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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Metes and bounds : a search for archaeological indicators of hunter-gatherer territoriality Burnard, Linda Louise


The subject of hunter-gatherer territoriality is still a matter of some debate in the anthropological literature. It has been asserted that territorial systems involving perimeter defence and exclusive use rights by fixed membership groups are rare among hunters and gatherers. It has also been suggested that there is an association between this form of land tenure and the evolution of complex society. Since the problem is a developmental one, archaeology, with its developmental and temporal perspective, should be able to contribute to an understanding of this phenomenon. Unfortunately, little attempt has been made to identify material correlates of territorial land use. This thesis seeks to facilitate the development of an archaeologically operational definition of hunter-gatherer territoriality. Toward this end a number of propositions are formulated which postulate relationships between territoriality and various classes of archaeologically observable data. In a comparative/contrastive format the propositions are then applied to data derived from two hunting and gathering societies, the Gitksan and Chilcotin peoples of British Columbia, the one highly territorial, the other with a flexible land use strategy of loosely defined borders and unrestricted access to resources. The study is ethnoarchaeological in that the data base against which the propositions are evaluated, is derived from ethnographic, archival, and archaeological sources. A number of kinds of material patterning related to Gitksan territoriality are identified. Whether the kinds of patterning identified here can be successfully recovered and interpreted in an archaeological context awaits the application of these findings to an archaeological data base. The degree to which the material expression of territorial land use identified in this study are typical of territorial hunters and gatherers in general, also needs to be demonstrated.

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