equipment, 1908-1914. In that post, I moaned a little about how nice it would be to be able to download a single PDF of all 1400+ pages. To my delight and happiness (and surprise, I must admit, because it can have been no trivial task) Sue Bigelow of the Archives has posted a note indicating that they have now made such a document available for download (link in upper right hand corner of this page). It is 270 megs, but I have it now and what an amazing resource. Thanks so much to Sue and to the City of Vancouver Archives – as I said, this is potentially a huge aid for historical archaeologists and indeed any archaeologist who encounters historical debris.
Posted in Archaeology, archives, history, Technology
Tagged archives, catalogs, catalogues, City of Vancouver Archives, historical archaeology; industrial archaeology, history, logging, McLennan and McFeely, Technology
Double-bitted axes, available by the case.
It’s pretty common to run into historic industrial equipment when doing archaeological work in BC, especially logging equipment. The Vancouver City archives has put the entire McLennan, McFeely & Co. Ltd Catalogue 1908-14 online, albeit in a somewhat awkward format (hey guys, why not just post a single PDF as well?). This catalogue would have been the ordering bible for many remote logging, mining and cannery outfits up and down the coast, the remains of which are often lying atop shell middens or strewn in the intertidal zone. Altogether, the Vancouver City Archives and the Burnaby Village Museum have put more than 1,500 pages of historic merchandise, as well as ordering and shipping information and price lists. Click on an image and it brings up a legible PDF of that single page.
Posted in Archaeology, archives, history, Technology
Tagged archives, artifacts, catalogs, catalogues, guns, historical archaeology; industrial archaeology, history, logging, Technology