Thesis Defences

In order of earliest to latest Date.

Degree of Master of Arts

Jon Harding

Monday, 26 April 2021 at 9:00am 

Please RSVP by Friday, 23 Apr 9:00am for connection info: 

Survival and signaling: An assessment of environmental and social influences on the richness and complexity of hunter-gatherer clothing


Despite clothing’s importance and antiquity, cross-cultural variations in clothing complexity have not been adequately quantified. This study aims to build on existing quantitative methods for understanding which variables drive clothing variation. To that end, I gathered data on clothing from 50 small-scale ethnohistoric hunter-gatherer societies, along with information on their environments, economies, social structures, and demographics. With these data, I tested several hypotheses that may predict cross-cultural variation in clothing complexity: the Environmental Hypothesis (primarily related to thermoregulation); the Economic Hypothesis (related to subsistence and movement patterns); the Social Hypothesis (related to sexual dimorphism, freedom, polygyny, and violence); and the Population Hypothesis (related to population size and density). Results indicate that temperature and related variables are the primary drivers of wardrobe richness and clothing complexity, but male-male competition plays an important role in predicting richness of decorative clothing. Subsistence and population-related variables play minor roles as well. 

Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Tom Royle

Friday, 16 April 2021 at 10:00am

Please RSVP by Thurs, 15 Apr 10:00am for connection info:

Ancient DNA Analysis of Archaeological Fish Remains: Methods and Applications


Despite their cultural importance, relatively few ancient DNA (aDNA) studies have focused on fish. Consequently, the methods available for the aDNA analysis of fish remains are underdeveloped relative to those available for other fauna, particularly mammals. This dissertation addresses this methodological gap through a series of three projects focused on developing and applying new DNA-based methods for analysis of archaeological fish remains. 

The first project presents a DNA-based method for the sex identification of archaeological Pacific salmonid (Oncorhynchus spp.) remains. In this method, two PCR assays that each co-amplify fragments of the Y-linked sexually dimorphic on the Y chromosome (sdY) gene and an internal positive control (clock1a or D-loop) are used to assign sex identities to samples. This method’s reliability, sensitivity, and efficiency was evaluated by applying it to 72 modern Pacific salmonids from five species and 75 archaeological remains from six Pacific salmonids. The results of these tests indicate this method is a reliable and efficient method for the sex identification of Pacific remains. 

Building on the first project, the second project modified the sex identification method developed for Pacific salmon to make it applicable to archaeological Atlantic salmonid (Salmo spp.) and char (Salvelinus spp.) remains. This method was subsequently applied to 61 Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) and lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) remains from the 13th century Antrex site (AjGv-38) in southern Ontario. Using this method, we successfully assigned sex identities to 51 of these remains (83.61% success rate), highlighting the method’s sensitivity and efficacy. 

In third project, a new two-tier approach to the DNA-based species identification of archaeological fish remains was developed. In this approach, novel universal mini- primers are first used to amplify a short fragment of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidise I DNA barcode region, which is used to assign an initial taxonomic identifications to samples. This initial identification is then used to guide the selection of taxon-specific primers targeting a secondary marker capable of refining the initial identification to the species-level. Application of this method whole or in part to 33 modern fish samples and 89 archaeological fish remains suggests it is an efficient species identification method. 

Degree of Master of Arts

Ailidh Hathway

Tuesday, April 13, 2021 at 9:00am

Please sign up by Mon, April 12 at 9:00am for connection info  

A Micromorphological Approach to Inferring Paleo-Lake System Phases:
The Case Study of the Earlier Stone Age at Wonderwerk Cave, South Africa


Playa lakes are arid region ephemeral bodies of water that have been found in association with important archaeological sites. These lakes produce distinct sediments in response to changing hydrological and environmental conditions. To provide the means to more effectively study playa lake sediments, I developed a systematic protocol and model that utilizes micromorphology and grain size distribution analysis (i.e., particle size analysis, mineralogy) of thin sections to identify and interpret paleo-playa lake phases preserved in intact archaeological deposits. To assess the potential of the analytical procedure, I applied it to thin sections collected from Earlier Stone Age deposits at Wonderwerk Cave, South Africa, where a playa lake system existed in the proximity of the cave. The results of the study show that sediments produced during different playa lake phases can be distinguished according to a specific set of criteria identifiable through micromorphology and grain size distribution analysis.

Degree of Master of Arts

Walter Homewood

Tuesday, April 6, 2021 at 9:30am

Please sign up by Mon, April 5 at 9:30am for connection info

Rethinking Ribbed Stones:
Defining a Northwest Coast Artifact Class


Ribbed stones are ground stone artifacts found primarily at archaeological sites in Prince Rupert Harbour and canyons along the Skeena and Bulkley Rivers. All have deeply incised grooves that extend across at least one face of the artifact, creating a characteristic ribbed pattern of raised bands. This thesis presents an artifact class definition and morphological classification system for ribbed stones, based on the analysis of the of 31 specimens. Used to describe and interpret the artifact class, the system is based on physical attributes related to form. This approach, while useful, was unable to directly incorporate contextual insights shared by Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en community members. To address this shortcoming a second classification system, referred to as “circles of belonging,” was developed as a complementary method of artifact classification.