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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Inter -and intra-site heterogeneity as sources for faunal assemblage variability : an analysis of fish taxa from Northern Tsimshian archaeological sites Johnson, Raini Abigale


This thesis examines archaeological faunal assemblages of fish taxa from Northern Tsimshian village sites in the Prince Rupert Harbour (PRH) and surrounding area on the northern coast of British Columbia. Previously, the PRH has shown evidence for salmon dominated faunal assemblages which has led researchers to deem the region as an area of “extreme salmon specialization” (Coupland et al., 2010: 189). This thesis asks how representative this trend is within the study region by exploring the relationship between the three most prevalent fish species: salmon, herring, and smelt/other fish. When 45 faunal samples from 34 sites within the region were examined, 11 samples from nine archaeological sites are not dominated by salmon. Species variability within and between faunal assemblages was examined through the use of relative abundance and density calculations. Patterning due to variability in sampling methodology (column versus auger samples) and in the historic (i.e., representative of what is ‘in the ground’) spatial and temporal variables of inter-site location, re-occupation status, sample depth, intra-site sampling location, and site type were investigated through exploratory data analysis and statistical tests. This analysis found that all non-salmon dominated faunal assemblages came from two distinct contexts: sites from the Dundas Island Group and the Chatham Sound region. The density of fish was significantly larger in back midden samples than shell terrace and house floor samples, and camp sites had lower densities of faunal material than village sites. This research concludes with a call for action to validate subsistence patterns with substantial data before inferring regional patterns of subsistence. Archaeological investigations in the study region should take into consideration the effects of spatial and temporal heterogeneity on both vertical and horizontal planes when excavating, examining, and interpreting fauna.

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