Archaeology of the fur trade period occupation at Housepit 54, bridge river site

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Archaeology of the Fur Trade Period Occupation at Housepit 54, Bridge River Site Anna Marie Prentiss This chapter introduces the archaeology of Housepit 54 at Bridge River. The Bridge River Archaeological Project was initiated as a collaborative partnership between the Bridge River Band (Xwísten) and the University of Montana in 2003, and has developed in three phases. Phase I (2003–2005) focused on village- wide mapping and test excavations. The goal during this period was to conduct a first test of alternative models of Middle Fraser village establishment and growth. Drawing from data at the Keatley Creek site, Hayden (1997) and Hayden et al. (1996) had argued that the Mid- Fraser villages were established as early as 2600 cal. BP and had not undergone significant change since that period. Prentiss et al. (2003, 2007), also drawing from Keatley Creek data, argued that the villages were initiated later, around 1800–1600 cal. BP. Research at Bridge River tested these hypotheses by mapping and testing most of the houses in the core village (Figures 3.1 and 3.2). Out of a total of 80 houses, 67 were tested and 55 were radiocarbon- dated (Prentiss et al. 2008). Results indicated that the village developed during four periods: Bridge River (BR) 1 (ca. 1800–1600 cal. BP), BR 2 (ca. 1600–1300 cal. BP), BR 3 (ca. 1300–1100 cal. BP), and BR 4 (ca. 600–100 cal. BP). One test unit was excavated in Housepit 54 during this phase (now in Block A). The final period (BR 4) had evidence for both pre-Colonial and early Colonial period occupations. Housepit 54 is, to date, the only known residence with a definitive Colonial/Fur Trade period occupation. Phase 2 of the Bridge River Project (2007– 2010) focused primarily on examining interhousehold variability during BR 2 and 3 times, with a goal of testing alternative models of emergent wealth-based inequality. Six housepits were examined using a combination of applied geophysics and limited excavations of activity areas. Results suggested that material wealth-based inequality emerged in the context of village growth and competition for access to key subsistence resources, especially salmon and deer (Prentiss et al. 2012). Excavations conducted at Housepit 54 during 2008 permitted our team to develop the first detailed occupation sequence. In 2008 we excavated three test trenches in Housepit 54 (now identified in Blocks A–C) and recognized that it had 13 occupation floors and seven roof deposits spanning the BR 2–4 periods. New fieldwork in 2014 defined additional BR 3 floors, raising the potential number of older floors to at least 14. The final floor and roof were created during the Colonial/Fur Trade period and are the focus of this study. Phase 3 of the Bridge River Project is currently underway. The focus is exclusively on Housepit 54, with the overarching goal of Figure 3.1. Map of the Bridge River site showing general contour patterns, housepit locations, external pit features, and the site grid system. Figure 3.2. Maps of the Bridge River site showing changes in the village spanning the BR 1–4 periods. Maps created by Matt Hogan. Archaeology of the Fur Trade Period Occupation at Housepit 54, Bridge River Site 45 developing a detailed understanding of the history of this long- occupied house. While much attention in the future will focus on the 16 floors from BR 2–3, current work is focused on the Fur Trade period floor and roof. The excavations were designed to expose nearly the entire floor and roof so that variability in indoor and exterior activities could be examined to reconstruct household life from the standpoints of building construction and maintenance, household subsistence economy, technological strategies, regional trade, and social relationships. This chapter documents excavation procedures, stratigraphy, and variability in features and fire- cracked rock (FCR) data. These data offer implications for understanding the original house architecture as reconstructed from roof sediments and house floor features. Examination of non- architectural features provides initial insight into the organization of household activities and social relationships. FCR data provide insight into routine cooking activities and, potentially, goods production associated with the fur trade. The 2012 Archaeological Investigations at Housepit 54: Excavation Methods The 2012 excavations at Housepit 54 (Figure 3.3) focused on collecting a wide range of data in order to permit analyses of assemblage content and spatial organization.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Last House at Bridge River
Subtitle of host publicationThe Archaeology of an Aboriginal Household in British Columbia during the Fur Trade
PublisherUniversity of Utah
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9781607815440
ISBN (Print)9781607815433
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


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