Syesis: Vol. 4, S. 1 (PDF)

Edited by Robert F. Scagel


Syesis was a scholarly journal published by the British Columbia Provincial Museum (now the Royal BC Museum) from 1968 to 1984.

December 1971, 228 pages

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Donald H. Mitchell: Archaeology of the Gulf of Georgia area, a natural region and its culture types

This study is an examination of the Gulf of Georgia region and of the several aboriginal culture types which have been located there. New material for the reconstruction of Gulf cultures and for the study of their chronological relationships is provided by excavations conducted by the author at the Montague Harbour site—a midden located in the western part of the area under consideration. The study is undertaken both in order to define the cultural entities which may be used to aid interpretation of assemblages from the investigated site, and in order to discover the areal and temporal limits to which the Montague Harbour findings may be extended.

Three propositions are examined—that the Gulf of Georgia constitutes a distinctive natural area; that the area was occupied at the time of contact by a population with a way of life distinct from that of the surrounding peoples; and that the little archaeological evidence available suggests past cultures may also have differed significantly from those of the surrounding areas. The conclusions are stated with varying degrees of confidence. The firmest conclusions were reached on the delineation of the natural area; less confidence is placed in the identification of a cultural area from ethnographic materials; and even less in the delimitation of a cultural region based on archaeological evidence alone.

Each facet of the examination suggested natural, ethnographical, and archaeological subdivisions of the Gulf region. A ranking of these subareas with respect to their relevance to the Montague Harbour site data is provided. The data recovered from Montague Harbour are used to support several reinterpretations of Gulf of Georgia culture types and culture history. Characterizations of the regional culture types (Lithic, Locarno Beach, Marpole, and Gulf of Georgia) are offered, and the types arranged to form a sequence. The question of origin of the culture types is discussed briefly. The last three types at least are seen as parts of a developmental sequence, with each succeeding form an outgrowth of its predecessor.
An appendix summarizes the results of the Montague Harbour investigation. Limited reconstructions of the cultures represented by each component are attempted. Three stratigraphically distinct components, ranging in age from about 1200 s .c. to A.D. 1200, are distinguished; and the following correspondences to phases already identified in the Gulf of Georgia are noted: Montague Harbour I—Locarno Beach phase; Montague Harbour II—Marpole phase; Montague Harbour III—Developed Coast Salish phase.


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