Indigenous archaeological fisheries records provide evidence of multiple baselines in the northeast Pacific




Hillis, Dylan

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It is well recognized that humans have had a significant role in transforming terrestrial landscapes, yet comparatively little research has examined the long-term impacts of humans on marine ecosystems. As an applied field of research, marine historical ecology draws on archaeological, ecological, and other archival information to reveal the dynamics of marine social-ecological systems. This thesis examines the enduring history of relationships between ancient Indigenous fisheries and marine systems in the northeast Pacific. Specifically, I advance the development and application of two methodologies for 1) quantifying the composition of ancient fish landings, 2) estimating ancient ocean temperatures from archaeological fish bone assemblages, and 3) assessing the scale of ancient shellfish harvests using a regression-based approach. This thesis presents a novel method for estimating the ‘ancient Mean Temperature of the Catch’ (aMTC) using Indigenous fisheries catch records from two archaeological sites in the northeast Pacific. Despite different catch compositions, I observe an increase in aMTC over a 5,000-year period at two contemporaneously occupied archaeological sites in southwestern British Columbia, Canada. Given that preindustrial fisheries data are ubiquitous in coastal archaeological sites, this method has the potential to be applied globally to broaden the temporal and geographic scale of ocean temperature baselines. Furthermore, the regression-based methodology presented in this thesis has broad applicability to archaeological shellfish assemblages, as it allows for reconstructing size frequency distributions of ancient shellfish harvests and refined estimates of clam biomass. Together, these methods offer a long-term perspective on the enduring relationships between Indigenous peoples and marine environments in the northeast Pacific. Furthermore, the methods advanced in this thesis shed light on ancient oceanographic conditions and fisheries practices, which can be used to inform contemporary management efforts. Ultimately, these insights aim to contribute towards ecologically sustainable and socially just operating space for Canada’s Pacific fisheries.



Archaeology, Climate change, Indigenous fisheries, Marine historical ecology, Northeast Pacific, Salmon, Zooarchaeology, Shellfish