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

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

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

Investigating site formation processes at EjTa-4 on Calvert Island, British Columbia: Results from a microstratigraphic study of excavation units 12 and 10/15

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-08-27
Abstract: 

Accurate interpretation of the archaeological record depends largely on detailed reconstruction of site formation processes. The microscopic and chemical study of archaeological deposits (i.e., the microstratigraphic approach) is effective at reconstructing cultural and natural processes that occurred at any archaeological site. The major focus of my thesis is to test the effectiveness of soil micromorphology and FTIR, two methodological pillars of the microstratigraphic approach, to study site formation processes at EjTa-4, a large shell-matrix site on the central coast of British Columbia. Results indicate well-preserved evidence for activities dating back to 3300 years ago, including built environments, and food processing in the forest. These findings contribute important new information to our knowledge of pre-contact Northwest Coast societies, and to deciphering large shell-matrix sites such as EjTa-4.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Francesco Berna
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

A novel commensal proxy for tracing indigenous interaction in the Ceramic Age Lesser Antilles, Caribbean: Ancient mitochondrial DNA of Agouti (Dasyprocta sp.)

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-08-07
Abstract: 

The agouti (Dasyprocta sp.) was one of the many commensal species humans translocated to the Caribbean from South America as early as ca. A.D. 500. Their widespread archaeological presence in the Lesser Antilles, including on Carriacou, Grenada, makes them valuable proxies for reconstructing pre-Columbian human interactions between the islands and continent. This study applies a genetic commensal model to agouti, a novel commensal proxy offering an ideal opportunity for commensal research. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) was extracted from archaeological agouti bones from seven sites across the Lesser Antilles. Of 30 tested, 26 specimens (Sabazan (n = 5) and Grand Bay (n = 19) on Carriacou, Macabou (n = 1) on Martinique, and BK77 Grand Case (n = 1) on Saint Martin) were successfully amplified. Analysis shows that archaeological sequences belong to Dasyprocta leporina and relate to a single continental clade, likely from northern South America or Trinidad. This is the first study to provide genetic evidence for species identification of archaeological Caribbean agouti. Results provide new data informing continental and Caribbean agouti population structure and offer insight into the origin and dissemination of agouti in the Caribbean. Agouti appear to have rapidly established viable, reproducing populations on Carriacou around ca. A.D. 400/600, but the population status on other islands is unclear. This study contributes to the ongoing discussion regarding the relationships between humans and continental translocates in the Caribbean and emphasizes the potential of the commensal model for the global study of ancient translocations and island interactions. Analytic findings are significant for the archaeological, ecological, and genetic study of the Caribbean and South America, prompting the need for continued study of Caribbean commensals and additional sampling focusing on pre-Columbian agouti from coastal South America. Results highlight the potential of the commensal model for the global study of ancient translocations and island interactions. This study also brings to light new data for both pre-Columbian and modern agouti, informing upon the Caribbean agouti’s taxonomic classification and population structure in the Caribbean and South America. Finally, results have implications for Caribbean ecology, refining the timing of potential ecological repercussions brought on by translocates in the islands.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Christina Giovas
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

The archaeological foodscape of Roman Kent and Essex

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-08-07
Abstract: 

The material manifestations of the colonial encounters occurring in Roman Britain has been subjective to diverse – and divisive – theoretical and methodological considerations. Situated within this ongoing discourse, this thesis employs occurrence and network analysis to investigate the impact of these colonial encounters in the foodscape of Early Roman Britain. Archaeobotanical and zooarchaeological data were collected from reports of Roman excavations throughout the counties of Kent and Essex. Occurrence analysis was conducted using a site-type approach to reveal differences in plant and animal-based food occurrence. The imported plant foods data were visualized utilizing network analysis. This project reveals that while all site-types had some access to new foodstuffs following conquest, nucleated settlements and villas exhibited more frequent occurrence and greater diversity than the rural sites. The site-type differences in food availability/usage are interpreted as distinct forms of entanglement resulting from the colonial encounters, restructuring the British foodscape.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Sabrina Higgins
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Using anthropometrics and dental formation stages of contemporary children to investigate the impact of biological mortality bias on interpretations of past population health

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-05-22
Abstract: 

Biological mortality bias is the concept that within a population, the individuals who die (non-survivors) are biologically different from their surviving peers. Because non-survivors may have experienced more health insults during their lives than survivors, they may differ from survivors in their biological phenotypes. Thus, if biological mortality bias exists and is substantial in magnitude, interpretations of past population health made from skeletal samples (non-survivors) may not accurately reflect the health of the surviving population. This dissertation explores biological mortality bias as reflected in the growth of juvenile individuals aged birth to 12 years. Growth is known to be susceptible to environmental influences, and thus has been widely used by bioarchaeologists as a marker of general population health. However, the sensitivity of growth to environmental effects also makes it likely to be affected by biological mortality bias. The dissertation is composed of four separate scientific papers aimed at examining the effects of biological mortality bias from multiple perspectives. The first paper is a preliminary study contrasting: 1) body length between survivors and non-survivors in a sample of contemporary children; and 2) height and weight between survivors and non-survivors in a diseased sample of girls admitted to a historical tuberculosis sanatorium. The following three papers draw data from a sample of full body post-mortem computed tomography (CT) scans of contemporary children. More specifically, the second paper contrasts dental development between survivors and non-survivors using transition analysis. The third paper presents a protocol for anthropological measurement of long bones in CT scans and reports on its accuracy and replicability. The fourth paper makes use of this protocol for data collection to compare long bone length for age between survivors and non-survivors. Evidence for biological mortality bias is found in linear growth as measured both by full body anthropometrics and long bone lengths, but not in dental development as measured by dental formation stages. These findings reinforce confidence in dental age estimates, but suggest that mortality bias may complicate bioarchaeological analysis of juvenile skeletal remains.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Hugo F.V. Cardoso
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Archaeological site distribution and the formation of early polities in Eastern Tigrai (Agame), Ethiopia

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-05-22
Abstract: 

Archaeological site formation and distribution in Eastern Tigrai, Ethiopia can reveal the characteristics behind the formation of the earliest polities in the Northern Horn of Africa during the past three millennia. Within a landscape archaeology framework, site attributes, landscape attributes, diagnostic artefacts, chi-square analysis, and settlement patterning can be synthesized to understand the socio-political and economic conditions present within the study area, specifically, and Eastern Tigrai, generally, between the Pre-Aksumite (>700 BCE) and Post-Aksumite (<700CE) periods. The unique characteristics present within the archaeological record in Eastern Tigrai during the Pre- Aksumite, Aksumite, Post-Aksumite, and Ethnographic periods indicates that an atypical heterarchical political organization is present within Eastern Tigrai. This atypical political trajectory combined with recent research raises questions about the exact relationship between Eastern Tirgai and the rest of the Aksumite Empire during its influence in the region.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
A. Catherine D'Andrea
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Risk and toolkit structure in the Pacific Northwest

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-07-03
Abstract: 

Identifying the factors that drive the variation in technological complexity among traditional societies is important for understanding human evolution. With respect to hunter-gatherers, the leading hypothesis focuses on environmental risk. It argues that risk affects toolkit complexity in such a way that high-risk environments lead to complex toolkits while low-risk environments result in the opposite. This hypothesis has been supported in analyses involving worldwide and continental samples of hunter-gatherers. However, Collard et al.’s (2011) test of the hypothesis using data from the Pacific Northwest failed to support it. For my thesis research I revisited Collard et al.’s study and sought to determine why their results departed from those of the worldwide and continental studies. My study had two parts. In the first, I replicated Collard et al.’s (2011) analyses with a larger dataset. The results of the analyses were largely consistent with those obtained by Collard et al. (2011): I found that the toolkits of the Coast and Plateau were not significantly different despite clear risk-relevant environmental differences between the sub-regions. However, I also found a significant positive correlation between some toolkit variables and the number of salmon species, which is not consistent with the risk hypothesis. In the second part of the study, I approached the evaluation of the risk hypothesis from a different direction. Specifically, I examined the correlation between the average complexity of the tools used to hunt a given species and estimates of the risk involved in capturing that species. I found that species that are difficult to capture and/or have restricted seasonal availability are associated with more complex tools, which is consistent with the risk hypothesis. I conclude from these two sets of results that commonly-used environmental variables like Net Primary Productivity and Effective Temperature are too coarse to accurately characterize the impact of risk on the toolkits of hunter-gatherers at a regional level. I also conclude that the richness and complexity of the toolkits of hunter-gatherers in the Pacific Northwest are not solely affected by risk. Other variables are important and require further investigation.

Document type: 
Thesis
Supervisor(s): 
Mark Collard
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

A multidisciplinary analysis of ancient Maya finger caches

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-06-28
Abstract: 

Finger caches—isolated deposits of human phalanges, often in plainware bowls—have been found at a number of sites in the region inhabited by the Ancient Maya. It has been argued that these deposits are associated with punishment, ancestor veneration, or sacrificial ritual. However, the full scope of this phenomenon is not understood, making it difficult to have confidence about its meaning or function. In an effort to address this, I carried out a survey of information relating to Ancient Maya finger caches in the archaeological, iconographic, glyphic, and ethnographic literature. The review suggests that finger amputation practices were surprisingly common. I discovered evidence of such practices at over 60 sites in present-day Belize, Guatemala, México, and Honduras that span from the Late Preclassic to Late Postclassic eras (400 BCE-1520 CE). The available data also suggest that the Ancient Maya had several distinct practices that entailed the removal of fingers or even entire hands. Some of these practices involved unwilling victims; others were engaged in voluntarily by Ancient Maya. Lastly, the evidence yielded by the survey indicates that members of all social classes engaged in the amputation of fingers and hands. These findings have potentially interesting implications for social life among the Ancient Maya because recent research in the field known as the Cognitive Science of Religion has shown that traumatic rites can foster strong bonds between group members and animosity towards members of other groups.

Document type: 
Thesis
Supervisor(s): 
Mark Collard
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Microstratigraphic protocol to assess the impact of wildland fires on subsurface archaeological sites

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-10-30
Abstract: 

Wildland fires around the globe have been increasing in their severity and frequency, leaving natural and heritage resource managers to cope with their irreversible effects. Here, I review the literature on wildland fire environments and behavior and I investigate their influence on buried archaeological materials. To better understand this process, I propose and test a protocol which utilizes soil micromorphology and Fourier transform infrared microspectroscopy to quantify the impact of thermal energy on the sub-surface environment and the transformations that occur within the chemistry and mineralogy of common organic soils. An initial application of this protocol was carried out within the perimeter of a wildland fire near Logan Lake, British Columbia, which successfully measured on a millimetre-scale the heat diffusion pattern through the soil column. This analytical protocol can now be used in post-burn investigations to assess the effects of wildland fires on sub-surface archaeological materials of different regions.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Francesco Berna
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Changing channels: Past, present, and future land use on the Salmon River delta, British Columbia

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-04-20
Abstract: 

This study examines how using multiple lines of evidence can help us understand the complex human-environment interactions that have occurred on the Salmon River delta in south-central British Columbia in the pre-contact, historic, and modern eras. Using a qualitative methodology, I examine archaeological, ethnographic and ethnohistoric, and environmental studies to evaluate how complementary these different sources of information are in studying this topic. I scrutinize the intersection of these approaches through four questions: 1) what do archaeology, ethnohistory, ethnographies, and traditional knowledge tell us about land use in the past?; 2) what can archaeology and environmental studies tell us about how the delta has been impacted by settlement activities (both Indigenous and settler)?; 3) what can ethnohistory, ethnographies, traditional knowledge, and environmental studies tell us about environmental impacts to the Salmon River delta?; and 4) how can a synthesis of these approaches help us understand the complex human-environment interactions?. A series of interviews conducted with Neskonlith elders documents how the delta was utilized as an important traditional use area for hunting, fishing, and gathering plants for food and other uses, and how these traditional- use activities were impacted throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. My investigation indicates that the Salmon River delta was used by local First Nations groups for millennia, and continues to be an important traditional use area for the Neskonlith community. Archaeological and environmental studies demonstrate how intensive land-clearing and development activities have impacted the environment, and traditional knowledge provides context on the impact the decline of many important plant and animal species, especially local salmon, have had on the community. Most importantly, this study demonstrates how incorporating multiple lines of evidence provides a clearer picture of the complexity of human-environment interactions, specifically between how Indigenous groups and settler populations managed the land.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
George P. Nicholas
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.