UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Kulleet Bay mass grave Parsley, Colleen


This bioarchaeological study was undertaken in partnership with Stz’uminus First Nation and draws on forensic and osteological methodologies for the analysis of 153,386 cremated human bones found buried together in a mass grave. Archaeological context is integrated with the bioarchaeological results to understand the various dimensions of a mass cremation grave discovered during 2004 sewer line excavations in the traditional ancient Stz’uminus village of Kulleet Bay. Analyses of the thermally altered skeletal bone indicate fleshed bodies were intensely cremated with sustained temperatures. Vertical gradation of temperature altered matrices were observed in the stratigraphic profile. Archaeological and osteological evidence point to an in situ cremation event of fleshed corpses who suffered a mass death, radiocarbon dated to 2407 cal BP. Skeletal pathologies consistent with poor health and also potentially related to disease processes are perhaps indirect evidence of the agent of mass death. No evidence of conflict or natural environmental disaster is present to support alternative causes. This mass death event correlates precisely to the transition from Locarno to Marpole Phases ca. 2400 BP. Radiocarbon dated wood samples and a lack of artifacts dating from 2400 BP to the post contact period support a period of abandonment following the cremation event, when trees re-established in this locality within the village. Corpse treatment and mortuary processes related to the grave construction highlight social dimensions of the survivors’ attitudes, who possibly viewed the dead not as enemies or ‘foe’ but as contaminated, resulting in a mortuary treatment outside the norm of traditional Coast Salish funerary practice.

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