Geochemical characterization of fur trade period floor sediments from housepit 54, bridge river village

Nathan Goodale, Katherine Hill, David G. Bailey, Alissa Nauman, Anna Marie Prentiss, Emily Rubinstein, Bruce Wegter, Khori Newlander

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

    Abstract

    Geochemical Characterization of Fur Trade Period Floor Sediments from Housepit 54, Bridge River Village Nathan Goodale, Katherine Hill, David G. Bailey, Alissa Nauman, Anna Marie Prentiss, Emily Rubinstein, Bruce Wegter, and Khori Newlander Elemental characterization of sediments from occupational floors can help to determine past spatial organization and human behavioral adaptations. In this study we used energy dispersive x- ray fluorescence (EDXRF) spectroscopy and isotope ratio mass spectroscopy (IRMS) techniques to examine floor sediments collected from Stratum II, the Fur Trade period occupation of Housepit 54 at the Bridge River village site. During excavation, Housepit 54 was systematically sampled for sediments (n = 40). In this chapter we detail our methodology for sample preparation to obtain reliable EDXRF and IRMS data, and our use of geospatial tools to display and interpret the results. EDXRF is used to examine spatial variation in the distribution and intensity of a variety of major and trace ele ments; IRMS is employed to analyze the stable isotope ratios of carbon and nitrogen. Results suggest that elemental composition of sediments from floor contexts can be a valuable tool for examining the use of space within pithouses at Bridge River. The household is the fundamental socio economic unit of many societies and may be linked to the organization of domestic space reflecting broader cultural dynamics, including the social division of labor, inequality, and demography (Terry et al. 2004). This chapter presents an investigation into the potential impact of human occupation on the geochemistry of sediments of the Fur Trade period floor from Housepit 54. Data were generated through the multi-element analysis of sediments collected across the Fur Trade period floor. The results of this research offer preliminary insight into the variable use of space within the single Fur Trade period floor occupation of Housepit 54. The differential distribution of geochemical signatures across a single floor is a possible indication of the division of space into discrete activity areas. While patterns emerged out of the geochemical analysis of the Fur Trade period floor, the significance of these patterns is enhanced when considered alongside the alternative lines of archaeological inquiry presented in this volume. Furthermore, future analyses of underlying floor sediments will likely provide interesting insights into changing patterns of human behavior and the use of space within Housepit 54 during its entire occupation. It is important to note that this chapter presents the beginning of ongoing research into the variability of sediment chemical composition of Housepit 54. Future research will expand upon the potential influence of anthropogenic as well as natural factors (e.g., mineralogy, organic content, grain size) on sedi ment geochemistry variation within Housepit 54 and at Bridge River. 166 NATHAN GOODALE ET AL. Geochemical Analysis of Anthropogenic Sediments Sediment geochemical analysis is a potentially powerful tool for the study of domestic space (Holliday et al. 2010; Middleton 2004; Middleton et al. 2010; Middleton and Price 1996; Wells 2006). An enhanced understanding of household organization through geochemistry may elucidate past gender relations, division of labor, social inequality, and demography (Fernández et al. 2002). The chemical characterization of floor sediments is based on the idea that different activities leave behind different chemical residues; unless a sediment has been significantly leached, disturbed, or altered, these residues may be preserved, and detectable, in their original depositional contexts (Middleton 2004). Variation in elemental concentrations across domestic floors may be useful in locating activity areas and interpreting past human activities. Sediment geochemical analysis has also had an important role in household archaeology, providing valuable information to supplement more traditional lines of evidence (Parnell et al. 2002; Fernández et al. 2002; Holliday et al. 2010; Middleton 2004; Middleton et al. 2010). Recent studies have proven particularly useful when investigations are otherwise limited by poor preservation and loss of archaeological context. Traditionally, spatial analysis studies have depended exclusively on the distribution of activity- specific material remains (Parnell et al. 2002) for information regarding site formation processes where the eventual location of cultural materials may not represent the actual location of use or storage. Artifacts may have been carried away from the site or redistributed due to cultural or natural processes. Geochemical resi dues and/or signatures, however, often remain intact and, along with microscopic remains, can aid in reconstructing patterns of past human activity (Fernández et al. 2002).

    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
    Pages165-181
    Number of pages17
    ISBN (Electronic)9781607815440
    ISBN (Print)9781607815433
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

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