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

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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
Senior supervisor: 
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
Senior supervisor: 
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): 
Senior supervisor: 
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): 
Senior supervisor: 
George P. Nicholas
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

The relationship between fracture morphology and bone biomechanics: A study of changes occurring in juvenile porcine ribs over the early postmortem interval

Date created: 
2020-03-06
Abstract: 

Forensic anthropologists are often faced with the challenge of determining fracture timing based on bone features, usually discussing it in terms of a “fresh” versus “dry” bone response. Yet it is still unclear how long into the postmortem period bone can retain its fresh characteristics, particularly juvenile rib bone. Juvenile porcine ribs were used to examine 1) changes in the biomechanical properties of bone in response to localized load, and 2) changes in the morphology of the resulting fractures over the early postmortem interval (PMI). Two macroenvironments (subaerial and burial) were recreated in a greenhouse. Samples were placed on the surface of soil filled containers and distinct samples were buried in the same containers, with a total of 16 containers being studied over 12 months. Samples were collected weekly for the first 4 weeks, the subsequent two were collected 2-weeks apart, and the remaining 4-weeks apart. Individual ribs 8-11 were selected from the subaerial (n=146) and the burial (n=134) environments and fractured experimentally. Six biomechanical parameters were collected from each test and median values were obtained for each sample. Each fracture was then examined for eight morphology characteristics and frequencies were calculated for each sample. In the subaerial samples, multiple regression analysis showed that displacement at peak force, displacement at failure and failure stiffness were significantly associated with the PMI. Type of fracture, presence of plastic deformation and presence of cortical peeling were also significantly associated with the PMI. In the buried samples, multiple regression analysis showed no significant association between bone biomechanics and the PMI, and only a moderate association was found between the PMI and fracture morphology, specifically in the type of fracture, fracture surface and presence fiber pull-out. Although a transition from “fresh” to “drier” bone was apparent in the subaerial samples, a persistence of typical “fresh” bone response over the year-long PMI was evident in the buried environment. Accurate timing assessment of juvenile rib fractures is thus likely to be compromised from the analysis of bone features alone and further investigations are necessary for more confident and accurate rib trauma analysis, specifically when involving child remains.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Hugo Cardoso
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Where are the children? An experimental archaeology study concerning the role of practitioner bias in the recovery of juvenile skeletal remains

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-04-23
Abstract: 

Juvenile skeletal remains are generally underrepresented in the archaeological record, despite the high infant and child mortality rates in prehistoric and pre-modern populations. The invisibility of juvenile skeletal remains has often been attributed to several factors, including environmental, cultural, and methodological filters. These include taphonomy, differential burial patterns, and the methods employed by archaeologists. However, practitioner bias, the prejudice of archaeologists in field projects, also plays an important role. To evaluate how practitioner bias affects the identification and recovery of juvenile skeletal remains, an experimental archaeology study was conducted. In total, three mock excavation units were constructed comprised of two control units and one experimental unit. All units contained replica material culture and one contained the macerated skeletal remains of one juvenile pig (Sus scrofa) as a proxy for in situ juvenile human skeletal remains. During this blind study, a total of 28 participants excavated the units. Participants were grouped into four groups based on experience in heritage resource management and background in human osteology. Participants were evaluated based on the recovery rate of replica material culture and skeletal elements through both intragroup and intergroup analysis. The initial hypothesis was that more experienced participants or participants with human osteology would recover a higher proportion of skeletal remains than those who are less experienced or do not have specialized training in osteology. The results of the study contradict this expectation/hypothesis, with less experienced participants generally recovering a higher proportion of skeletal remains than those with more experience. The results reflect the epistemology of present-day commercial archaeology – how the inculcation into professional archaeology can modify an individual’s a priori beliefs and develops individual confirmation bias – and illustrates how current methods and attitudes are typically insufficient for the complete/successful/reliable excavation of juvenile skeletal remains.

Document type: 
Thesis
Senior supervisor: 
Hugo Cardoso
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Indigenous involvement in the heritage resource management industry in southern Ontario: Conversations with three nations

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-04-23
Abstract: 

In southern Ontario, heritage preservation and protection are mandated under provincial provisions but there has been little involvement of Indigenous nations whose ancestral (i.e., archaeological) sites are the focus of the heritage resource industry. This study investigated and sought solutions to Indigenous concerns about heritage control and archaeological mitigation practices, and identified various Indigenous roles in the heritage resource management industry. Interviews were conducted with representatives from three Indigenous nations in southern Ontario: 1) the Anishinabek; 2) the Haudenosaunee; and 3) the Huronne-Wendat. Interview analysis was conducted using NVivo analysis software to transcribe and compartmentalize interview data allowing for an in-depth analysis of the semi-structured interviews. The analysis of results allowed for generalizations but also incorporated many participants’ unique perspectives. Participant’s responses contributed to developing a set of recommendations of full Indigenous nation inclusion in archaeological assessments in southern Ontario through the implementation of Indigenous-oriented approaches based on relationship building between archaeologists and Indigenous nations

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

Zooarchaeology and ethnozoology at Tse’K’wa (Charlie Lake Cave), North Peace Region, British Columbia

Date created: 
2020-05-01
Abstract: 

The archaeological site of Tse’K’wa in the Peace River Region of British Columbia contains faunal remains dating from approximately 11,000 cal BP to the present. Over 20,000 vertebrate faunal remains were analyzed to examine the cultural and ecological record of this site. Of these, 4,000 were identified to the level of Order or more precise classification. Zooarchaeological analyses were integrated with Dane-zaa oral traditions concerning animal species found in the site deposits. This data shows that Ancestral Dene and Dane-zaa community members utilized the site to process and consume animal remains through the entire Holocene sequence. People harvested fish, birds, and mammals from the nearby wetland and forests, and processed and consumed them at Tse’K’wa. There is little evidence for significant environmental change, and there appears to be continuity in the use of sucker, waterfowl, large rodents, snowshoe hare, a wide range of carnivores, and ungulates throughout the site’s history.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Jonathan Driver
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Striking Light: Experimental methods for the production, characterization, and description of iron disulphide pyrodebitage

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-01-24
Abstract: 

The adoption of fire into the lives of hominins is widely held to be one of our genus’ most significant technological advances. The ability to start fire at will and therefore control when and where fire was available may have been a key factor for survival during the Palaeolithic. However, archaeologists have few methods for identifying fire-starting activities in context. Based on archaeological, anthropological, and mineralogical literature, experimental procedures were developed to identify, describe, and collect microscopic debitage from the strike-a-light fire-starting technique. In these experiments, iron disulphide debitage was the primary focus of study. The experiments produced promising qualitative, quantitative, and semi-quantitative base-line data with great potential for identifying strike-a-light fire-starting in the archaeological record and for advancing our knowledge of the prehistory of fire.

Document type: 
Thesis
Senior supervisor: 
Francesco Berna
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Material culture and the social dynamics of residential life at a company town: Archaeological investigations at the Fairfax Townsite (45PI918), Pierce County, Washington, USA

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-03-04
Abstract: 

Fairfax, Washington (site 45PI918) was a thriving, company-owned coal mining and lumber town that operated between the late 1890s and 1941. Like most company towns in the western United States, the place was an isolated, ethnically diverse, and male-dominated settlement. Today it is a ghost town, but at its peak, Fairfax was shaped by paternalistic systems, the social dynamism of its residents, and their access to opportunity and material culture. Initial archaeological investigations at the site reflect the everyday lives of working people in a Western Washington industrial town. This thesis attempts to identify the ways in which these families connected to the material world and how concepts of community and division based on race, ethnicity, gender, and class are visible in the documentary record. At the intersection of these constructs lies a story previously untold about the people of Fairfax and what they left behind.

Document type: 
Thesis
Senior supervisor: 
Catherine D’Andrea
Department: 
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.