M.A. Theses: Elizabeth Velliky, 2013


PXRF and Place Names: Painting a Narrative on Squamish Ochre Sources and Rock Art

There are two major known sources of red ochre in Squamish, BC, and were likely utilized in the creation of several rock art sites. These sources vary in that one is an easily accessible along Pilchuck Creek; the other, located 1660m above sea level on Paul Ridge. This source is considerably more difficult to access and likely imbued with greater ritual significance. Both ochre sources are associated with Squamish Nation place-names. In addition to the ochre sources, five pictograph sites contain depictions intimately related to Squamish oral history.

The aim of this thesis is to first geochemically analyze ochre sources in the Squamish region and other locations from within and outside of British Columbia, and second to analyze the pigments in the Squamish Nation pictographs using portable Xray fluorescence spectrometry (pXRF). These elemental analyses were compared to determine if pXRF can be used to indentify inter- and intra- source variation and satisfy the provenance postulate for ochres. The analyses on the pictographs provided qualitative and quantitative information on the elemental make-up of the pigments, and contributed towards establishing a methodology for analyzing pictographs with pXRF.  Comparing this data determined if the ochre pigments used to create the pictographs came from geologically distinct sources based on signature elements, and if the rock art sites were re-visited and re-painted. Formal methods coupled with Informed perspectives on the ochre and rock art uses information from oral history, place names, ethnographies and archaeology. The total summation of the data provides a look into the cultural background in the acquisition of pigments, and what the geochemical complexities in minerals can show about the nature of ochre selection and the creation of pictographs in Squamish Nation territory.

Keywords: Rock art, Geoarchaeology, Northwest Coast Archaeology, Ochre studies, pXRF, Raw Materials, Provenance Postulate.