Paleoethnobotany of Kilgii Gwaay: a 10,700 year old Ancestral Haida Archaeological Wet Site




Cohen, Jenny Micheal

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This thesis is a case study using paleoethnobotanical analysis of Kilgii Gwaay, a 10,700-year-old wet site in southern Haida Gwaii to explore the use of plants by ancestral Haida. The research investigated questions of early Holocene wood artifact technologies and other plant use before the large-scale arrival of western redcedar (Thuja plicata), a cultural keystone species for Haida in more recent times. The project relied on small-scale excavations and sampling from two main areas of the site: a hearth complex and an activity area at the edge of a paleopond. The archaeobotanical assemblage from these two areas yielded 23 plant taxa representing 14 families in the form of wood, charcoal, seeds, and additional plant macrofossils. A salmonberry and elderberry processing area suggests a seasonal summer occupation. Hemlock wedges and split spruce wood and roots show evidence for wood-splitting technology. The assemblage demonstrates potential for site interpretation based on archaeobotanical remains for the Northwest Coast of North America and highlights the importance of these otherwise relatively unknown plant resources from this early time period.



Kilgii Gwaay, paleoethnobotany, Haida Gwaii, archaeology, paleoenvironment, archaeobotany, plant macrofossils, macrobotanical, seed identification, early Holocene, Northwest Coast, Pacific Northwest, keystone species, salmonberry, red elderberry, Sitka spruce, western hemlock, western redcedar, paleontology, Haida culture history, split wood technology, split spruce root, tools, berries, Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, wet site