Ancient pithouse’s occupation spanned 1500 years

Archaeologists discovered a pithouse at Bridge River in the Fraser Canyon, British Columbia, Canada, which was occupied for 1500 years with three periods of abandonment – latest after the late fur-trading period from 1835 to 1858.

Excavations at the site (by PNG)

The excavations have produced the best documented, long-lived aboriginal house in the archaeological record of the region. According to archaeologists, about every 20 years, the Bridge River people built a new roof on the pithouse and a new layer of dirt floor as a living area. Each layer or floor reveals details specific to that time period, be it the rise and fall of salmon stocks, the creation of artwork such as pendants, the trade in iron and beads, the processing of deer pelts, even the raising of domestic dogs for human consumption. This particular pithouse has been excavated for four years. The research found 157 dog bones on various floors, several featuring cut marks from defleshing. The pithouse was not occupied consecutively for 1,500 years. It was abandoned three times, including about 1,000 years ago. A decline in salmon bones suggest fewer fish migrating through the Fraser Canyon during an era known as the Medieval Warm Period. The house also expanded in size and shape, at times rectangular or round, over the generations. At its peak, it might have housed 30-40 people. The top layer of the pithouse is thought to span the late fur-trading period from 1835 to 1858. Researchers found numerous artefacts of the period, including: Venetian glass beads painted red, green and white; an iron horseshoe; a finger ring; machine-made bone buttons; and three stone spindle whorls, suggesting weaving yarn from dog or mountain goat hair. The pithouse, which is part of a larger settlement, contains no evidence from the gold-rush starting in 1858 in the area, she said. After that, aboriginals are thought to have lived in cabins.

(after Vancouver Sun & PNG)

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