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Hakai: The Archaeology Story

June 5, 2015

Hakai - The Archaeology Story

Video by Grant Callegari and Jimmy Thomson

Hakai's Calvert Island field station is home to some stunning archaeology, and the field season is well underway.

This part of the central coast is among the very few places worldwide with a sea level that has remained essentially constant since the last ice age, a boon for scientists looking to study how people have lived for the past 15,000 years. It also means the sites have piled up over time, accruing more and more information to be studied today.

"We're able to access the same shorelines that people have been using in the past, and also in very close to pre-glacial times," says Hakai archaeologist Duncan McLaren, an assistant professor at the University of Victoria. "There's only a few places in the world where you have a combination of isostatic depression and conditions where people were able to live on the coastal margins."

The area around Calvert Island is also home to several "wet sites", archaeological sites where the wet soil has kept wood and other organic matter saturated for thousands of years. This has preserved material that would otherwise have been destroyed by the elements or decayed over time in drier conditions. Some amazing finds have resulted from this, like a double-pointed implement possibly used to gather sea urchins, and a narrow wooden tool that may have been used as a spear thrower. 

Finally, the archaeology at Hakai benefits tremendously from close partnerships with the Wuikinuxv and Heiltsuk First Nations, communities that have strong cultural understandings of how the area has been used. 

"It opens your mind up to new ideas as an archaeologist, things you may not have thought of," says Hakai archaeologist Farid Rahemtulla from the University of Northern British Columbia. "People who live on this land know how to do it better than any of us."