New Summit website coming in May 2021!

                   Check the SFU library website for updates.

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

Receive updates for this collection

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

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

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

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

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.