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Design of stone tool technology during the Early Period (CA. 10,000-5,000 B.P.) at Namu, central coast of British Columbia

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This dissertation centers around an examination of a chipped stone tool component dating to the Early Period (10,000 – 5, 000 14C BP) at the site of Namu, located on the central coast of British Columbia. The site is important for a number of reasons, the most notable of which is the incredible time depth and the volume of archaeological materials dating to the early Holocene. Given that there are very few known and well-excavated sites of similar age on the Northwest Coast, Namu provides an opportunity to glimpse into a time period that is poorly understood from an archaeological perspective. Prior to this research, studies on Early Period lithic materials have focused on important chronological and preliminary culture-historical concerns, but we still know little about the people behind the stone tools. Over the last four decades many researchers have been developing new theoretical and methodological perspectives for understanding stone tools. Most of this work has fallen under the approach termed Technological Organization. Under this conceptual umbrella there are a number of different approaches; one of the most useful is the study of stone tool design, subsumed under Design Theory. In general the goal is to try to understand the kinds of decisions made by ancient toolmakers in designing their stone technological systems, and the empirical effects of these decisions. Using this conceptual framework an analysis is performed on the stone tool assemblage from the Early Period at Namu. Unlike the Interior of British Columbia and many other parts of North America, the dominant raw materials used at Namu are unusually medium-grained igneous toolstones that are somewhat difficult to work with. Based on the overall exercise, settlement, mobility, raw materials, tasks and learning are perceived as critical factors in the design of the stone technologies at Namu. The analysis supports the notion that Namu was a sedentary or semi-sedentary settlement very early in its history, and that the inhabitants must have used watercraft in order to underwrite the organization of their flaked stone tool technologies. These results have repercussions for our understanding of coastal hunter-fisher-gatherer groups, and for theoretical models that posit the long-term development of Northwest Coast societies.

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Department of Archaeology - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Thesis (Ph.D.)