Hakai ancient landscape archaeology project

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Hakai Ancient Landscape Archaeology Project

Summary of Field Research Conducted in the April and May 2012

Prepared by Duncan McLaren (University of Victoria and Hakai Institute)


The following document provides a brief description of the results from our field research. Field research in April and May 2012 was conducted out of the Hakai Institute on Calvert Island. The major goals achieved during the course of this research included:

Collecting palaeo-environmental sediment samples from pond basins and exposures

Undertaking general inventory for archaeological sites on Calvert Island and nearby islets

Revisiting and re-recording archaeological sites Revisiting two early Holocene archaeological sites to conduct test excavations:

EkTb-9 (Triquet Island) and ElTa-18 (Kildidt Narros).

This research employed the use of three crews that worked independently to conduct palaeoenvironmental and inventory tasks. During test excavation, the three crews worked together. Crew members included the following individuals: Duncan McLaren (University of Victoria), Elroy White (Heiltsuk), Johnny Johnson (Wuixinuxv), Jim Stafford (Coast Interior Archaeology), Joshua Vickers (Heiltsuk), Jenny Cohen (University of Victoria), John Maxwell (Ethos Archaeology), Andrea Walkus (Heiltsuk), Jordon Wilson (Heiltsuk), Julia Jackley (Simon Fraser University), Quentin Mackie (University of Victoria), and Daryl Fedje (Independent).

Palaeoenvironmental Research

A number of ponds and lakes on the northwest side of Calvert Island were selected for isolation lake basin coring. A total of six ponds were cored (Figure 1). Good quality samples were recovered from five of the six lakes.


Figure 1. Map showing locations of ponds and lakes cored in 2012 on Northwestern Calvert Island. Information is plotted on an orthophoto and employs TRIM contours.


Coring gear included two canoes, a plywood platform, a collapsible ladder, and 4" ABS pipe. Equipment was portaged to each pond or lake from the closest access point (Figure 2). The canoes were stabilized by tethering them to the shore in three locations. The plywood platform was then put across the gunwales of the two canoes forming a stable coring platform (Figure 3). The ABS pipe, fitted with a customized tin core catcher at the bottom, was lowered to the bottom of the lake and then driven into the sediments below by dropping the handle of a 10 lb. sledge hammer into the top end of the tube. If an extra section of ABS pipe was needed it was attached using a coupling and plumbers glue. All cores required a hand winch (come-a-long) attached the ladder for extraction.

Figure 2. Portaging gear to Lake on Calvert Island. Photo by Jude Isabella.


Figure 3. Using tethered canoes and platform to drive core in the middle of SBD Lake. Photo Jude Isabella.

All of the ponds and lakes cored were found to be no deeper than 1.5 m. The longest core extracted came from Pond 'D', at just under 5 m in length. Samples ranged in elevation from 2 to 86 m above sea level. The core from SBD Lake was sectioned in the field and reveals that the sediments collected span the immediate post-glacial period through until present (Figure 4). Sediments from the bottom of these lakes will be processed to enable the identification and quantification of plant pollen and diatoms through time. Through analysis of this data we will be able to determine changes in vegetation communities and relative sea level.

In addition to the lake cores, deposits of blue grey clay were noted along the shoreline of Safety Cove (eastern Calvert Island). These deposits were found to occur up to 60 m asl in a landslide scarp on the north side of the cove. Other clay deposits were also noted in the Kwakshua Channel area. These were noted to be underlying archaeological deposits at EjTa-T2 and EjTa-4. Clay deposits can be indicative of glacial-marine or glacial lacustrian environmental conditions. Samples were taken from two locations in safety cove and from EjTa-T2. These will be processed for diatom examination.


Figure 4. Core from SBC Lake showing transition from grey clay at bottom (glacial proximal sediments) to organic rich organic gyttja at the top. Photo by Jim Stafford.

Figure 5. Laminated clay deposits found in landslide scarp on north side of Safety Cove, Calvert Island. Photo by Johnny Johnson.


Archaeological Site Inventory and Mapping

Archaeological site inventory work was conducted primarily on Calvert Island and surrounding islets, although two new sites were inventoried in Kildidt Lagoon. Data collected during inventory work is still being compiled and mapped. Site inventory forms for each newly discovered site will be completed in the near future. Previously unrecorded archaeological sites were recorded in Kwashua Channel, Choked Passage, Blackney Island, Safety Cove, and Kildidt Lagoon. Areas were accessed by foot, canoe (Figure 6), and motorboat. Site discovery methods included using surface inspection of natural exposures, probes, augers, and shovels. In most instances, where sites were found, they were further inspected to determine the extent of deposits and/or features, and then mapped.

During the 2012 field season we tested new mapping equipment: Ashtech MobileMapper 100 devices. These are high precision GPS units that enable mapping using an infield GIS platform. Data mapped using these devices were found to be fairly precise for horizontal coordinates with accuracies around 0.5 m in intertidal areas and ranging from 2 to 5 m under canopies (without post-processing). Vertical data were not very accurate with consistent error margins of up to 8 m in elevation, even when using averaging over time. Having GIS abilities in the field was very useful for mapping horizontal data point; however, the units are a little bug ridden and prone to crashing. Regardless, site data was successfully gathered and mapping of this information is well on the way (Figure 7).

Site types and features recorded during inventory include shell middens, culturally modified trees, pictographs, petroglyphs, canoe runs, fish traps, clam gardens, intertidal artifact scatters, and wet site deposits. All intertidal artifacts were flagged, mapped, and collected. The majority of the objects found are chipped stone tools (Figure 8). Some ground stone and one sea mammal bone object was also found (Figure 9).

Evaluative subsurface testing was undertaken at one newly inventoried site EjTa-T2 (Figure 7). Subsurface testing was undertaken at this site as artifacts found in the adjacent intertidal zone have stylistic affinities with early tool assemblages found on other parts of the Northwest Coast. In particular, the general lack of ground-stone objects and the presence of a co-laterally flaked and lanceolate-shaped projectile point (Figure 10). Grey clay was found to underlie the archaeological deposits tested (Figure 11).

Figure 6. Conducting archaeological inventory in Kwakshua Channel facilitated by canoe transport.


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