Holidays and Housepits: playing tourist at the Xwísten Experience, Lillooet, BC.

The weekly blog post idea has once more fallen by the wayside. And once more, it is because of worthwhile activity. This time, I went on a holiday to Lillooet. It was a great trip, primarily spent lounging in the shade at Seton Lake, visiting in-laws, swimming in the lake, a little canoeing, and some impromptu car repairs. The cherry on top was an excursion to the Bridge River site (EeRl-4): today’s topic.

The Bridge River site, looking towards the river. The University of Montana’s tarped excavation is visible on the right. Please excuse the lens flares.

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Opensource GIS: You get way more than what you pay for.

About a week or so ago I learned that Quantum GIS (QGIS), my GIS program of choice, had a new release out. It had upgraded from QGIS 1.7 to QGIS 1.8. “Oh shoot,” I thought, “Now my 1.7 install and all of its plugins and whatnot is out of date, support will cease, and I’ll have to shell out a pile of cash for the new version. Wait… this is QGIS; not ArcGIS. I’ll just download the new version for free, stick in all the plugins for free, and keep on happily GISing away. Hooray for the new version!” That is one of the beauties of the opensource GIS movement.

3D image done in GRASS within QGIS. Oooooh. Pretty.

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Photographing obsidian: a different approach.

Obsidian artifacts are notoriously difficult to photograph. In most cases you are dealing with an object that is simultaneously black, reflective, and translucent (or even transparent). Any one of those properties makes for a difficult subject, but when combined… I’d almost rather photograph a ballbearing. Trying to light the thing in such a way as to bring out the flake scars, give an idea of depth and roundness (or flatness), and avoid reflections of flashes is no easy feat. So when I recently made a pretty nice looking point I thought that rather than knock myself out taking the usual slew of technical shots, I would eschew archaeological photographic convention and light it a little more creatively. More after the jump.

The starting point. Pun intended.

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More on the petroglyph boulder: on location!

So much for the weekly update plan. But it has been worth the delay, as I spent the last week on the road (mostly) in the Chilcotin with my dad and brother, and have come back inspired to blog about all sorts of interesting things. And en route we paid a visit to the recently repatriated Canoe Creek petroglyph boulder at its new location, and I have pics to share! (“New location” in the sense of having recently been placed at that particular place along the Fraser- a little ways from its original spot. At a regional scale it may be considered to be returned to its original home.) The boulder now sits at the entrance to the Churn Creek Protected Area, and it is well worth the visit. The setting is quite gorgeous, in the scrubland (technically bunchgrass) with the banded bluffs of the Fraser River close by. The interpretive kiosk is quite close by (a handy landmark).

The petroglyph boulder (on the right) viewed looking towards the Fraser river.

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Good news in BC archaeology/heritage

I just stumbled across a very encouraging news story regarding the repatriation of a large petroglyph boulder from the Museum of Vancouver collection to the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation. The full(ish) story is available from a number of sources, but the brief synopsis is as follows: around 1926 the boulder, covered in petroglyphs, was removed from its place on the banks of the Fraser River and taken to Vancouver. For decades it sat in the MOV collection, ultimately ending up as a bit of moss-growing scenery in an outdoor courtyard (see MOV link above). Since 2010 members of the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, MOV board members, and academics from UBC have been working to repatriate the boulder. It’s happening this week! Tomorrow (June 11th 2012) will be a ceremony at MOV, then on Tuesday (June 12th) the boulder is being loaded onto a truck and driven up country, and on Wednesday there is going to be a celebration at its new site. I offer my congratulations to everyone associated with this project, and I am very pleased that the boulder is going home. Hopefully I’ll be able to visit the new site sometime this summer.

Check out the group’s facebook page– there are some nice photos of members of the repatriation group locating the boulder’s original location.

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Back at last!

I’m back. It’s been nearly a year since my last post, but I have finally returned, and I hope to update the blog on a weekly basis (more or less) at least until my next thesis deadline crisis. Yes, that’s right: another thesis -or rather a dissertation- is coming up at some point. The topic? I dunno. I haven’t really gotten that far yet. As it stands now, it’s going to involve lithics (big shock, I know), it will almost certainly be based in BC’s southern interior, and it will conceivably have some focus on microblades. All of the tiny flakes I’ve come to know and love from Haida Gwaii, with none of the rain, moss, and 5 vertical metres of gorgeous stratigraphy. We’ll see how it goes. More after the break. Continue reading

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Ötzi flakers: the sharpest pencil in the drawer

Ötzi the Iceman surfaces occasionally in my archaeological consciousness. My primary interests lie in the archaeology here on the Northwest Coast (of North America), so Chalcolithic ice mummies from the Austro-Italian Alps generally rate only slightly higher than the various bog bodies that pop up occasionally elsewhere in Europe, which in turn rate higher than Egyptian mummies (yawn), but well below the likes of Kwäday Dän Ts’ínchi. Why do individuals from the Chalcolithic get that marginally higher rating than the others? Because while metal tools were growing in popularity during that period, flaked stone tools were still the order of the day during that period (duh!). And Ötzi, or rather the contents of his pack, provides a remarkable example of a vital tool related to lithic manufacture processes: the “retoucher”.

My Ötzi Flaker. Cedar handle (Ötzi's was Lime wood) with an elk antler bit.

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