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A cultural analysis of faunal remains from three archaeological sites in Hesquiat Harbour, B.C. Calvert, Sheila Gay


This study examines the proposition that among the prehistoric hunter-gatherers of Hesquiat Harbour, west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, the geographical area exploited, and hence animal resource selection, was controlled by land use patterns limiting local groups to specific tracts of territory. It suggests that the interaction of the land use system with the environmental diversity of Hesquiat Harbour creates a sub-regional level of resource specialization recognizable in archaeological sites as variation in emphasis on animals from different habitats among the faunal assemblages. A specific proposition, developed from pertinent ethnographic and environmental information, relates land use patterns with a specific pattern of diversity among the faunal assemblages from three archaeological sites, DiSo 1, DiSo 9 and DiSo 16. The emphasis on different habitats one would expect to find at each site are predicted. The faunal assemblages, comprising 49,770 skeletal elements and 135,777.4 grams of shell, are described and compared, using relative frequency of skeletal element count and shell weight. The differences and similarities are discussed in relation to sampling and preservation factors, local environmental change, season of exploitation, change through time in material culture and habitats exploited. A statistically significant association of assemblages with different habitat emphases is found to account for the major proportion of the inter-assemblage variation. Observed patterns of habitat emphases are compared with those predicted. Actual emphases in the assemblages of DiSo 16 and DiSo 1 are positively correlated with the predicted patterns, but those of DiSo 9 differ. The differences are consistent with demonstrated local environmental change and a wider territory of exploitation. The analysis suggests that a simple, autonomous local group level of sociopolitical organization was present in Hesquiat Harbour at least 1,200 years ago and demonstrates that the natural environment defined by socio-cultural organizational factors is an important influence on regional faunal assemblage patterning on the Northwest Coast.

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