M.A. Theses: Ian Kuijt, 1989

Subsistence Resource Variability and Culture Change: An Alternative Interpretation of The Middle-Late Prehistoric Cultural Transition On the Canadian Plateau

This research is concerned with the interrelationship between paleoenvironments and culture change, and the causes of increased levels of sedentism, shifting subsistence resource selection and material culture change during the Middle-Late Prehistoric periods in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. It is proposed that this cultural transition was affected by changes in the availability, reliability and access to ungulates and salmon resources ca. 5,000-4,000 B.P. Decreased ungulate availability is hypothesized to have brought about resource stress, which initiated a series of social responses, including diversification of habitually exploited foods. Furthermore, these social responses to changing resource availability and reliability are believed to be exemplified by shifts in the types of subsistence resources habitually utilized and the biogeographical locations from which food resources were procured.

Archaeological data are used to examine the relationship between paleoenvironmental and cultural change. Shifting use of subsistence resources are monitored archaeologically with the synthesis of previous studies on faunal material from Middle-Late Prehistoric period sites and carbon isotope investigations on human remains. Changes in the use of upland and riverine areas are addressed through the synthesis of published survey data from Upper Hat Creek, Ashcroft Indian Reserves 2 & 4, and the Highland Valley. An examination of site distribution through time within Ashcroft Indian Reserves 2 & 4, is used to examine the evidence for postulated shifts in prehistoric reliance on ungulate and salmon resources.

It is suggested that the Middle-Late prehistoric cultural transition ca 4,500-3,500 B.P. may be related to the changing availability, reliability and access to ungulate and salmon food sources. Moreover, it is believed that decreased availability and reliability of ungulate populations during the Middle Prehistoric period contributed towards a diversification of habitually exploited resources, including salmon. This process of diversification, combined with greater salmon availability as a result of stabilized river drainages, may have led to increase utilization of this abundant, reliable and storable subsistence commodity during the Late Prehistoric period.