M.A. Theses: Michele Mary Wollstonecroft, 2000

The Fruit of Their Labour: A Palaeoethnobotanical Study of Site EdRb 140, A Multi-Component Open-Air Archaeological Site on the British Columbia Plateau

The quality of preservation and the richness of the plant assemblage recovered from site EeRb140 demonstrate the great potential for investigating plant-use at archaeological sites on the B.C. Plateau. EeRb 140 is an open-air multi-component site located on a glaciolaucustrine terrace on the north side of the South Thompson River. It is situated within the Kamloops Indian Reserve #1, the homeland of the Stk'emlupsemc (Kamloops Band) of the Secwepemc First Nation. From the lithic assemblage it appears that this site was initially occupied possibly on a seasonal basis. During the subsequent Late Prehistoric Period, between 3,800 - 200 B.P., the site appears to have been used more extensively, probably as a special purpose site used by residents of the nearby pithouse village (site EeRb 77).

The objectives of the archaeobotany project at Ee Rb 140 were to identify the patterning in the deposition of charred plant remains, and to compare the observed patterning with the ethnographic record in order to identify similarities and divergences. During the 1996 field season sediment samples were collected from all excavated contexts of EeRb 140 and subjected to flotation. In the laboratory samples from Late Period contexts were selected and sorted for charred plant materials. Thirty taxa were identified from seeds, conifer needles, and charcoal and non-charcoal vegetative tissue. Most of these plants are known ethnographically to have been important resources of Plateau First Peoples.

The archaeobotany of EeRb 140 provides evidence that this site was used for the processing and preservation of plant foods, probably for winter consumption. The plant remains clustered in two 'hearth' features, one of which was evidently used on some occasions for the open-hearth drying of berries, and on other occasions as a pit-oven. Among the identified taxa, edible plants are the most numerous, nine types of "berry foods" and a "root food" were recognised. The plant assemblage also includes grasses, sedges, birch bark, conifer boughs and wood, taxa that are known ethnographically to have been used as materials, implements and fuel for processing foods and/or as raw materials for the manufacture of household items. Moreover, the archaeobotany suggests that EeRb 140 was used for a range of other activities pertaining to daily life, such as the preparation of medicinal plants and the processing of foods for immediate consumption. Plants appear to have been collected between June and August from the surrounding Bunchgrass, Ponderosa Pine and Douglas-fir zones. Plant processing and preservation activities probably took place at EeRb 140 between August and September. Based on comparisons with ecological, botanical, archaeological and ethnographic data, it is argued here that the archaeobotany of EeRb 140 represents a seasonally used work area utilised by the residents of the adjacent village site EeRb 77.