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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Archaeological landscapes of the Lower Mainland, British Columbia: a settlement study using a Geographic Information System Beattie, William Grant


A selection of archaeological sites located in the Lower Mainland area of coastal British Columbia is used to test the use of the landscape in evaluating certain statements about prehistoric human settlement for the region. In total, 62 sites were chosen which show at least some evidence of occupation or limited activity use during the Marpole period (2400-1400 BP). The main problem in describing settlement strategies for this area is the inability to infer site use from subsistence or lithic assemblages recovered through either excavation or surface collection. This lack of information for the majority of the sites makes it impossible to use such traditional approaches to settlement analysis as determining sociopolitical relationships between locations or describing a seasonal round or movement from one type of site to another. An alternative approach to circumventing this dilemma is to use the landscape in the immediate vicinity of each site as a source of new data that can be used to determine some of the criteria involved in making the settlement choice. A Geographic Information System was used to gather information about the terrain, both generally for the region and near the sites and then comparing this local profile with the other sites across the region. This information is presented in a series of tabular and statistical displays that allow evaluations, not only about settlement choices inherent in the collection of sites but also about the efficacy of the landscape approach in archaeological research. The non-randomness of site location decisions is demonstrated along with evidence that certain landscape features were favoured over others. It is also apparent that a preliminary site typology can be affirmed as a result of certain types of sites selecting for specific terrain elements.

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