K'omoks/SFU Field School
Summer 2016

The Department’s 2016 archaeological field school was conducted in partnership with the K’omoks First Nation in Courtenay, British Columbia.

Twenty-one SFU undergraduate students participated in the field school which was directed by Dr Robert Muir, Chris Springer (SFU PhD Candidate) and Dr Jesse Morin (K’omoks Nation Archaeologist). Prior to heading into the field, students spent five weeks on campus completing readings, assignments, exercises and attending lectures in preparation for the research project.

The field component focused on excavation of a large ancient village site situated at the mouth of the Puntledge River. This site that we had the privilege of investigating is known as Pentlatch, and is an extremely important location to the K’omoks Nation. The modern K’omoks First Nations is a hybrid cultural group comprised of people with Coast Salish (Pentlatch and K’ómoks) and Kwakwaka’wakw (Lekwiltok) ancestry. The Pentlatch were a Northern Coast Salish group whose territory included the Comox Valley and Baynes Sound, and the site of Pentlatch was one of their principal villages.

For six weeks the students lived and worked at Pentlatch, mapping the site, shovel testing to determine the site boundaries and conducting controlled excavations of selected portions of the site. The students also participated in a tour of several archaeological sites in the Courtenay/Comox area guided by local archaeologists and K’omoks community members.

Students then returned to SFU for two weeks of laboratory work, sorting, cataloguing and processing artiacts and other samples collected during the field season.

The K’omoks Nation were generous hosts throughout the field project, providing accommodations (campgrounds) and other assistance. The highlight of the project for many students (and the directors) was a final feast arranged for us by K’omoks Nation.

Robert Muir