PhD Dissertations: David V. Burley, 1979

Marpole, Anthropological Reconstructions of a Prehistoric NWC Cultural Type

The Marpole culture type, dating between 400 B.C. and A.D. 500, is a cultural-historical unit within the Gulf of Georgia-Puget Sound region of northern coastal Washington and southern British Columbia. Despite what might be considered a consistent usage, it has never been satisfactorily defined either quantitatively or qualitatively, and attempts to go beyond a classificatory descriptive paradigm have been few. With these problems in mind, the present dissertation provides a compendium, evaluation and reconstruction of this culture type. In order to expand the available data base, descriptive reports of excavations and materials from the False Narrows (DgRw 4) and Marpole (DhRs 1) sites were prepared and are appended.

The introductory portion provides a problem orientation and overview of regional physiographic, ethnographic and archaeological knowledge. This section is followed by a general assessment of current methodological debates in Northwest Coast prehistory and their potential effects on later conclusions. Specifically, the questions of sample representativeness and culture historic unit formulations are approached. Having set a the stage, so to speak, the Marpole culture type is then introduced though an historical summation of its development. Subsequently, diagnostics which are currently in use as fossil directeurs are discussed and evaluated for spatio-temporal significance. While several are found to be adequate, a number are not. It is further concluded that the presentation of a quantitative formula for the definition of a Marpole culture type would be premature. Temporal and spatial articulations are reviewed. Although not ruled out, the basis for an ontogenous development from the earlier Locarno Beach culture type is questioned. Marpole peoples are, however, argued to be ancestral to the historic Coast Salish.

The final chapters are devoted to a reconstruction of Marpole lifeways and an assessment of the role of Marpole peoples within the local development of Northwest Coast culture. The topics of economic patterning, socio-political organization, intergroup relations and ritualistic behavior are addressed. Models are derived from the ethnographic literature and tested against available archaeological data. In several instances, the blanket use of ethnography in archaeological inference is questioned. The concluding section places the development of Marpole within the framework of a socio-economic evolutionary model for Gulf of Georgia peoples. It is hypothesized that the Marpole culture type marks the transition from a generalized to a specialized hunting and gathering society. Several concomitant cultural developments are posited.