Archaeology - Theses, Dissertations, and other Required Graduate Degree Essays

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Culturally competent stewardship in non-Indigenous museums

Author: 
File(s): 
Date created: 
2022-03-15
Supervisor(s): 
John R. Welch
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.
Abstract: 

The lack of engagement by museums with Indigenous Nations for stewardship purposes, as reported in a 2020 Canadian Museum Association survey, prompts a case study of stewardship of Indigenous cultural material at a small non-Indigenous museum. Inadequate policies and practices for the Indigenous cultural material there are found to threaten the belongings with dissociation, hinder authentic representation, and perpetuate visitor ignorance. Stewardship reform is recommended. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada are prominent in the growing body of mainly Indigenous literature that offers insight into what constitutes culturally competent stewardship. Analysis of this literature has resulted in a set of principles for stewardship of Indigenous cultural material. Suggested stewardship reforms emphasize the acknowledgement of the authority of Indigenous Nations to govern their cultural material and the mandate for museums to collaborate with Indigenous Nations to co-manage Indigenous cultural materials in museum custody.

Document type: 
Thesis

What happens next? Exploring connections between repatriation, restorative justice, and reconciliation in Canada

Author: 
File(s): 
Date created: 
2022-02-18
Supervisor(s): 
George Nicholas
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Abstract: 

The collection and use of Indigenous ancestors and their belongings for research and display in museums has contributed to losses of cultural patrimony and to the intergenerational trauma reverberating from Indigenous peoples’ experiences of colonialism. Repatriation movements, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and related Indigenous rights activism have begun to transform heritage management practices. As of 2022, in Canada and elsewhere, legislation and national policy require heritage practitioners to engage with Indigenous descendant communities and to repatriate ancestral human remains and other cultural materials. The return of ancestors and cultural materials can remediate traumatic histories, reconnect individuals with culture and community, and serve as a form of restorative justice. However, involvement in repatriation work may also carry unanticipated challenges, including struggles with unclear policies and procedures, timelines that extend for years and decades rather than weeks and months, and high financial and spiritual burdens for descendants. Many museums also perpetuate colonial dynamics by clinging to decision-making authorities and otherwise resisting change to accommodate Indigenous values, interests, and preferences. The three case studies presented here examine connections among repatriation, restorative justice, and reconciliation: 1) The return of a Tłı̨chǫ caribou skin lodge; 2) The reproduction of traditional Gwich’in clothing; and 3) The repatriation of ancestral human remains and other-than-human ancestors to Bkejwanong (Walpole Island First Nation). Each case scrutinizes what happened after repatriation was “completed” and identifies the effects that repatriation/rematriation processes and outcomes can and do have on Indigenous descendant communities. The cases also provide contexts for discussion of the roles that repatriation should play in ongoing reconciliation efforts here in Canada. Repatriation has the potential to be much more than a process of return. Conducted in good faith, with open minds and hearts, it can bring benefits to receiving communities across social, cultural, political, economic, and spiritual dimensions.

Document type: 
Thesis

Survival and signaling: An assessment of environmental and social influences on the richness and complexity of hunter-gatherer clothing

Author: 
File(s): 
Date created: 
2021-04-26
Supervisor(s): 
Mark Collard
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.
Abstract: 

Despite clothing’s importance and antiquity, cross-cultural variations in clothing complexity have not been adequately quantified. This study aims to build on existing quantitative methods for understanding which variables drive clothing variation. To that end, I gathered data on clothing from 50 small-scale ethnohistoric hunter-gatherer societies, along with information on their environments, economies, social structures, and demographics. With these data, I tested several hypotheses that may predict cross-cultural variation in clothing complexity: the Environmental Hypothesis (primarily related to thermoregulation); the Economic Hypothesis (related to subsistence and movement patterns); the Social Hypothesis (related to sexual dimorphism, freedom, polygyny, and violence); and the Population Hypothesis (related to population size and density). Results indicate that temperature and related variables are the primary drivers of wardrobe richness and clothing complexity, but male-male competition plays an important role in predicting richness of decorative clothing. Subsistence and population-related variables play minor roles as well.

Document type: 
Thesis

Plants and presumptions: An assessment of the impact of plant macronutrient variation among hunter-gatherers on the recommendations of the Paleo Diet

Author: 
File(s): 
Date created: 
2021-03-02
Supervisor(s): 
Mark Collard
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.
Abstract: 

The Paleo Diet is a popular but controversial dietary regime that requires adherents to avoid domesticated plants and replicate the macronutrient distribution (i.e., the percentages of carbohydrates, protein, and fat) found in hunter-gatherer diets. In this thesis, I report a study in which I investigated an aspect of the Paleo Diet that has hitherto been overlooked – namely, its reliance on plant macronutrient values from a single country, Australia. First, I replicated the macronutrient consumption ratios reported in the study that underpins the Paleo Diet (Cordain et al. [2000] American Society for Clinical Nutrition 71, 682-692). I then examined the impact that an alternate set of plant values that Cordain et al. (2000) presented but did not use had on the macronutrient consumption ratios that Cordain et al.’s (2000) method yields. Next, I generated plant macronutrient values for a worldwide sample of ten recent hunter-gatherer societies, and statistically compared the new values to the ones Cordain et al. (2000) reported. Subsequently, I applied Cordain et al.’s (2000) method to the new plant macronutrient values with a view to generate new macronutrient consumption ratios. Thereafter, I statistically compared the new values to the values obtained by Cordain et al. (2000). The analyses revealed that there were some significant differences between the new plant macronutrient values and those that Cordain et al. (2000) created. The analyses also revealed that, in all cases, applying Cordain et al.’s (2000) method to the new macronutrient values produced macronutrient consumption ratios that differ significantly from those reported by Cordain et al. (2000). Together, the results of the analyses indicate that the Paleo Diet’s macronutrient consumption recommendations are dependent on Cordain et al.’s (2000) sample. As such, the recommendations of the Paleo Diet need to be revised or abandoned.

Document type: 
Thesis

A micromorphological approach to inferring paleo-lake system phases: The case study of the Earlier Stone Age at Wonderwerk Cave, South Africa

Author: 
File(s): 
Date created: 
2021-04-13
Supervisor(s): 
Francesco Berna
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.
Abstract: 

Playa lakes are arid region ephemeral bodies of water that have been found in association with important archaeological sites. These lakes produce distinct sediments in response to changing hydrological and environmental conditions. To provide the means to more effectively study playa lake sediments, I developed an analytical protocol and a model that utilizes micromorphology and grain size distribution analysis of thin sections to identify and interpret paleo-playa lake phases preserved in intact archaeological deposits. To assess the potential of the analytical procedure, I applied it to thin sections collected from Earlier Stone Age deposits at Wonderwerk Cave, South Africa, where a playa lake system existed in proximity to the cave. The results of the study show that sediments produced during different playa lake phases can be distinguished according to a specific set of criteria identifiable through micromorphology and grain size distribution analysis.

Document type: 
Thesis

Analysis of the efficacy of LiDAR data as a tool for archaeological prospection at the Highland Valley Copper Mine

Author: 
File(s): 
Date created: 
2021-03-15
Supervisor(s): 
David Burley
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.
Abstract: 

As heritage resource management and Indigenous heritage stewardship moves into the forefront of project design and operational planning in British Columbia, researchers look for innovative ways to foster impact assessment efficiency without sacrificing quality. In this study I explore methods for employing LiDAR-derived digital elevation models as a tool for archaeological prospection within the Highland Valley Copper Mine. A review of contemporary and formative LiDAR-analysis archaeological prospection research was conducted to identify the most appropriate visualization techniques and data management workflow. Specific methods for the identification of microtopographic relief with the potential to contain archaeological resources were developed. The efficacy of LiDAR-based topographic analysis using manual feature extraction is validated through comparison with georeferenced survey and ground-truthing data provided by my research partners at the Nlaka’pamux Nation Tribal Council. The LiDAR analysis method identified a high percentage of recorded archaeological sites and meets provincial requirements for a moderately effective predictive model. Results of LiDAR analysis are presented along with recommendations for improved performance using best practices and an interpolation workflow. An analysis of the cost implications of incorporating LiDAR-survey into the heritage management workflow in the study area identified a significant benefit during survey. These savings would allow for redistribution of resources and potentially a greater focus on mitigative systematic data recovery. The use of remote sensing technologies and methods can have a positive impact on heritage resource management industry in BC by decreasing program costs while maintaining quality.

Document type: 
Thesis

Rethinking ribbed stones: Defining a Northwest Coast artifact class

Author: 
File(s): 
Date created: 
2021-04-06
Supervisor(s): 
George Nicholas
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.
Abstract: 

Ribbed stones are ground stone artifacts found primarily at archaeological sites in Prince Rupert Harbour and canyons along the Skeena and Bulkley Rivers. All have deeply incised grooves that extend across at least one face of the artifact, creating a characteristic ribbed pattern of raised bands. This thesis presents an artifact class definition and morphological classification system for ribbed stones, based on the analysis of 31 specimens. Used to describe and interpret the artifact class, the system is based on physical attributes related to form. This approach, while useful, was unable to directly incorporate contextual insights shared by two Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en community members. In response to this limitation, a second classification system, referred to as “circles of belonging,” was developed as a complementary method of artifact classification that may more easily engage with community derived insights and information.

Document type: 
Thesis

Assessing the ability of the LAMAP predictive model to locate hunter-gatherer sites: An Alaskan case study

Author: 
File(s): 
Date created: 
2021-01-21
Supervisor(s): 
Jon Driver
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.
Abstract: 

Evidence from archaeological sites and ancient and modern DNA suggests that people first entered northern North America via Beringia no later than 15,000 years ago, and potentially as early as 24,000 years ago. When people moved south to colonize the rest of the American continents is still debated. The presence of ice sheets means that two routes were the most likely: down the unglaciated coast of the Pacific Northwest, and/or via an interior route characterized as the ice-free corridor. Large areas of Late Pleistocene land on the coast were submerged when sea levels rose at the beginning of the Holocene, around 10,000 years ago, making it difficult to locate potentially early sites. There is now a need to develop and test methods that identify high potential locations for finding sites on those now-submerged landscapes. The LAMAP method (Carleton et al. 2012) has been successful in predicting areas of high archaeological potential associated with permanently occupied settlements of agrarian societies. This study is the first application of LAMAP to mobile hunter-gatherer sites. A study area was defined in the Tanana Valley, Alaska, and the location and age of known archaeological sites was sourced from files in the Alaska Heritage Resources Survey database. The location of each site was plotted on a raster map produced in QGIS using six Digital Elevation Models accessed from the USGS’s National Elevation Dataset. This provided information relating to six physical variables for each site: Elevation, Slope, Aspect, Distance to Drainage, Viewshed and Convexity. The study area was divided into more than 700 million cells. LAMAP calculates the similarity of each cell to the cells found in a 1-km sample area around each known site. Mapping the distribution of similarity indices created a map of archaeological potential. We ran LAMAP on 91 randomly selected site locations to create a map of archaeological potential, and tested it by examining the location of the second set of 91 sites from the study area. Areas of high archaeological potential contained more of the second set of sites, confirming LAMAP’s ability to predict high potential areas for mobile hunter-gatherer sites. A second analysis, using pre and post 10,000 cal BP sites, showed the same results, demonstrating that long-standing physical features of the landscape are robust predictors of high potential areas, regardless of the time period. LAMAP is one of a number of methods for modelling high potential areas, each of which has advantages and disadvantages, for the preliminary exploration of now-submerged terrestrial landscapes.

Document type: 
Thesis

Exhibiting respect: Investigating ethical practice for the display of human remains in museums

Author: 
File(s): 
Date created: 
2020-12-15
Supervisor(s): 
George Nicholas
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Abstract: 

Museums have long displayed human remains from archaeological and other contexts to educate the public about human health, spiritual beliefs, and customs, and to encourage reflection about death and dying. However, since the 1950s, repatriation movements and decolonizing dialogues have inspired global discussions about who has the right to retain and display human remains. Subsequent changes in attitude are now reflected in international ethical guidelines and accords that emphasize “respect” for human remains and for originating communities. Most museums will no longer display Indigenous Ancestors, but whether and how to display other human remains presents an unresolved ethical dilemma. Should other archaeological human remains be exhibited without consent? If so, how can they be displayed respectfully? Do visitors wish to see human remains in museums? This dissertation is a pilot study that examined three dimensions of these ethical challenges: 1) how has the display of human remains changed over time—particularly in Anglo-North America and Western Europe?; 2) how does the public in North America feel about the display of human remains?; and 3) how can human remains be displayed “with respect”? I focused on Anglo-North America and Western Europe as instrumental case studies to illuminate these emerging issues due to their accessibility, recent ethical dialogue, and changing museum practices in these regions. My research explored these questions using the principles of New Museology and radical transparency: i.e., proactively engaging the public and encouraging them to participate in ethical decision-making. In this work, I: 1) explore ethical changes and challenges for museums in relation to the display of human remains; 2) facilitate public engagement with ethical discourse about the display of human remains; 3) explore the concept of “respectful display” of human remains; and 4) make recommendations for museum professionals deciding whether to display of human remains. These issues are particularly important as museums strive to decolonize and become more inclusive.

Document type: 
Thesis

Encoded knowledge in oral traditions: Skwxwú7mesh transformer sites and their relationship with landscape perception and use

Author: 
File(s): 
Date created: 
2020-09-29
Supervisor(s): 
Rudy Reimer/Yumks
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.
Abstract: 

This research studies the characteristics and roles of Transformer sites in daily life of people journeying through Skwxwú7mesh territory and the transmission of environmental knowledge through the Skwxwú7mesh oral tradition. Transformer sites are culturally significant places for numerous Indigenous groups in the Pacific Northwest and are so named for their narrative association with supernatural figures from the culture’s oral traditions that could transform themselves and the landscape. Skwxwú7mesh Transformer sites are associated with the journey of four brothers, Xaay Xays, and are located throughout Skwxwú7mesh territory. Many Transformer sites are important for their history and place within a community’s cultural landscape even without human modification. While archaeological sites generally refer to locations where there are material signs of past human activity, that definition does not include places where ephemeral activities took place, or places of cultural significance that were not directly modified by human behavior. Approaches within landscape archaeology provide a lens through which to effectively view and study places where the archaeological record is silent. Visibility, proximity to recorded archaeological sites, and ethnographic analysis, when taken together, can make a strong intersecting argument for how people in the past interacted with specific places and the landscape as a whole. This thesis recorded the physical characteristics of Skwxwú7mesh Transformer sites associated with Xaay Xays, evaluated the visibility of Skwxwú7mesh Transformer sites from water routes through Skwxwú7mesh territory, and compared the environmental and land use messaging from the names and stories of each site to the archaeological, ecological, and ethnographic information of that location. The results showed that the majority of Transformer sites were locations either used directly for resources described in the Xaay Xays narrative or were associated with active archaeological areas, suggesting that Transformer sites were an ever present part of daily life, and that the stories that describe and connect these locations hold information about the environment that was transmitted through generations by telling and retelling these stories. Despite the cultural significance of Transformer sites to Indigenous communities and their potential for archaeological investigation, they are not guaranteed protection under provincial or federal heritage legislation. There is much more that can be learned from Transformer sites and other natural places about people’s interactions with the landscape through time, but first those places must be acknowledged and protected for generations to come.

Document type: 
Thesis