M.A. Theses: James G. Spafford, 1992

Artifact Distribution on Housepit Floors and Social Organization in House Pits at Keatley Creek

The purpose of this analysis is to identify, characterize, and explain patterns in the distributions of artifacts on the floors of three housepits at the Keatley Creek site. This site, located on the east side of the Fraser River, about 30km north of Lillooet, B.C., is one of the last large pithouse villages in British Columbia's Interior Plateau region which has remained relatively undisturbed since its abandonment. Between 1986 and 1989, excavators working here uncovered most of the floors of three housepits which appear to have been last occupied just before the site was deserted about 1100 years ago. The data collected in the course of these excavations and the subsequent analysis is probably the largest, most complete, and most accurately recorded body of data ever amassed on material culture distributions within B.C. housepits.

The patterned use of space on pithouse floors in the last occupation can be a major source of artifact patterning observed in archaeological floor deposits. Co-residential groups which were organized differently in social terms should also have organized their use of space differently, producing different patterns in the distribution of artifacts on the floors where they lived.

Previous research has suggested that, during the Kamloops phase of the Plateau Pithouse Tradition (c.1200-200 B.P.), the largest pithouses at large pithouse village sites in the Mid-Fraser River region of British Columbia's Interior Plateau may have been occupied by groups which were more hierarchical in their social organization than contemporary groups in smaller houses.

Three housepits of varying sizes were excavated from this period at the Keatley Creek site in the Mid-Fraser River region. The distributions of lithic artifacts on the floors of these housepits, all which date to the Kamloops Phase, are examined in this analysis. Statistical analysis and visual inspection of the distributions of fire-cracked rock, debitage, and modified artifact types revealed clear patterns. Notably, three concentric zones divided into radial segments by the hearths were distinguished in the largest pithouse both by the distributions of several classes of artifacts and by the arrangement of features on the floor. In the two smaller houses, the clearest distinctions were between opposite sides of the floors. The possible contribution of a variety of cultural and non-cultural processes to the formation of these assemblages was considered. It was concluded that the observed patterns were best explained as the products of cultural processes related to the social organization of space during the periods when the houses were last occupied. Differences between areas of the floors in terms of the quantity and kinds of artifacts they contained were interpreted as evidence that different areas were used for different purposes. Some of the differences were attributed to sex specific activities, craft specialization, or status distinctions. The radial segments which cross-cut the concentric zones in the largest house were interpreted as evidence for the division of space among several somewhat independent domestic groups within a hierarchically-organized corporate group. The bilateral patterns on the smaller floors, could not be interpreted in this fashion.