Sunday, April 22, 2012

Faunal Remains: The Northwest Coast

Orchard, Trevor and Terence Clark.
2005 Multidimensional Scaling of Northwest Coast Faunal Assemblages: A Case Study from Southern Haida Gwaii, British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Archaeology 29: 88-112.

     Multidimensional scaling (MDS) is a series of statistical analyses that allows archaeologists to essentially construct a map of variation. MDS has been applied many times within archaeology for analyzing variations in artifact assemblages. However, it has not been applied to faunal remains until now. The goal of this study is to test the viability of using MDS for faunal analysis, as well as to provide new insight into previously studied faunal assemblages. These authors use MDS to analyze faunal data from 13 sites in the Kunghit Island region of Haida Gwaii, British Columbia. All of these sites are Graham Tradition sites, dating to around 2,000 BP.
     They include five dimensions in the MDS analysis. The first dimension is the "Rockfish to Salmon Transition." Their results show a shift in a rockfish-dominated assemblage to a salmon-dominated assemblage around 800 BP. This transition to salmon occurs much later in this area than elsewhere along the coast, for which the authors propose three possible reasons: 1) lack of culture contact due to the isolation of the region 2) lack of major salmon streams 3) lack of resource stress that would have pushed them towards an increased reliance on salmon. Dimensions 2 and 3 accounted for variation in site type (i.e. cave and non-cave sites). There is evidence for variability in the function of sites; some of the cave sites appear to be specialty processing sites, because they contain a high number of rarer faunal remains, such as dogfish. Dimension 4 considered site location;
they found eastern group sites all have alcid (sea birds in the family Alcidae) frequencies of 5-45%, while the western sites have alcid frequencies of less than 2%. The fifth dimension did not identify any easily recognizable pattern and only accounted for 4.33% of the variation, so the authors did not consider it in their final interpretation.
     The authors considered their use of MDS a success. It provided statistical support for the earlier conclusion that there was a universal shift from rockfish to salmon-dominated economies around 800 BP. More importantly, it identified a previously unrecognized regional difference in resource use between eastern and western locations. Interestingly, the MDS did not generate dimensions considering site seasonality, suggesting that there was not much variation in faunal assemblages between different seasons. This supports Acheson's (1998) theory that the seasonal round may not have developed in this region until after European contact. Instead, the people in the Kunghit region lived in small villages year round. The authors considered their experiment a success because it identified previously established conclusions, as well as provided new insights into the faunal assemblages. They suggest implementing MDS in other studies to help identify previously unrecognized patterns in faunal assemblages. 

Stewart, Frances and Kathlyn Stewart.
1996 The Boardwalk and Grassy Bay Sites: Patterns of Seasonality and Subsistence on the Northern Northwest Coast, B.C. Canadian Journal of Archaeology 20: 39-60.   

     This article examines faunal remains from the Boardwalk and Grassy Bay sites in the Prince Rupert Harbour area, located on the northwest coast of British Columbia. MacDonald (1969) divided prehistoric occupation in this area into three time periods: Period III (5000-3500 BP), Period II (3500-1500 BP), and Period I (1500-150 BP). The prehistoric Boardwalk site is a winter village which had multiple occupations; areas A and C were occupied around 3700-1270 BP (Period II), while areas B and D were occupied 4230- 125 BP (Period III- Period I).  The Grassy Bay site represents a seasonal camp, occupied 1615- 620 BP (end Period II-Period I).  A collective total of over 22,000 specimens were recovered and analyzed from these two sites.  
     The Boardwalk site exhibited relatively few fish remains (less than 4.3% of total remains from the site). Flatfish, salmon, and dogfish were the most frequently recovered species, which are all shallow water fish. Birds accounted for 4.9% of the remains, and over 45 different species were represented. Waterfowl were the most common, including swans, geese, ducks, and loons. Mammals made up 90.8% of the faunal assemblage. Both sea and land mammals were present. Sea mammals, including sea otters, seals, sea lions, made up 32.7% of the total mammal assemblage.  The majority of the sea mammal remains, particularly the harbor seal, were found in the later levels of BD, indicating an increase in seal hunting. Of the land mammals, blacktail deer was the most common (21.9% of total mammals). Dog skeletons were also common, although they were likely not a food source. Other land mammals included beaver, porcupine, bear, marten, river otter, and mountain goat. An overall increase in bird and mammal bones in the upper levels of BD, in associated with an increase in artifacts, may reflect an increase in population over time at the Boardwalk site.
     Like the Boardwalk site, the Grassy Bay site contains few fish remains (3.5% faunal assemblage), suggesting that fishing was not a major subsistence factor. Birds accounted for 20.2% of the faunal assemblage, although there is little species diversity. The rhinoceros auklet made up 91.6% of avian remains. Mammalian remains accounted for 76.3% of the faunal remains. Sitka deer was the dominate species, however beaver and dogs are less represented at this site than at the Boardwalk site. Sea mammals were very common, especially sea otters and harbor seals. There is a change in faunal remains over time at this site; the older levels have few sea mammals, but in later levels there is a drastic increase in total faunal remains, particularly sea mammals.
    In conclusion, although the Boardwalk site exhibits a lot of consistency, there was a large increase in both number and diversity of faunal remains in later occupations. At the Grassy Bay site, the rhinoceros auklet was more important in earlier occupations, and sea mammals became more important later on. This was a common theme shown by these sites; in both sites, harbor seal hunting increases in later occupations. The increase in faunal remains from both sites around 1900-1600 BP suggests a population increase in the Prince Rupert Harbour area around this time.  

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