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Long Bay Settlement
The Long Bay site, like most coastal sites on Lasqueti was recorded in the Provincial database in the 1970s as part of a quick boat-based survey. The survey, while useful, missed many sites and almost always underestimated the extent of sites. In this case, the Long Bay site was listed as confined to a small portion of the bay and largely destroyed by industrial activity. However, the digging of six large house foundation holes in 2019 revealed a deep, intact shell midden site outside the recorded site boundaries. It was here that in 2019 we conducted a community archaeology investigation to salvage important information from the large excavation holes.
This past September we continued to work on the site, largely focusing on Margaret Rose’s front lawn (thank you Margaret R. and Robert W. for being such gracious hosts!). Many Lasquetians helped with this exploration.
Lasquetians getting an archaeology tutorial on Margaret’s lawn from K’omoks Guardian Watchman Candace Newman
Based on our previous work, we know that the area where the house was going to be built was lived in from at least 2900 years ago to 150 years ago. The layers tell us that over this time people intermittently camped on this spot, staying in temporary structures while processing clams (littlenecks, butter clams, cockles), herring, and other foods.
At Margaret’s, despite the area having been leveled and pushed with a bulldozer, we found undisturbed archaeological deposits. This is golden: to know that there is this ancient history still preserved under the ground. Based on our small excavation units, I think it was here that people lived year-round and then only occasionally went across the bay to process herring, clams, and other foods. Taken together, Long Bay supported a medium sized Indigenous settlement for ~3000 years. Neat to think of that bay alive with so many people for so very long. We’re looking forward to getting samples back from the lab to tell us more about what people were doing and how long ago they lived there.
Unlike the settlement in Long Bay, the archaeological site in Wayne Bright’s field was not recorded in the Provincial data base. This is because it is inland and has no shell, so wouldn’t have been spotted in the boat survey. Over the past while, on what was a slightly raised landform on the back of his field, Wayne has found many belongings (artifacts). What is so unique about this site is that 1) it is away from the coast, and 2) based on the diversity of finds, it was used for a range of tasks for at least 3000 years.
One of the things that is so special about learning about history is that it forces us to see the world in a different way. Well… that’s why I love the site on Wayne’s field. Wayne shared that before his time, a grove of enormous redcedars used to grow in this location and based on a late 1800’s land survey that it had streams that supported cutthroat trout. That just about makes me cry, imagining this area that is now a field instead with huge cedars growing along fish-bearing streams. And in that image, I include people camping on slightly higher ground and hunting and fishing – generation after generation, for 1000s of years.
Left: A sample of the belongings (artifacts) recovered from Wayne’s field. Left: a ground slate knife used to process fish or scrape hides (ask Wayne–he’s used it for that!), dating to sometime inthe last 2-3000 years.
Right: Two of the many huntings pear points recovered. Based on their unique style we can place the set wo into very general time periods (L: 3500–2400 years ago; R: 2400–1200 years ago). The other points found by Wayne have generic forms and thus cannot be assigned an approximate age. To gain a fuller understanding of the history of such finds requires recovering them in their original cultural layer.
At Wayne’s site, we set out to relocate an ancient fire pit/hearth that Wayne thinks he saw while plowing. Hearths are amazing archaeological finds because they provide charcoal to radiocarbon date and we can also identify the charcoal to see what species people were burning for fuel. To find the hearth at Wayne’s, we dug a series of small test pits throughout the site. We did not find the hearth, but Wayne thinks we should look in another location next time. We did discover that much of the site has been moved around through plowing and that the original layers are probably mostly gone. We also recovered one small scraper for working hides.
Heron Bay settlement
Several shell midden sites were already recorded in and around Heron Bay – at Sue Wheeler’s and Peter Johnston’s house, under Sheila Rae’s house, and elsewhere in the bay. This is no surprise given that Heron Bay would have been (and still is) such a good place to live. Many thanks to Sue, Peter, and Sheila for hosting us!
We spent our time finding the boundaries of the site at Sue and Peter’s home and looking for new sites elsewhere in the bay. The site at Sue and Peter’s includes an extensive shell midden (from which we collected samples for radiocarbon dating) and extends into Peter/Jenny’s fields where Peter has found many stone spear points over the years. It’s neat to think of people living along the ocean’s edge and then repeatedly, over the generations, going behind their village to hunt. Some of the fields are sub-irrigated -- great for gardening today, but I also wonder if it didn’t mean more lush vegetation in the past that attracted deer.
Cedar Frank, K’omoks Guardian Watchm an about to dig a small (35cm x 35cm wide) “test pit” to figure out the boundaries of the site by Sue and Peter’s house.
In our explorations of the coastline of Heron Bay, we found an unrecorded shell midden between the site under Sheila’s house and Sheila’s garden (where belongings/artifacts were found). Associated with this “new” shell midden overlooking the bay, Faren noticed a cedar tree that has had its bark removed. To my knowledge, this is the first “Culturally Modified Tree” (CMT) found on Xwe’etay. We collected a sample from the midden site to send to the radiocarbon lab for dating.
Peter standing next to a “Culturally Modified Tree” (CMT) found associated with a previously unrecorded archaeological site on Peter and Sue’s property. This is the first CMT recorded on the island. Note the multiple horizontal cuts into the “scarface”where bark was removed, and the partial healing over of the scar. The age of the cuts could be determined by extracting asmall core from the scar’s healing lobe.
The pattern in Heron Bay seems to be that people were living in a series of small house clusters along the entire bay, separated by rocky outcrops or streams. In other words, anywhere people could have built their homes, they did. Collectively, those individual sites created a substantial neighbourhood community. We’re keen to see how old the occupations are and to continue to work on the other sites in the bay.
FBS intermediate class with Tla’amin Guardian Watchmen during their archaeology field trip to Sue and Peter’s.
Anderson Bay settlement
We only scratched the surface at the extensive ancient settlement in Anderson Bay. Our hope is to continue to work there to define the boundaries of the site and determine its age. We will be sending in one sample to date soon. Many thanks to Steve Lamb for his great interest in this project and allowing us to work on his property.
Sifting through an old back dirt pile at Steve’s. While such piles are great for community engagement, the disturbed dirt can only yield a list of bones and stone tools. The context that tells the larger story about these finds has now been lost.
Old Post Office settlement
Many thanks to the Fishers for granting permission to explore this small site overlooking China Cloud Bay. We had very little time there and were only able to collect a single sample for dating. We are looking forward to going back as this is one of the many places we hope to explore along China Cloud Bay and False Bay. Together, these two bays (connected by a spit of land with an ancient settlement on it) were probably the home of a huge number of people, forming one of the largest communities on the island.
There’s a rainbow at the end of every archaeological site. This one happens to be at Sandy Cove where we’ve been invited to work in the future.