For the past 15 years, Washington State University archaeologist Colin Grier has explored the past of Galiano Island, one of the Gulf Islands between Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland. Take a tour of the dig and the methods of archaeologists examining a long-abandoned Native village.
Read more about Grier and his work in “
Feasting on the Salish Sea.”
Galiano Island is one of the larger of the Gulf Islands in the Salish Sea between Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland, north of the U.S. San Juan Islands.
To the northeast is the city of Vancouver and the mouth of the Fraser River, where the former inhabitants of Galiano would travel to fish for salmon.
To the west, the mountains of Vancouver Island.
Formed of ancient sandstone, Galiano Island was home to the Hul’qumi’num people, who were part of the Coast Salish. The modern Penelakuts are their presumed descendants.
For the past 15 years, Washington State University archaeologist Colin Grier (second from right) has explored the island’s past. This summer he was joined by (left to right) WSU anthropology graduate students Erin Smith and Kelly Derr, undergraduate anthropology student Doug Beyers, anthropology master’s student Annette Ruzicka, and Maria Eugenia Orejuela, a doctoral candidate at the University of Barcelona.
In previous years, Grier has supervised the excavation of a plank house, believed to have been abandoned a little over 600 years ago, and a much older village, the faint outline of which can be see amongst the trees.
Grier’s interests focus on Northwest Coast household archaeology and the relationship between household interiors and broader cultural and economic patterns. But this past summer, Grier and his crew excavated a midden, associated with the plank house, that was threatened by erosion of the shoreline.
A midden essentially is a rubbish heap.
A midden’s content reflect the eating habits of the plank house’s inhabitants: horse clams, oysters, salmon, halibut, and more.
Each morning, the crew would gather to plan the day’s excavation.
Any archaeological excavation involves painstaking work, …
…and detailed record-keeping.
Maria Eugenia Orejuela and Erin Smith examine material in their screens.
Everything from the midden is processed through screens with 3-millimeter-square openings.
Anything larger than 3 millimeters in diameter, such as these fish vertebrae and a bead, remain in the screen. Material such as rocks are discarded along with the sand and so forth that fell through the screen openings.
Occasionally, a more unusual item will emerge from the screening, such as this Marpole-era point that Kelly Derr found.
Everything saved from screening the midden material is labeled for future reference and study at Grier’s laboratory on campus.
The midden having been scoured and screened for any material that would lead toward better understanding of the culture and economy of the island’s earlier residents, Kelly Derr wraps up her record-keeping, The site will be buried and protected as well as possible against further erosion.