UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Prehistoric Northwest Coast art : a stylistic analysis of the archaeological record Holm, Margaret Ann


This thesis is a stylistic study of the prehistoric art record from the Northwest Coast of North America. Its purpose is three-fold: to describe the spatial and temporal variation in the stylistic attributes of prehistoric art; to evaluate theories on the evolution of the Northwest Coast art tradition; and to comment on the possible factors behind variation in the prehistoric art record. This study examines stylistic attributes related to representational imagery, concentrating on five variables: decorated forms, carving techniques, design elements, design principles, and motifs. The core sample consists of anthropomorphic and zoomorphic images from dated archaeological contexts; a total of 242 artifacts from 58 sites are examined. The material is presented in chronological order corresponding to the Gulf of Georgia prehistoric cultural sequence. The major finding of this study is that by the end of the Locarno Beach phase or the beginning of the Marpole phase the essential character of the Northwest Coast art style had developed. There are new developments in the late period, but the evidence presented suggests a previously undocumented stylistic continuity from the late Locarno Beach phase to historic Coast Salish art with no decline in quality or productivity. This study indicates that, as far back as the record extends, three-dimensional, naturalistic forms and two-dimensional incising and engraving techniques have equal antiquity. From the Locarno Beach phase onward the flat, engraved style and the three-dimensional sculpture style developed together; the formline concept developed very early out of the raised, positive lines created by deep engraving in antler.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.