Group Gallery Session
Reviewed by: Archaeology Division
Primary Theme: Environment and Environmental Inequality
Secondary Theme: Persistence
The nature of the long-term relationship between humans and their environments can be summarized simply: it’s complicated. Humans acting within socio-cultural frameworks have simultaneously shaped and been shaped by their surrounding environments for millennia. Over time, they’ve created physical records on the landscape (e.g. rock-wall fish traps, shell midden terraforming) that serve as a testament of ancient human agency and resource management strategies. These cultural landscapes have practical and political implications in the present. Archaeological investigations rooted in historical ecological theory are especially suited to assess landscapes with long-term records of occupation and resource management: they can provide long-term frames of reference to identify factors that build resilience or introduce vulnerability within complex human-biosphere relationships at various temporal and spatial scales.
Over the last century there has been significant debate among western scientific communities surrounding the initial peopling of North and South America. These debates typically center on the timing and feasibility of different access points or migration routes. While Indigenous people have long-standing oral historical (and ethnographic) accounts that connect them to the landscapes of their traditional territories (some extending back in deep time) western scientists continue to pursue modeling, radiometric and relative dating methods, and other palaeo-geographic and genetic data to flesh out the narrative for the peopling of the New World. In recent years, the combination of archaeological investigations and Indigenous oral historical records have yielded novel and complex data that have enhanced our collective understanding of the variables involved in this ongoing debate. In particular, these collaborative pursuits have provided increased insight into early human subsistence and resource procurement strategies, as well as the environments (and ecologies) in which people chose to settle.
This session presents the results of novel collaborative research occurring on the outer coastal islands of the Northwest Coast of North America. These studies follow a historical ecological approach, drawing on well-established (e.g. palynological, zooarchaeological) and newer (e.g. eDNA) methodologies as well as oral historical data to reconstruct early outer coastal palaeoenvironments from the late Pleistocene to the present day. Together, these data shed light on the early period of outer coastal occupation in Northwestern North America, including the viability of the coastal migration route.