M.A. Theses: Jean Helen Williams, 1979

Fort d'Epinette: A Description of Faunal Remains From An Early Fur Trade Site in NorthernBritish Columbia.

This study is concerned with the description of faunal remains from Fort d'Epinette (HaRc 27), a fur trade post near Fort St. John, British Columbia. More than 36,000 bone fragments were examined in an attempt to understand patterns of animal resource utilization during early nineteenth century commerce in the Peace River District.

Investigations involved two associated interests. First, several methodological and theoretical considerations were reviewed in order to emphasize various implications of faunal interpretation. In the light of these discussions, the nature of the ecological habitats exploited, the significance of bone concentrations across the site, the inferences of butchering marks and seasons of capture were assessed. Second, the data were used as the basis of a computer coding format for recording, retrieving and cross-tabulating faunal information. Calculations of the minimum numbers of individuals (MNI) obtained from this system were compared with three other methods of estimating MNI. It was concluded that, at lower bone counts, there was no significant difference between estimates of MNI, but at higher frequencies, the estimates tended to diverge.

Analysis revealed the presence of three vertebrate classes (land mammal, bird, and fish) and one invertebrate class (elongate mollusk). Although it was demonstrated that recovery techniques may have biased the faunal sample, mammals appear to have played the most significant role in Fort subsistence and economy, while birds and fish were of secondary importance. Large ungulates were probably the major food resource, while hare, beaver, bear, marten, fox, wolf and wolverine were likely of primary interest as sources of furs for trade. Domestic species included horse and dog, the latter of which may have been eaten.

Of the three ecological zones postulated for the vicinity of Fort d'Epinette, the bottom lands and lower terrace complexes were most extensively utilized. At the site itself, outer stockade middens and the confines of the men's house had the highest concentrations of bones, indicating possible meat storage or refuse disposal. There was evidence to suggest alternate uses for those features designated as "hangard" and "workshop" and also that the inner stockade area and main house were periodically cleared.

Comparisons of historical records with the faunal assemblage showed disparities in the inferred relative importance of particular species. Similarly, documentation of declining numbers of certain taxa and the increasing instability of fur trade economy could not be definitely substantiated by the faunal remains.