the dig goes on…

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Today starts the first full week of digging at Porpoise Bay, a perfect time to talk about where we are and what we are doing. We have chosen to excavate at the site of DjRw 1, located along the shore of Porpoise Bay in Sechelt Inlet. We have previously excavated at this location in 2009 and 2010.

In those field seasons we found long-term site use dating back to at least 4000 years. This year we are aiming our efforts on the older component, associated with the Charles culture, which existed between 3500 and 5500 years ago. This time period is not well-known in the Sechelt area, but our previous research has shown it to be absolutely fascinating.

We have laid out our units on a low, flat terrace about 4 metres above the high tide line and about 20 metres inland. Each unit has a team of university and high school students working together to excavate it. This year our crew comes from Wilfrid Laurier University, the University of British Columbia, the University of Victoria, and the project partners, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the University of Toronto and the shíshálh Nation.

The units are paired 1x1s, staggered a metre apart from each other pair back from the shoreline. Undisturbed cultural material was first encountered only several centimetres below the surface, and consisted of shell and vertebrate faunal remains in a dark matrix typical of the surface of many Northwest Coast shell-bearing sites. Today’s excavations brought us down to areas more dense with shell, typical of midden dumping areas. These deposits have lots of small fish bones and fragments of land mammal bones. In one area we found a dump of fish heads – there were more cranial elements than stones and roots in the screen!

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Analysis of this deposit will likely allow us to say something interesting about fish processing practices at this site. In terms of artifacts, we have recovered several quartz crystal microblades, a small finely crafted bead, and half of a ground stone net weight. In one unit we have a potential hearth and post-mould associated with a pile of fire cracked rock – good evidence that we may encounter architectural remains this season.

We have also opened a unit closer to the waterfront. Previous excavations at DjRw-1 and other work at sites in the inlets suggests that these sites are formed by dumping off the front bank of the site, so we may expect this area to date from a more recent time; though eroding deposits at the wave cut bank in front of these units suggest that the cultural material may approach 2 meters depth. Already this unit is dense with vertebrate faunal remains.

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