Damien Marie AtHope’s Art


Prehistoric Egypt 40,000 years ago to The First Dynasty 5,150 years ago

The anthropology of hunter-gatherers: key themes for archaeologists

by Vicki Cummings

Certainly, there are very few people on earth today who make a living solely by hunting and gathering, although there are many people whose ancestors did (Native Americans or First Nations in North America, Aboriginal communities in Australia and a variety of other peoples in Africa, South America, Asia and Europe). However, only 500 years ago, one third of the world had native hunter-gatherer populations. Many of these peoples were first encountered by Europeans as part of colonial expansion, and these early encounters were hugely variable. However, the study of people (anthropology) has only existed as a distinct discipline since the nineteenth century, coming of age, along with archaeology, in the early twentieth century. Thus the study of hunting and gathering populations by anthropologists has taken place within a more recent historical and cultural context. Specifically, scholars have only been visiting hunter-gatherers and writing about them in any detail within the last hundred years or so.” ref

“Many of the earliest accounts were themselves set within very specific agendas relating to the justification of colonialism. hus, the vast majority of accounts of living hunter-gatherer populations have been created in the last hundred years and within a particular historical context, that of the colonial or post-colonial era. By this point, these groups had already undergone radical changes. The term ‘modern hunter-gatherer’, then, primarily relates to those groups who have been practising some form of hunting and gathering and who have been written about by anthropologists in the last hundred or so years. Moreover, we have access to accounts of recent hunter-gatherers through other means, primarily historical accounts, and other surviving evidence such as photographs, structures and material culture. here are also a number of surviving peoples who no longer practice hunting and gathering but retain knowledge of this lifestyle and/or related beliefs.ref

“Some of the earliest Antiquarian accounts of prehistory often used newly encountered peoples in the New World as comparisons for past peoples. The nineteenth century saw an increased interest in the past, and the beginnings of the development of archaeology as a distinct academic discipline, and from the 1860s onwards this included a growing use of ethnographic accounts. In particular, comparisons were made between modern societies who were not as technologically advanced as the western, European world and ancient societies. Inspired by Darwinian evolution, it was suggested that human societies went through a series of developments from ‘simple’ to ‘complex’. his theory was strengthened by the creation of the three-age system, introduced into Europe in the nineteenth century. Archaeologists began to interpret the development of societies as uni-linear. his meant that they thought people got progressively more advanced, technologically, economically, and socially and that once a certain stage of development was achieved, they would not revert to earlier technologies or economies. Archaeologists were, therefore, able to arrange modern cultures from simplest to most complex (the simplest being extant hunter-gatherers and the most complex being western Europeans). By doing so, nineteenth-century archaeologists also illustrated the stages through which cultures had developed in prehistoric times.ref

“In fact, archaeologists at this time began to rely more on ethnographic analogies than on the archaeological data (Trigger 1989). his attitude tied in with broader political agendas, particularly colonialism, and the widespread annihilation or assimilation of native populations throughout much of the New World. hese ideas were rejected at the start of the twentieth century as part of the new ‘culture-historical’ approach, which sought to understand past peoples not through analogy, but by studying sets of material culture. he culture-historical approach is exemplified by the work of Gordon Childe from the 1920s onwards, who sought to identify past archaeological cultures through object assemblages. This approach was enormously influential, but culture-history was increasingly criticized from the mid-twentieth century onwards, and it is this period which is crucial in the story of ethnographic analogy. First, the 1950s saw important work from an ‘ecological’ perspective. Of particular note is Julian Steward’s notion of cultural ecology, but an interest in the environment was also being explored elsewhere. Secondly, this work in turn inspired the development of the ‘New Archaeology’ or ‘processual’ archaeology in the 1960s, which remains significant in many parts of the world today. hirdly, as part of this, ‘ethnoarchaeology’ was increasingly employed as a way of understanding the past. Finally, the study of hunter-gatherers really emerged as a sub-discipline in the 1960s. Processualism developed in the 1960s in America, as a backlash against the descriptive archaeologies being written from a culture-historical perspective, while drawing on the new cultural ecology. Binford (1962) suggested that the aims of archaeology should be the same as those of anthropology, namely to study the behaviour, and the social and cultural development of humans. Indeed, his overall aim was for archaeologists to elicit a series of generalizations from the ethnographic record that could then be applied cross-culturally.ref

“The ethnoarchaeology of hunter-gatherers in the 1960s and 1970s was important, and shaped the discipline as we know it today. However, criticisms of the New Archaeology began to emerge in the early 1980s. One of the major criticisms of processualism was the widespread use of ethnographic analogy in understanding the past. It was argued that this involved forcing the archaeological data to fit the ethnographic record, which had been noted as a potential problem back in the 1960s. his did not fit into the call for contextually specific and historically situated archaeological narratives. he new post-processual approach also criticized the search for general laws, and the notion that these generalizations could be applied cross-culturally. Post-processual archaeologists also did not like the idea that people simply responded to environmental stimuli like mindless automatons (environmental determinism). Hodder, and others, called instead for more detailed studies of material culture as the way forward in interpreting the archaeological record (e.g. Hodder 1982; Tilley 1991). Human action was meaningfully constituted, they argued, and they also suggested a focus on areas beyond the economy and the environment. hey suggested that there were other areas of past people’s lives which were interesting to explore and discuss, such as what people thought about the world (belief systems and ideologies), the meaning of material culture (beyond the fact that it helped people survive in an environment), the symbolic use of space and the landscape.ref

I (Damien) was wondering if the Indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest, pre-contact, made clam farms 3,500 years ago and another aquaculture. Is that not like agriculture, which is seen as not “hunter-gatherers” anymore, or not only just even complex hunter-gatherers, but somewhat mixed with something agriculture-like and yet heavily hunter-gatherers? Why not both? Why do we have to force a choice of limiting it to one or the other way rather than letting the actual cultures guide us to what they fit? If they fit a little of both, then why not both?

An Archaeologist responded:

This is actually a really interesting theoretical question/concept. Often, the argument is about the level of management/maintenance that goes into the food resource that separates hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists. In my opinion, it’s one of those things that don’t have a strict distinction. Thanks for asking and seeking information about the past!” – Jeffrey (JT) Lewis @jtlewis_arch (Southeastern archaeologist. MA, RPA. PhD Grad Student at OU)

“Categorisation often causes more problems than it started with.  Really these things are matters of degree.  Even in mediæval and modern societies, there are hunters and gatherers, only with restrictions on who can do these things.  (Land access.) Similarly there are degrees of aquaculture – fish traps, temporary containment ponds in rivers, more permanent structures, all at different sizes.  All these have been used and continue to be, alongside nets and line fishing.” – Electropict @electropict@mastodon.scot

“I heard a wonderful presentation this morning by Lynn Gamble, an archaeologist at UCSB who has been doing research for 14 years at sites on the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara. She’s found evidence for hunter-gatherer social complexity based on the use of red abalone at 6000-5000 years ago. Hunters and gatherers can do amazing things.” – John Hoopes @KUHoopes (John’s principal training is in archaeology, and his interests include Pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica, the Isthmo-Colombian Area, the Pan-Caribbean Area, northern South America, and the Central Andes. John’s current research interests include interpretations of Pre-Columbian art and iconography, “shamanism,” and popular perceptions of archaeology as manifest in pseudoarchaeology, pseudoscience, and mythology in contemporary culture)

“Complex Hunter-gatherer is an interesting topic. Pseudo-archaeology lovers don’t find Hunter-gatherers interesting; it used to happen to me as well when I believed in this stuff. Now, I think Hunter-gatherers were awesome, even though the European neolithic farmers, are probably my favorite ancient group. It’s important to share Hunter-gatherers’ knowledge; you never know who can eventually see things differently. Jimmy, a few days ago, was laughing at the possibility that HGs built GT. No evidence of farming so far, but these guys are never happy. Even if you tell them, ok, let’s assume they were already farming, it’s still not enough. For Hancock, the neolithic farmers who built the temples in Malta, were also unsophisticated, so he does not want to credit them.” – Ancient Puzzles @AncientPuzzles

My response, Yes, I think people disregard the evidence showing how amazing hunger-gatherers could be.

I am adding screenshots of archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians talking about pseudoarchaeologist/Pseudohistorian thinkers or Alternative History (Alt History) adherents and their followers. I am doing this to show how important it is to learn actual history and fight pseudo-history and how this is relevant today. The topic of “hunter-gatherers” is common in pseudoarchaeology/Pseudohistory, even when not clearly stated as such. Such as how they use a flawed conception of “hunter-gatherers” as limited to primitive and incapable of complexity. This is seen in direct comments, but also in more hidden thinking against the simple “hunter-gatherers” by saying that some ancient culture was “advanced,” pitting this “ancient advanced civilization” idea against an unstated thinking about simple “hunter-gatherers.”

“Pseudoarchaeology—also known as alternative archaeologyfringe archaeologyfantastic archaeologycult archaeology, and spooky archaeology—is the interpretation of the past by people who are not professional archaeologists and who reject or ignore the accepted data gathering and analytical methods of the discipline.” ref

“Pseudohistory is a form of pseudoscholarship that attempts to distort or misrepresent the historical record, often by employing methods resembling those used in scholarly historical research. Pseudohistory is related to pseudoscience and pseudoarchaeology, and usage of the terms may occasionally overlap.” ref

As conjecture based upon historical fact, alternate history stories propose What if? Scenarios (collages of an event or series of actions and events) about crucial events in human history present outcomes that are very different from those of historical records. Some alternate histories are considered a subgenre of science fiction, or historical fiction. Often described as a subgenre of science fiction, alternative history is a genre of fiction wherein the author speculates upon how the course of history might have been altered if a particular historical event had an outcome different from the real-life outcome” ref

“Did an advanced civilization disappear more than 12,000 years ago? No, there wasn’t an advanced civilization 12,000 years ago, as Hancock believes. Graham Hancock is an audacious individual who believes that long before ancient Mesopotamia, Babylonia, and Egypt, there existed an even more glorious civilization. One so thoroughly wiped out by a comet strike around 12,000 years ago that nearly all evidence of its existence vanished, leaving only the faintest of traces. No matter how devastating an extraterrestrial impact might be, are we to believe that after centuries of flourishing every last tool, potsherd, article of clothing, and, presumably from an advanced civilization, writing, metallurgy, and other technologies—not to mention trash—was all erased? Inconceivable. Hancock grounds his case primarily in the argument from ignorance (because scientists cannot explain X, then Y is a legitimate theory) or the argument from personal incredulity (because I cannot explain X, then my Y theory is valid). This is the type of “God of the gaps” reasoning that creationists employ, only in Hancock’s case, the gods are the “magicians” who brought us civilization.” ref


My favorite “Graham Hancock” Quote?

“In what archaeologists have studied, yes, we can say there is NO Evidence of an advanced civilization.” – (Time 1:27) Joe Rogan Experience #2136 – Graham Hancock & Flint Dibble

Help the Valentine fight against pseudoarchaeology!!!
In a world of “Hancocks” supporting evidence lacking claims, be a “John Hoopes” supporting what evidence explains.
Graham Hancock: @Graham__Hancock
John Hoopes: @KUHoopes

“Netflix’s Ancient Apocalypse scraps US filming plans after an outcry from Native American groups. Hit show’s British host Graham Hancock has been criticized for promoting fringe beliefs about advanced lost civilization.” ref

To my (Damien) understanding, all plant evidence at Göbekli Tepe was not domesticated plants, and it was not fully agricultural, so Complex Hunter-Gatherers seems a good term to explain the builders of Göbekli Tepe. This was so until around the time of Catal Hoyuk (around 9,000 years ago), who likely had some of the earliest domesticated plants related to agriculture.

Here are my blog posts for both Göbekli Tepe and Catal Hoyuk:

Gobekli Tepe: First Temple, Early Paganism Themes, Sky Burial, Skull Cult, T-pillar Site Similarities, Obsidian Trade, Agriculture Revolution, and Megalith Cultures

Catal Huyuk “first religious designed city” around 9,500 to 7,700 years ago (Turkey)

Catal Huyuk was not only the “first religious designed city,” but it was also a “city of equality” where women and men held equal status.

Quick Understanding of Complex Hunter-Gatherers

“Complex hunter-gatherers are hunter-gatherers whose cultures and societies have cultural, social, and economic traits that anthropologists and other scholars had long assumed required agriculture for them to develop. Permanent inequality is the trait that has attracted the most attention among archaeologists, but others include large, dense populations; large, relatively permanent settlements; and intensive economies among other characteristics. First widely recognized by archaeologists in the late 1970s, they have been a focus of major research efforts since. This research has been a testing ground for many theories about the origins and evolution of social complexity, especially of the origins and development of permanent inequality in small-scale societies.” ref

“A hunter-gatherer or forager is a human living in a community, or according to an ancestrally derived lifestyle, in which most or all food is obtained by foraging, that is, by gathering food from local naturally occurring sources, especially edible wild plants but also insects, fungi, honey, bird eggs, or anything safe to eat, and/or by hunting game (pursuing and/or trapping and killing wild animals, including catching fish). This is a common practice among most vertebrates that are omnivores. Hunter-gatherer societies stand in contrast to the more sedentary agricultural societies, which rely mainly on cultivating crops and raising domesticated animals for food production, although the boundaries between the two ways of living are not completely distinct. Hunting and gathering was humanity’s original and most enduring successful competitive adaptation in the natural world, occupying at least 90 percent of human history. Following the invention of agriculture, hunter-gatherers who did not change were displaced or conquered by farming or pastoralist groups in most parts of the world.” ref

Hunting and gathering was presumably the subsistence strategy employed by human societies beginning some 1.8 million years ago, by Homo erectus, and from its appearance some 200,000 years ago by Homo sapiens. Prehistoric hunter-gatherers lived in groups that consisted of several families resulting in a size of a few dozen people. It remained the only mode of subsistence until the end of the Mesolithic period some 10,000 years ago, and after this was replaced only gradually with the spread of the Neolithic Revolution. The Late Pleistocene witnessed the spread of modern humans outside of Africa as well as the extinction of all other human species. Humans spread to the Australian continent and the Americas for the first time, coincident with the extinction of numerous predominantly megafaunal species. Major extinctions were incurred in Australia beginning approximately 50,000 years ago and in the Americas about 15,000 years ago. Ancient North Eurasians lived in extreme conditions of the mammoth steppes of Siberia and survived by hunting mammoths, bison and woolly rhinoceroses. The settlement of the Americas began when Paleolithic hunter-gatherers entered North America from the North Asian mammoth steppe via the Beringia land bridge.” ref

“Starting at the transition between the Middle to Upper Paleolithic period, some 80,000 to 70,000 years ago, some hunter-gatherer bands began to specialize, concentrating on hunting a smaller selection of (often larger) game and gathering a smaller selection of food. This specialization of work also involved creating specialized tools such as fishing nets, hooks, and bone harpoons. The transition into the subsequent Neolithic period is chiefly defined by the unprecedented development of nascent agricultural practices. Agriculture originated as early as 12,000 years ago in the Middle East, and also independently originated in many other areas including Southeast Asia, parts of AfricaMesoamerica, and the Andes. Forest gardening was also being used as a food production system in various parts of the world over this period.” ref

“Across Western Eurasia it was not until approximately 4,000 BCE that farming and metallurgical societies completely replaced hunter-gatherers. These technologically advanced societies expanded faster in areas with less forest, pushing hunter-gatherers into denser woodlands. Only the middle-late Bronze Age and Iron Age societies were able to fully replace hunter-gatherers in their final stronghold located in the most densely forested areas. Unlike their Bronze and Iron Age counterparts, Neolithic societies couldn’t establish themselves in dense forests, and Copper Age societies had only limited success. In addition to men, women engage in hunting in 79% of modern hunter-gatherer societies. Only a few contemporary societies of uncontacted people are still classified as hunter-gatherers, and many supplement their foraging activity with horticulture or pastoralism.” ref


“Agroforestry (also known as agro-sylviculture or forest farming) is a land use management system that integrates trees with crops or pasture. It combines agricultural and forestry technologies. As a polyculture system, an agroforestry system can produce timber and wood products, fruitsnuts, other edible plant products, edible mushroomsmedicinal plantsornamental plants, animals and animal products, and other products from both domesticated and wild species. Since prehistoric times, hunter-gatherers might have influenced forests, for instance in Europe by Mesolithic people bringing favored plants like hazel with them. Forest gardens are probably the world’s oldest form of land use and most resilient agroecosystem. First Nation villages in Alaska with forest gardens filled with nuts, stone fruit, berries, and herbs, were noted by an archeologist from the Smithsonian in the 1930s. Forest gardens are still common in the tropics and known as Kandyan forest gardens in Sri Lanka; huertos familiares, family orchards in Mexico; agroforests; or shrub gardens. They have been shown to be a significant source of income and food security for local populations.” ref

“The term “agroforestry” was coined in 1973 by Canadian forester John Bene, but the concept includes agricultural practices that have existed for millennia. Scientific agroforestry began in the 20th century with ethnobotanical studies carried out by anthropologists. However, indigenous communities that have lived in close relationships with forest ecosystems have practiced agroforestry informally for centuries. For example, Indigenous peoples of California periodically burned oak and other habitats to maintain a ‘pyrodiversity collecting model,’ which allowed for improved tree health and habitat conditions. Likewise, Native Americans in the eastern United States extensively altered their environment and managed land as a “mosaic” of woodland areas, orchards, and forest gardens. Agroforestry in the tropics is ancient and widespread throughout various tropical areas of the world, notably in the form of “tropical home gardens.” ref

“Some “tropical home garden” plots have been continuously cultivated for centuries. A “home garden” in Central America could contain 25 different species of trees and food crops on just one-tenth of an acre. “Tropical home gardens” are traditional systems developed over time by growers without formalized research or institutional support, and are characterized by a high complexity and diversity of useful plants, with a canopy of tree and palm species that produce food, fuel, and shade, a mid-story of shrubs for fruit or spices, and an understory of root vegetables, medicinal herbs, beans, ornamental plants, and other non-woody crops. Relatively little formal study has been devoted to these systems, even though they are essential to the lives of many people in the tropics.” ref

“The Amazon rainforest, rather than being a pristine wilderness, has been shaped by humans for at least 11,000 years through practices such as forest gardening and terra preta. Since the 1970s, numerous geoglyphs have been discovered on deforested land in the Amazon rainforest, furthering the evidence of pre-Columbian civilizations. On the Yucatán Peninsula, much of the Maya food supply was grown in “orchard gardens”, known as pet kot. The system takes its name from the low wall of stones (pet meaning ‘circular’ and kot, ‘wall of loose stones’) that characteristically surrounds the gardens.” ref 

“The environmental historian William Cronon argued in his 1983 book Changes in the Land that indigenous North Americans used controlled burning to form ideal habitat for wild game. The natural environment of New England was sculpted into a mosaic of habitats. When indigenous Americans hunted, they were “harvesting a foodstuff which they had consciously been instrumental in creating”. Most English settlers, however, assumed that the wealth of food provided by the forest was a result of natural forces, and that indigenous people lived off “the unplanted bounties of nature.” Animal populations declined after settlement, while fields of strawberries and raspberries found by the earliest settlers became overgrown and disappeared for want of maintenance.” ref


Aquaculture (less commonly spelled aquiculture), also known as aquafarming, is the controlled cultivation (“farming”) of aquatic organisms such as fish, crustaceans, mollusks, algae and other organisms of value such as aquatic plants (e.g. lotus). Aquaculture involves cultivating freshwater, brackish water and saltwater populations under controlled or semi-natural conditions, and can be contrasted with commercial fishing, which is the harvesting of wild fish. Aquaculture is also a practice used for restoring and rehabilitating marine and freshwater ecosystems.  Mariculture, commonly known as marine farming, is aquaculture in seawater habitats and lagoons, as opposed to freshwater aquaculture. Pisciculture is a type of aquaculture that consists of fish farming to obtain fish products as food.” ref

“Aquaculture can also be defined as the breeding, growing, and harvesting of fish and other aquatic plants, also known as farming in water. It is an environmental source of food and commercial product which help to improve healthier habitats and used to reconstruct population of endangered aquatic species. Technology has increased the growth of fish in coastal marine waters and open oceans due to the increased demand for seafood. The Gunditjmara, a local Aboriginal Australian people in south-western Victoria, Australia, may have raised short-finned eels as early as about 4,580 BCE. Evidence indicates they developed about 100 km2 (39 sq mi) of volcanic floodplains in the vicinity of Lake Condah into a complex of channels and dams, and used woven traps to capture eels, and to preserve them to eat all year round. The local Budj Bim Cultural Landscape, a World Heritage Site, is one of the oldest known aquaculture sites in the world.” ref

Oral tradition in China tells of the culture of the common carp, Cyprinus carpio, as long ago as 2000–2100 BCE (around 4,000 years ago), but the earliest significant evidence lies in the literature, in the earliest monograph on fish culture called The Classic of Fish Culture, by Fan Li, written around 475 BCE (c. 2475 years ago). Another ancient Chinese guide to aquaculture , wriiten by Yang Yu Jing around 460 BCE, shows that carp farming was becoming more sophisticated. The Jiahu site in China has circumstantial archeological evidence as possibly the oldest aquaculture locations, dating from 6200 BCE (about 8,200 years ago), but this is speculative. When the waters subsided after river floods, some fish, mainly carp, were trapped in lakes. Early aquaculturists fed their brood using nymphs and silkworm faeces, and ate them.” ref

Ancient Egyptians might have farmed fish (especially gilt-head bream) from Lake Bardawil about 1,500 BCE (about 3,500 years ago), and they traded them with CanaanGim cultivation is the oldest aquaculture in Korea. Early cultivation methods used bamboo or oak sticks; newer methods utilizing nets replaced them in the 19th century. Japanese people cultivated seaweed by providing bamboo poles and, later, nets and oyster shells to serve as anchoring-surfaces for spores. Hawaiians constructed oceanic fish ponds. A remarkable example is the “Menehune” fishpond dating from at least 1,000 years ago, at Alekoko. Legend records its construction by the mythical Menehune dwarf-people.” ref

Aquaculture can be conducted in completely artificial facilities built on land (onshore aquaculture), as in the case of fish tank, ponds, aquaponics or raceways, where the living conditions rely on human control such as water quality (oxygen), feed, temperature. Alternatively, they can be conducted on well-sheltered shallow waters nearshore of a body of water (inshore aquaculture), where the cultivated species are subjected to a relatively more naturalistic environments; or on fenced/enclosed sections of open water away from the shore (offshore aquaculture), where the species are either cultured in cages, racks or bags, and are exposed to more diverse natural conditions such as water currents (such as ocean currents), diel vertical migration and nutrient cycles.” ref

“In the first half of the 18th century, German Stephan Ludwig Jacobi experimented with external fertilization of brown trout and salmon. He wrote an article “Von der künstlichen Erzeugung der Forellen und Lachse” (On the Artificial Production of Trout and Salmon) summarizing his findings, and earning him a reputation as the founder of artificial fish-rearing. By the latter decades of the 18th century, oyster-farming had begun in estuaries along the Atlantic Coast of North America. The word “aquaculture” appeared in an 1855 newspaper article in reference to the harvesting of ice. It also appeared in descriptions of the terrestrial agricultural practise of sub-irrigation in the late-19th century before becoming associated primarily with the cultivation of aquatic plant- and animal-species. (The Oxford English Dictionary records the common modern usage of “aquaculture” from 1887; and that of “aquiculture” from 1867.)” ref


“Permaculture is an approach to land management and settlement design that adopts arrangements observed in flourishing natural ecosystems. It includes a set of design principles derived using whole-systems thinking. It applies these principles in fields such as regenerative agriculture, town planning, rewilding, and community resilience. Permaculture emphasizes patterns of landscape, function, and species assemblies. It determines where these elements should be placed so they can provide maximum benefit to the local environment. Permaculture maximizes synergy of the final design. The focus of permaculture, therefore, is not on individual elements, but rather on the relationships among them. The aim is for the whole to become greater than the sum of its parts, minimizing waste, human labour, and energy input, and to and maximize benefits through synergy. Edward Faulkner’s 1943 book Plowman’s Folly, King’s 1946 pamphlet “Is Digging Necessary?”, A. Guest’s 1948 book “Gardening without Digging”, and Fukuoka’s “Do Nothing Farming” all advocated forms of no-till or no-dig gardening. No-till gardening seeks to minimise disturbance to the soil community so as to maintain soil structure and organic matter.” ref

“Low-effort permaculture favours perennial crops which do not require tilling and planting every year. Annual crops inevitably require more cultivation. They can be incorporated into permaculture by using traditional techniques such as crop rotation, intercropping, and companion planting so that pests and weeds of individual annual crop species do not build up, and minerals used by specific crop plants do not become successively depleted. Companion planting aims to make use of beneficial interactions between species of cultivated plants. Such interactions include pest control, pollination, providing habitat for beneficial insects, and maximizing use of space; all of these may help to increase productivity. Rainwater harvesting is the accumulation and storage of rainwater for reuse before it runs off or reaches the aquifer. It has been used to provide drinking water, water for livestock, and water for irrigation, as well as other typical uses.” ref

Agroforestry uses the interactive benefits from combining trees and shrubs with crops or livestock. It combines agricultural and forestry technologies to create more diverse, productive, profitable, healthy and sustainable land-use systems. Forest gardens or food forests are permaculture systems designed to mimic natural forests. Forest gardens incorporate processes and relationships that the designers understand to be valuable in natural ecosystems. Permaculture derives its origin from agriculture, although the same principles, especially its foundational ethics, can also be applied to mariculture, particularly seaweed farming. In Marine Permacultureartificial upwelling of cold, deep ocean water is induced. Natural building involves using a range of building systems and materials that apply permaculture principles. The focus is on durability and the use of minimally processed, plentiful, or renewable resources, as well as those that, while recycled or salvaged, produce healthy living environments and maintain indoor air quality.” ref 


“No true Scotsman or appeal to purity is an informal fallacy in which one attempts to protect an a posteriori claim from a falsifying counterexample by covertly modifying the initial claim. Rather than admitting error or providing evidence that would disqualify the falsifying counterexample, the claim is modified into an a priori claim in order to definitionally exclude the undesirable counterexample. The modification is signalled by the use of non-substantive rhetoric such as “true”, “pure”, “genuine”, “authentic”, “real”, etc.” ref

As one good at philosophy, I totally agree with you John. I truly appreciate your thoughtful words and knowledge. You are a bright light in the world of prehistoric archaeology and anthropology. I also love that you adress and support philosophy. You rock. Be like John!

I defend and support archaeologists as I would when any scientists are being unjustly attacked. 

Damien Marie AtHope: @AthopeMarie

Damien Marie AtHope: Blog

Burden of proof (philosophy)

The burden of proof (Latinonus probandi, shortened from Onus probandi incumbit ei qui dicit, non ei qui negat – the burden of proof lies with the one who speaks, not the one who denies) is the obligation on a party in a dispute to provide sufficient warrant for its position. When two parties are in a discussion, and one makes a claim that the other disputes, the one who makes the claim typically has a burden of proof to justify or substantiate that claim, especially when it challenges a perceived status quo. This is also stated in Hitchens’s razor, which declares that “what may be asserted without evidence may be dismissed without evidence.” Carl Sagan proposed a related criterion – “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” – which is known as the Sagan standard.” ref

Hitchens’s razor

Hitchens’s razor is an epistemological razor that serves as a general rule for rejecting certain knowledge claims. It states “what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence“. The razor was created by and later named after author and journalist Christopher Hitchens (1949–2011). It implies that the burden of proof regarding the truthfulness of a claim lies with the one who makes the claim; if this burden is not met, then the claim is unfounded, and its opponents need not argue further in order to dismiss it. Hitchens used this phrase specifically in the context of refuting religious belief.” ref

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” (sometimes shortened to ECREE), also known as the Sagan standard, is an aphorism popularized by science communicator Carl Sagan. He used the phrase in his 1979 book Broca’s Brain and the 1980 television program Cosmos. It has been described as fundamental to the scientific method and is regarded as encapsulating the basic principles of scientific skepticism. The concept is similar to Occam’s razor in that both heuristics prefer simpler explanations of a phenomenon to more complicated ones. In application, there is some ambiguity regarding when evidence is deemed sufficiently “extraordinary.” It is often invoked to challenge data and scientific findings, or to criticize pseudoscientific claims. Some critics have argued that the standard can suppress innovation and affirm confirmation biases. Philosopher David Hume characterized the principle in his 1748 essay “Of Miracles.” Similar statements were made by figures such as Thomas Jefferson in 1808, Pierre-Simon Laplace in 1814, and Théodore Flournoy in 1899. The formulation “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof” was used a year prior to Sagan, by scientific skeptic Marcello Truzzi.” ref

“90,000 years ago, Africans in Congo were undertaking fishing expeditions to catch giant fishes.” ref

“Fishing is an ancient practice in Africa, dating back 100,000 years, when modern humans started moving into coastal environments. The remains of thousands of fish bones and shellfish from sites on the southern African coastline dating to the Middle Stone Age testify to its antiquity. At the same time that human populations in Africa were developing more sophisticated terrestrial hunting technologies, they were also acquiring innovative and productive fishing and riverine hunting skills. Concomitantly, marine shells were being collected to thread on to twine, probably for use as items of personal ornamentation. Archaeological research has shown that aquatic environments have been exploited for both subsistence and cultural purposes for tens of thousands of years.” ref

“Fish bones have been found at sites in southern Africa – those at the Blombos Cave in South Africa, for example, date from 140,000 years ago – but they have generally been from inshore species whose capture would require less complex technology2. A small number of tuna vertebrae have been found, but these can be attributed to scavenging of fish washed up on beaches, says Richard Klein, an archaeologist at Stanford University in California, who has worked extensively in the region.” ref

“First deep-sea fish likely using fish hooks, dated to 42,000 years ago.” ref

“It seems that people invented boats, probably before 100,000 BCE. and around 50,000 BCE, they make fish-hooks in Africa.” ref


“Abstract: While the North American archaeological record signals the presence of early humans along the northeastern Pacific coast by the Late Pleistocene, we know little about the technological systems employed by these coastally oriented colonizing groups. We here report the discovery of the earliest unequivocal evidence for the use and manufacture of shell fishhooks in the western hemisphere. Four single-piece shell fishhooks dating to the terminal Pleistocene/early Holocene transition (between ~11,300 and 10,700 years ago) have been excavated on Isla Cedros, Baja, California, Mexico. One hook is directly dated at 9495 years ago with a marine reservoir–corrected age of 11,165–9185 years ago. Radiocarbon ages associated with three other shell fishhooks range between 8900 years ago and 10,415 years ago, while median ages for the earliest contexts confirm occupation of the island by at least 12,600–12,000 years ago. The stratigraphic levels from which the fishhooks were recovered contained a diverse assemblage of fish remains, including deepwater species, indicative of boat use. Thus, some of the earliest known inhabitants of the Pacific coast of the Americas employed shell hook and line technology for offshore marine fishing at least by the Pleistocene-Holocene transition, if not earlier.” ref

Daycares in Finland Grew Forests, And It Changed Kids’ Immune Systems

Playing through the greenery and litter of a mini forest’s undergrowth for just one month may be enough to change a child’s immune system, according to an experiment in Finland. When daycare workers rolled out a lawn, planted forest undergrowth (such as dwarf heather and blueberries), and allowed children to care for crops in planter boxes, the diversity of microbes in the guts and on the skin of the young kids appeared healthier in a very short space of time. Compared to other city kids who play in standard urban daycares with yards of pavement, tile, and gravel, 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds at these greened-up daycare centers in Finland showed increased T-cells and other important immune markers in their blood within 28 days. “We also found that the intestinal microbiota of children who received greenery was similar to the intestinal microbiota of children visiting the forest every day,” explained environmental scientist Marja Roslund from the University of Helsinki in 2020, when the research was published.” ref

Prior research has shown early exposure to green space is somehow linked to a well-functioning immune system, but it’s still not entirely clear whether that relationship is causal or not. The experiment in Finland was the first to explicitly manipulate a child’s urban environment and then test for changes in their microbiome and, in turn, a child’s immune system. While the findings don’t hold all the answers, they do support a leading idea – namely that a change in environmental microbes can relatively easily affect a well-established microbiome in children, giving their immune system a helping hand in the process. The notion that an environment rich in living things impacts on our immunity is known as the ‘biodiversity hypothesis’. Based on that hypothesis, a loss of biodiversity in urban areas could be at least partially responsible for the recent rise in immune-related illnesses. “The results of this study support the biodiversity hypothesis and the concept that low biodiversity in the modern living environment may lead to an un-educated immune system and consequently increase the prevalence of immune-mediated diseases,” the authors explained in the 2020 study.” ref

City trees reduce daytime heat.

Planting trees is generally thought to be a good strategy for mitigating the urban heat island effect, the tendency for cities to be several degrees warmer than surrounding rural areas. A study published April 9 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences takes a first crack at providing some quantitative answers. It suggests that trees are especially important for keeping heat in check during the day. “The magnitude of cooling at any given location depended on the relative amounts of canopy cover and impervious surface in the surrounding landscape,” the researchers write. The higher the percentage of tree cover in the surrounding area, the lower the temperature. But, overall, “the relative benefit of increased canopy cover in the surrounding landscape exceeded that of reducing impervious surface cover” in terms of reducing daytime temperatures. Where canopy cover was at least 40% within a radius of 60 to 90 meters (roughly the scale of a city block), “the warming effect of impervious surfaces was effectively countered by the cooling effect of trees,” the researchers report. The researchers also found that tree canopy cover has the strongest effects on daytime temperatures on the hottest summer days. “Thus, the benefit of growing the urban canopy may be amplified on days with more extreme heat,” the researchers write.” ref

5 Ways Trees Benefit All of Us

#1: Trees eat the greenhouse gases that cause climate change, #2: Trees boost our mental health while raising our physical health, #3: Trees clean the air so we can breathe more easily, #4: Trees cool down your life, and could even save it, #5: Trees filter your water, making your drinking supply cleaner and more reliable.” ref


“Rock art showing humans interacting with ice age animals. Thousands of images drawn during the last ice age were found in the Amazon Rainforest. Some of the rock art has faded over the millennia.” ref

“Researchers in the Amazon rainforest uncovered an extraordinary “canvas” made up of drawings of mastodons, giant sloths, and other extinct beasts, which is up to 12,600 years old. The ancient artists used the red pigment ochre to create the monumental artwork, which spans some 13 kilometers (eight miles) of rock on the hills of the Colombian Amazon. Robinson and his team believe that indigenous people began painting these images at the archaeological site of Serranía La Lindosa, on the northern edge of the Colombian Amazon, towards the end of the last ice age. During this period, which occurred between 12,600 and 11,800 years ago, “the Amazon was still transforming into the tropical forest we recognize today,” Robinson said.” ref

Human-altered Amazon rainforest?

“The Amazon rainforest, also called Amazon jungle or Amazonia, is a moist broadleaf tropical rainforest in the Amazon biome that covers most of the Amazon basin of South America. This region includes territory belonging to nine nations and 3,344 formally acknowledged indigenous territories. The majority of the forest, 60%, is in Brazil, followed by Peru with 13%, Colombia with 10%. The Amazon represents over half of Earth‘s remaining rainforests, and comprises the largest and most biodiverse tract of tropical rainforest in the world, with an estimated 390 billion individual trees in about 16,000 species. Based on archaeological evidence from an excavation at Caverna da Pedra Pintada, human inhabitants first settled in the Amazon region at least 11,200 years ago. ” ref

“The BBC’s Unnatural Histories presented evidence that the Amazon rainforest, rather than being a pristine wilderness, has been shaped by man for at least 11,000 years through practices such as forest gardening and terra preta. Terra preta is found over large areas in the Amazon forest; and is now widely accepted as a product of indigenous soil management. The development of this fertile soil allowed agriculture and silviculture in the previously hostile environment; meaning that large portions of the Amazon rainforest are probably the result of centuries of human management, rather than naturally occurring as has previously been supposed. In the millennia before European colonizers invaded the Amazon rain forest, throngs of Indigenous people moved mountains of dirt to create some 10,000 yet-to-be-identified earthworks across the region. And two dozen sites where massive amounts of dirt formed circular and rectangular geoglyphs, settlements, and religious sites. Based on what the researchers knew about such structures, they estimated the huge number of these mysterious constructions that are likely hidden somewhere beneath still unsearched forest.” ref, ref


Silviculture is the practice of controlling the growth, composition/structure, as well as quality of forests to meet values and needs, specifically timber production. Silviculture also focuses on making sure that the treatment(s) of forest stands are used to conserve and improve their productivity. Generally, silviculture is the science and art of growing and cultivating forest [crops], based on a knowledge of silvics. The study of the life-history and general characteristics of forest trees and stands, with particular reference to local/regional factors. The focus of silviculture is the control, establishment and management of forest stands.” ref

Was the Neolithic Revolution Really a Revolution? No…

“Changes were gradual, spanning thousands of years, with no sudden abandonment of previous lifestyles. Thus, calling it a “revolution” may not be entirely accurate.” ref

The Change from “Hunting and Gathering” lifeways was from Prehistoric Farming?

Well, sometimes, the mix of used parts of different lifestyles, people don’t always fin neatly but do what is available or do what is needed but lacks full aspects found in several other styles.


Horticulture began with the domestication of plants 10,000-20,000 years ago, and has since, been deeply integrated into humanity’s history. It is important to note that the domestication of plants occurred independently within various civilizations, across the globe. The history of horticulture overlaps with the history of agriculture and history of botany, as all three originated with the domestication of various plants for food. In Europe, agriculture and horticulture diverged at some point during the Middle Ages. Early practices in horticulture include a number of various ways that people managed the land (using an assortment of tools), with a variety of methods and types of plants cultivated for a number of uses. Methods, tools and plants grown, have always depended on the culture and climate.” ref

“There are a number of traditional horticultural practices that we know of today: such as the Indigenous peoples of pre-colonized North America using biochar to enhance soil productivity by smoldering plant waste – European settlers called this soil Terra Preta de Indio. In North America, Indigenous people grew maize, squash, and sunflower – among other crops. Mesoamerican cultures focused on the cultivating of crops on a small scale, such as the milpa or maize field, around their dwellings or in specialized plots which were visited occasionally during migrations from one area to the next. In Central America, the Maya involved augmentation of the forest with useful trees such as papayaavocadocacaoceiba and sapodilla. In the fields, multiple crops such as beans, squash, pumpkins and chili peppers were grown. The first horticulturists in many cultures, were mainly or exclusively women.” ref

In addition to the medicinal and nutritional values that plants hold, plants have also been grown for their beauty, and to impress and demonstrate power, knowledge, status and even wealth of those in-control of the cultivated plant material. This symbolic power that plants hold has existed even before the beginnings of their cultivation. There is evidence that various gardens maintained by the Aztecs were sacred, as they grew plants that held religious value. Plants were grown for their metaphorical relation to Gods and Goddesses. Flowers held symbolic power in religious rites, as they were offered to the Gods, as well as were given in ceremonies to leaders to demonstrate their connection to the Gods.ref

“Horticultural societies are differentiated from hunting and gathering societies by the use of domesticated plants as the major basis for subsistence. Horticultural societies are technically differentiated from agrarian societies by their lack of plows and animal traction, and from pastoral societies because they do not make domesticated herd animals the main basis of subsistence. Many more people can be supported per km2 by investing effort in replacing relatively rare wild plant species that produce relatively few parts that humans can eat with masses of domesticated species that produce relatively great quantities of edible parts. People tend to have to work hard to plant, weed, harvest, and process food in horticultural systems. There is no assistance from animal or mechanical powered tools.” ref

“Horticultural societies have agricultural systems that are relatively unproductive per unit of human labor compared to plow agriculture, and more productive per unit land area than hunting and gathering., As figure 4-1 illustrates, this is a generalization about means; it does not tell us anything about the variance. Hunters and gatherers in the very best environments (e.g., the Northwest Coast) had local population densities that far exceed the very low densities of some horticulturalists of the tropical forests. Likewise, the best that horticulturalists can do in a favorable environment in this regard undoubtedly beats what the plowman can do in an unfavorable environment. When livestock becomes important enough that their herders become mobile, substantially different pastoral societies arise, although many horticulturalists keep some animals, and many pastoralists engage in some farming.” ref

“Horticulture first developed in the Middle East beginning about 9,500 years ago and by about 5,000 years ago this technology had spread far eastward and to the Atlantic in the West. Cattle and sheep herding developed very early, in association with the plant domesticates, chiefly wheat and barley, plus a substantial number of minor crops. Hence, with the availability of draft animals, agrarian societies arose relatively early from horticultural ones in W. Asia and Europe. North China, Mexico, and Peru were also earlier centers of horticulture. The tropical lowlands of East Asia, Africa, and South America appear to have developed horticulture based on tropical crops rather later than the four semiarid city centers.” ref

“Unlike the case with hunting and gathering societies, we have a rather large sample of contemporary horticultural societies. However, our sample is still rather biased relative to the historical record. A special type of horticulture, swidden cultivation, has turned out to be a quite durable adaptation to the wet tropics. Elsewhere, plow agriculture has tended to replace horticulture. For example, the Spanish brought cattle to the New World, and oxdrawn plows replaced horticulture in most of the drier and more temperate parts of “Latin” America fairly soon after the Conquest. Chroniclers with the conquistadors give us some picture of these societies. We know something more of the horticulture of the Native American of the Eastern half of the US, most of whom were forest horticulturalists, and of the peoples of the Southwestern US and N. Mexico, who were horticulturalists in semi-arid country. These societies persisted in fairly unmodified state into the 19th Century. Many people still depend upon horticulture in the wet tropics. You may have heard the somewhat old pejorative term “slash and burn” applied to swidden horticulture.” ref

Indigenous horticulture is practised in various ways across all inhabited continents. Indigenous refers to the native peoples of a given area and horticulture is the practice of small-scale intercroppingIt has often been thought that the slash-burn plots are abandoned after one or two years because of un productive soil, but this is a common misconception. The Kayapớ revisit abandoned fields because plants can offer direct and indirect benefits. One direct benefit would be the ability to eat that which has been produced and an indirect benefit would be that open fields allow attract game for hunting and can produce long after they have been tended.” ref

“The Southern region of South America is known as the Fuegian area and is occupied by the Chono, Alacaluf and Yahgan. These Marginal tribes differed greatly from the other regions in that they were expert in making bark or plank canoes and domesticating dogs, hunting, fishing and gathering. Nomads with simple socio-religious patterns, yet completely lacked the technology of pottery, loom-weaving, metallurgy and even agriculture. Since there was a lack of agriculture in this region the Chono ate native berries, roots, fruits, and wild celery. The source of nutrition for the Chono, Yahgans, and Alcaaluf thus mainly consisted of sea food such as; whales, seal porpoises, guanacos, and otters. The Southern tribes of South America distinguished themselves not in having a rare form of agriculture like the North’s slush-mush method or the having intensive agriculture like the East’s sophisticated slash-burn method, yet were able to distinguished themselves in being absent of this trait.” ref

“Farming methods developed by Native Americans include terracing, irrigation, mound building, crop rotation and fertilization. They also used extensive companion planting (see the Three Sisters). Terracing is an effective technique in a steep-sloped, semi-arid climate. The Indigenous farmers stair-stepped the hills so that soil erosion was minimal and land surface was better suited for farming. In the Southwest, including parts of New Mexico, Arizona, and parts of Northern Mexico, terracing was extensive. Terraces were constructed by placing rock dams to redirect runoff water to canals that evenly dispersed rain water. The terraced field transformed the terrain into land suitable for farming maize. There is evidence that terracing has been used in the Southwest for about 2,500 years. The Anasazi people from this region built reservoirs and directed rain water through ditches to water the crops in the terraces. The natives grew corn, squash, and beans, along with other crops in the terraced fields.” ref

“Corn, squash, and beans were staple crops for Native Americans and were grown throughout much of the North American continent. This trio is known as the Three sisters. Ancient folklore belief says that the Three Sisters represented three goddesses. Each sister protected the other two, and therefore the Three Sisters should never be separated and instead be planted, cooked, and consumed together. In reality, This Triad was an example of symbiotic planting. The corn stalks functioned as a support for the beans. The beans fixed nitrogen into a usable form for the corn and squash, and the broad squash leaves provided shade for the soil, which aided in preventing evaporation and controlling weeds.” ref 

“As the success of the Three Sisters spread, many cultures turned away from hunting and gathering and relied much more on farming. Geographically native cultures in the Woodlands, Prairie, Plains, Great Basin, and Plateau regions of North America all utilized the Three Sisters to some extent. Where they were not grown, the locals traded for them. Nomadic tribes, such as the Dakotas, would trade meat for these vegetable staples. The Three Sisters were usually eaten in unison, as they provide fairly balanced nutrition when consumed together(for example, beans and corn together provide a complete set of the essential amino acids).” ref

“Native American farmers also employed irrigation. This technique was utilized throughout much of the Southwest and is useful where water is scarce. Irrigation was and is still used today throughout much of the world. Native Americans controlled the amount of water that reached their fields by building long irrigation canals to redirect water from a source to water their crops. The Hohokam people constructed about 600 miles of irrigation canals from CE 50 to 1450 near Phoenix, Arizona. Part of the canal is used by the City of Phoenix today. The Olmecs of Mesoamerica built canals over 4,000 years ago. Chinampas, artificial islands constructed in swamplands and lakes, were invented by Mayan farmers and the technique became used extensively throughout Mesoamerica and was later used by the Aztecs as part of the land reclamation process of the city of Tenochtitlan. This technique increases arable land, and provided additional farming plots the population of Mesoamerica grew.” ref

“In the Northeast Woodlands and the Great Lakes region, an advanced society known as the Moundbuilders emerged. This society lived in the flood plains of the Mississippi river basin. This culture farmed mainly maize. They had little need for foraging and grew to an advanced civilization due to food surplus. They were the largest civilization north of the Rio Grande. Native Americans also developed storage systems such as storage containers which allowed them to store seeds to plant during the next planting season. They also stored food in dug-out pits or holes in hillsides. Native Americans developed corn cribs. These were storage bins that were elevated off the ground. This technique prevented moisture and animal intrusion. Selective crop breeding was also employed. Corn is a domestic plant and cannot grow on its own. The first corn grown by Native Americans had small ears, and only produced a few kernels per ear. By 2,000 years ago, single stalks with large ears were being produced. Native Americans created over 700 varieties of corn by 1500 CE.” ref

“Hands-off” hunter and gatherer misconception

“Anderson breaks down common misconceptions surrounding the way in which Native Americans lived among nature and shows that their true impact was often one that attracted and invited others to the land they inhabited. Native Americans, regardless of location, were privy to wildlife management such as, “coppicing, pruning, harrowing, sowing, weeding, burning, digging, thinning, and selective harvesting.” These practices were acted out in calculated intervals according to season and by witnessing the signals conveyed by nature to do so and, “on the whole, allowed for sustainable harvest of plants over centuries.” Anderson’s writing focuses specifically on Natives established in California and emphasizes these techniques applied by them to be essential in maintaining, and even creating, the rich Californian landscapes settlers later happened upon, such as: the coastal prairies, valley grasslands, and oak savannas.” ref

“Overall, the Native’s practices were nature conserving and sustaining due to the specificity of their environmental knowledge which was learned through more than twelve-thousand years of trial and error. Anderson also establishes that the Native’s practices were most likely not always beneficial or environmentally friendly. Though he asserts that there is no real evidence of their destruction available, it is possible that the Indigenous peoples in California may have been responsible for the extinction of early regional species. In discussing California Native’s “tempered” land tenure practices, Anderson deconstructs the idea of Native Americans as hunter-gatherers whose sparse population and nomadic ways left little to no mark on the land they traveled. When European and Asian farmers, ranchers, and entrepreneurs established themselves in that same land, the concept of their surroundings that they perpetuated was one of an uninhabited wilderness, untouched by man.” ref

“Though as Anderson points out, this was never the case. This “wilderness” was carefully tended to by the Natives for hundreds of years who had both negative and positive impacts on its conservation. It is theorized by Anderson that without the Natives’ calculated intervention, real wilderness in the form of thickets, dense understory, and wildfire would have deemed the land uninhabitable. In establishing this belief, the foreign settlers not only erased the Native’s long history of masterful cultivation from the land, but they pushed their people out of the land as well, establishing a new, Eurocentric construction of the American’s continent. This constructed history has not only diminished Native ancestry and culture, but also the land, which is no longer maintained or protected by strategic resource management. The European way of mitigating resource and land depletion follows a “hands off” model, which comes from the misconceptions of “leave no trace” mentioned previously.” ref

Neolithic (Chief/Chefdom) Leader’s Grave in Europe 

“A 6,800-year-old skeleton has been unearthed in Germany, belonging to a person who lived as far back as 4800 BC. The remains are thought to belong to an older man from a Neolithic community, who may have been a figure of local importance akin to a village leader or mayor, according to Florian Eibl, the district archaeologist overseeing the excavation. The skeleton, named “Exinger” after its place of discovery near Exing in Bavaria, is thought to be considerably older than the famous “Ötzi the Iceman,” who lived approximately 5,300 years ago. The Neolithic period spanned approximately between 7000 BC and 2000 BC, and marks the transition from nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyles to settled agricultural communities. During this time, humans began to cultivate crops and domesticate animals, and started to build permanent homes and villages. The bones were found alongside several items, including eating and drinking vessels, dyes for body painting, a blade, and a stone ax. There was also a small bag that had been decorated with two halves of a boar’s tusk—indicating the person’s high status—containing fire-making tools. “[The bag] may have contained a colored stone as well as pyrite and flint as a lighter. The bag trim consisted of a split boar’s tusk—a badge of rank at that time,” Eibl told local news Bayerischer Rundfunk 24. The finding of the body alongside these grave goods suggests that the body is male, and the fact that it was buried in a grave at all—uncommon for the time—implies that the person may have been an authority figure in the community.” ref

Prehistoric European Chiefdoms, Rethinking “Germanic” Societies

Inequality is a somewhat slippery concept. As Price and Hayden stress in their contributions to this volume, any society is liable to contain potential aggrandizers; and the constraints that suppress these ambitious individuals altogether are imposed only by relatively few societies, all of them (in the ethnographic record, at least) operating in extremely harsh environments, where risk pooling is imperative, and individual accumulation is counterproductive. As a result, one can find some foreshadowing of the characteristics of fully developed “complexity” in almost any simple society. Within the household, as Blanton indicates in his contribution, inequality is pervasive, and households are the charters for society. “Marginalization,” the dimension of inequality emphasized in Arnold’s contribution, likewise occurs at all social scales: within households as well as between them, within settlements and between them, within polities and between them, and so on. The whole thrust of Boasian relativism was to stress these continuities in the social evolutionary scale: the similarities to be found in societies of vastly different scales suggested their essential parity as historical outcomes.” ref

Why did Europe’s hunter-gatherers disappear?

There are many mysteries surrounding Europe’s hunter-gatherers, but farming played a role in their demise. Researchers don’t yet know the exact set of circumstances that drove Europe’s hunter-gatherers to disappear, but their decline broadly coincided with the spread of farming in the region. Neolithic farmers arrived in Europe around 8,000 years ago and ultimately replaced hunter-gatherers after a period of sharing the continent with them. “Farmers started to push into Europe from the Near East, bringing domesticated animals and domesticated plants, and then there is a coexistence of farmers and hunter-gatherers until 5,000 years ago when the hunter-gatherers disappeared,” Cosimo Posth, a professor of archeo- and paleogenetics at the University of Tübingen in Germany.” ref

“The hunter-gatherers mostly kept to themselves when farmers arrived around 6,000 years later, and while the farming population gradually took on hunter-gatherer genes, the hunter-gatherer population remained genetically distinct. DNA from a 7,000-year-old male hunter-gatherer in Spain revealed he had blue eyes and dark skin. This was the case for most hunter-gatherers across Europe after 14,000 years ago, while the farmers of the time had lighter skin and dark eyes, Posth said. As farming spread across Europe, hunter-gatherers lost land. “The last hunter-gatherers moved towards the fringes of Europe, towards areas where they weren’t in direct competition with farmers,” Posth said.” ref

“There are still many unknowns surrounding how the two groups interacted with each other. Some hunter-gatherers ended up living in or around farming communities. For example, the roughly 5,800-year-old burial of a hunter-gatherer individual in what is now Denmark, known as Dragsholm Man, shows that he was buried with hunter-gatherer grave goods but that he had a diet matching that of early European farmers. This means he adopted the culture and diet of immigrant farmers, according to a 2024 study published in the journal Nature.” ref

“A 2024 study published in the journal PLOS One found that a farming community in Denmark violently sacrificed a male hunter-gatherer from Norway or Sweden around 5,200 years ago. Ritual sacrifice wasn’t necessarily a punishment for the hunter-gatherer, and he may have been an immigrant or trader who gained equal social standing among the farmers, or he may have been a captive or enslaved person, the study authors noted.” ref

“Some hunter-gatherer communities likely suffered violent deaths at the hands of farmers and received new pathogens from their livestock. For example, hunter-gatherers in Denmark were quickly wiped out a few generations after farmers arrived around 5,900 years ago, according to the 2024 Nature study. Anders Fischer, an independent archeologist and author of both studies, told Live Science the farmers rapidly grew in numbers as they spread and may have been “war-like” in their approach to the hunter-gatherers. “Those late hunter-gatherers did not decide to be farmers,” Fischer said. “Somebody decided on their behalf, and maybe they were wiped out of existence in the same process.” ref

“Early Celtic elites inherited power through maternal lines, ancient DNA reveals. The early Celts may have inherited power through their mother’s side, according to an ancient DNA analysis of lavish burials in Europe. Enormous ancient burial mounds filled with luxurious artifacts may link elite members of an extended family in southern Germany along maternal lines, a new DNA analysis shows. An uncle and nephew buried in two of the richest burial mounds, along with evidence of first-cousin inbreeding, point strongly toward matrilineal dynasties of elite power, according to the study, which was published Monday (June 3) in the journal Nature Human Behaviour. Between about 600 and 400 B.C., during the Iron Age, burial mounds containing gold jewelry, wagons and imported goods were built in what is now southwestern Germany, eastern France and Switzerland. The elite people buried in these mounds wielded immense political and religious power and are often called “early Celtic princes and princesses.” But researchers have disagreed as to whether these people gained their status through a lifetime of achievements or inherited their power.” ref

The team discovered a second-degree relationship — likely an uncle and nephew — between two male individuals who shared maternal ancestry. Both men were buried in richly appointed neighboring mounds and appear to have grown up in the local area. According to study co-author Dirk Krausse, lead archaeologist for the German state of Baden-Württemberg, both men were also among the tallest on record in Iron Age Germany, standing around 5 feet, 11 inches (1.8 meters) tall, which suggests that they may have benefitted from good nutrition in addition to sharing genes for tall stature. Another biological link was found between a woman and a man who were buried in mounds about 60 miles (100 kilometers) and a century apart. This is an exceedingly rare discovery that probably represents a great-grandmother and her great-grandson, the study authors said.ref

“When the researchers tested the skeletons for evidence of recent inbreeding, they found that two people were most likely born to first-cousin parents. This sort of biological evidence for inbreeding is also rare in archaeogenetic studies, which may suggest that it was more frequent among these Celtic elites than among other archaeological populations, according to the study. Family connections among the burial mounds strongly suggest a pattern of hereditary leadership that was organized along the maternal line, the researchers concluded in their study. Although power was wielded primarily by men, rich burials of women in the region showcase their high status as well.ref

“Matrilineal inheritance of power was not common in Iron Age Europe, and it is also relatively rare around the world. The specific pattern that the researchers discovered among the early Celtic elite is called matrilinear avunculate organization, which can arise when extramarital mating is common and therefore paternity confidence is low, leading men to be more sure that they are genetically related to their sister’s children. “If a ruler has children on their own but also passes power to their sister’s children, then there might be an incentive to merge the direct and the sister’s lineage, which would then result in first-cousin matings through the female line,” study co-author Stephan Schiffels, a population geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, told Live Science in an email. “But we cannot prove such a scenario from the genetic data.ref

Prehistoric farmers

“In much of North America, the shift from generalized foraging and horticultural experimentation to a way of life dependent on domesticated plants occurred about 1000 BCE or around 3,000 years ago, although regional variation from this date is common. Corn (maize), early forms of which had been grown in Mexico since at least 5000 BCE around 7,000 years ago, appeared among Archaic groups in the Southwest culture area by about 1200 BCE and in the Eastern Woodlands by perhaps 100 BCE; other Mesoamerican domesticates, such as chile peppers and cotton, did not appear in either region until approximately the beginning of the Common Era. Although the importance of these foreign domesticates increased over time, most Native American groups retained the use of locally domesticated plants for several centuries.” ref

“For instance, improvements to sumpweed continued until about 1500 CE, after which the plants abruptly returned to their wild state. It is unclear why sumpweed fell out of favor, although some have suggested that its tendency to cause hay fever and contact dermatitis may have contributed to the demise of its domesticated forms. Others believe that the timing of the event, coincident with the first wave of European conquest, suggests that cultural disruption initiated this change. Notably, many other indigenous American domesticates, including sunflowers, squashes, beans, and tobacco, have persisted as economically important crops into the 21st century.” ref

Although prehistoric farming communities exhibited regional and temporal variation, they shared certain similarities. For the most part, farming groups were more sedentary than Archaic peoples, although the dearth of domesticated animals in Northern America (turkeys and dogs being the exception) meant that most households or communities continued to engage in hunting forays. Agriculturists’ housing and settlements tended to be more substantial than those of Archaic groups, and their communities were often protected by walls or ditches; many also developed hierarchical systems of social organization, wherein a priestly or chiefly class had authority over one or more classes of commoners.” ref

Who has the largest burial mound? Study examines differences among the upper classes of prehistoric societies. A study by the ROOTS Cluster of Excellence has revealed, for the first time, differences in wealth within the upper classes of prehistoric societies. Reducing inequality between countries, but also between individuals, is one of the United Nations’ sustainability goals. At the same time, there is a new global trend showing that wealth is increasingly concentrated among a small group of people. What leads to  and what effects can it have? In order to answer such fundamental questions, research is also looking at the distant past of human societies.” ref

“As part of the ROOTS Cluster of Excellence at Kiel University (CAU), economists and archaeologists have now provided first evidence of inequality within the upper classes of society in Central Europe during the first 4,000 years before the Common Era. “In our study, we can approximate the wealth of individual prehistoric people. This perspective allows completely new insights into the differences in wealth within the upper segment of societies at that time,” explains Johannes Marzian from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel) and member of the ROOTS Cluster of Excellence. He is one of the two main authors of the study, which has now been published in the journal Humanities and Social Sciences Communications.” ref

“To gain insights into the dynamics of wealth inequality in prehistoric Central Europe, the team collected data on the size and structure of 5,000 individual burial mounds. The authors then calculated the volume of these burial mounds as a measure of the wealth of the buried individuals. “The dataset allows us to measure not only material , but also a person’s involvement in networks or influence within a community. Anyone who was able to have a larger burial mound built than their neighbor obviously had a greater economic and political ability to mobilize people and resources,” explains the second lead author Dr. Julian Laabs, who is now an Assistant Professor of Digital Archaeology at Leipzig University.” ref

“In addition to the data on the burial mounds, information on the number of people buried in flat and collective graves was also included in the study. The authors used this information to approximate the size of the upper societal segment in relation to the entire population. The subsequent data analysis showed that there was a high degree of inequality among the individuals buried in mounds over the entire 4,000 years studied. However, the extent of inequality fluctuated. “We were able to link these changes over time to certain , climate and population changes or socio-political changes,” says Laabs. Overall, however, there is an  in inequality within the upper societal segment.” ref

“Of course, the study does not capture inequality across the entire spectrum of society. “But inequality and the resulting tensions in the upper societal segment can have an impact on the entire society,” explains Marzian. With this study, the authors provide an initial overview of inequality within the upper societal segment in prehistoric Central Europe. “We see it as a first step and a starting point for further research. For example, it would be interesting to study other regions and extend the time frame of the study. We also know little about inequality in other societal segments and its origins,” emphasizes Marzian.” ref

Big man (anthropology)

big man is a highly influential individual in a tribe, especially in Melanesia and Polynesia. Such a person may not have formal tribal or other authority (through for instance material possessions, or inheritance of rights), but can maintain recognition through skilled persuasion and wisdom. The big man has a large group of followers, both from his clan and from other clans. He provides his followers with protection and economic assistance, in return receiving support which he uses to increase his status. The American anthropologist Marshall Sahlins has studied the big man phenomenon. In his much-quoted 1963 article “Poor Man, Rich Man, Big Man, Chief: Political Types in Melanesia“, Sahlins uses analytically constructed ideal-types of hierarchy and equality to compare a larger-scale Polynesian-type hierarchical society of chiefs and sub-chiefs with a Melanesian-type big-man system.” ref

“The latter consists of segmented lineage groups, locally held together by faction-leaders who compete for power in the social structure of horizontally arranged and principally equal groupings (factions). Here, leadership is not ascribed, but rather gained through action and competition “with other ambitious men”. A big man’s position is rarely secured as an inherited position at the top of a hierarchy. Rather, big men commonly compete with one another in an ongoing process of reciprocity and re-distribution of material and political resources. Spreading the word of his power and capabilities – thereby establishing reputation and recognition among outsiders – requires the delivery of resources as tribute to relevant big men of other groups. Simultaneously, he must secure resources for his own followers in order to maintain their satisfaction and confidence in his leadership. As such, the big man is subject to a transactional order based on his ability to effectively balance these mutually opposed tasks.” ref

“Concepts of the role and what it entails are relatively fluid and can vary between groups. Typically, any authority a big man may possess is neither formally defined nor universally recognized by others. His position is usually not heritable and his descendants are not guaranteed the right to succession or any otherwise elevated status. In the Island of Malaita in Solomon Islands the big man system is dying away, but the big man system can be seen at the political level. Every four years in the Solomon Islands‘ national elections, the system can be clearly seen, especially in the Melanesian Islands. The first use of the term may be found in the English-translation of Dreißig Jahre in der Südsee (1907) by Richard Parkinson.” ref

“The term may be often found in many historical works dealing with Papua New Guinea. Andrew Strathern applies the concept of big-men to a community in Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea. Traditionally, among peoples of non-Austronesian-speaking communities, authority was obtained by a man (the so-called “big man”) recognised as “performing most capably in social, political, economic and ceremonial activities”. His function was not to command, but to influence his society through his example. He was expected to act as a negotiator with neighbouring groups, and to periodically redistribute food (generally produced by his wives). In this sense, he was seen as ensuring the well-being of his community. Such a system is still found in many parts of Papua New Guinea, and other parts of Melanesia.” ref

“A tribal chiefchieftain, or headman is the leader of a tribal society or chiefdomThe concept of tribe is a broadly applied concept, based on tribal concepts of societies of western Afroeurasia. Tribal societies are sometimes categorized as an intermediate stage between the band society of the Paleolithic stage and civilization with centralized, super-regional government based in cities. Anthropologist Elman Service distinguishes two stages of tribal societies: simple societies organized by limited instances of social rank and prestige, and more stratified societies led by chieftains or tribal kings (chiefdoms). Stratified tribal societies led by tribal kings are thought to have flourished from the Neolithic stage into the Iron Age, albeit in competition with urban civilisations and empires beginning in the Bronze Age. In the case of tribal societies of indigenous peoples existing within larger colonial and post-colonial states, tribal chiefs may represent their tribe or ethnicity in a form of self-government.” ref

“Classical sources of information about tribal societies are external descriptions such as from Greco-Roman ethnography, which identified societies, surrounding the societies of the ethnographers, as tribal. States and colonialism, particularly in the last centuries, forced their central governments onto many remaining tribal societies. In some instances tribes have retained or regained partial self-government and their lifestyles, with Indigenous peoples rights having been fought for and some being secured on state or international levels. Terms of specific tribal chiefdoms in the Americas:

The band is the fundamental unit of governance among the First Nations in Canada (formerly called “Indians”). Most bands have elected chiefs, either directly elected by all members of the band, or indirectly by the band council, these chiefs are recognized by the Canadian state under the terms of the Indian Act. As well, there may be traditional hereditary or charismatic chiefs, who are usually not part of the Indian Act-sanctioned formal government. There were 614 bands in Canada in 2012. There is also a national organization, the Assembly of First Nations, which elects a “national chief” to act as spokesperson of all First Nations bands in Canada.” ref

“Generally, a tribe or nation is considered to be part of an ethnic group, usually sharing cultural values. For example, the forest-dwelling Chippewa historically built dwellings from the bark of trees. On the Great Plains, where trees were rare, some tribes typically dwelt in skin-covered tipis, usually acquiring the lodgepoles by trade, while other Plains tribes, such as the Pawnee, built their lodges of earth. The Pueblo people of the Southwest built their dwellings of stone and earth. A chief might be considered to hold all political power, say by oratory or by example. But on the North American continent, it was historically possible to evade the political power of another by migration. The Mingos, for example, were Iroquois who migrated further west to the sparsely populated Ohio Country during the 18th century. Two Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, Hiawatha and the Great Peacemaker, formulated a constitution for the Iroquois Confederation.” ref

“The tribes were pacified by units of the United States Army in the nineteenth century, and were also subject to forced schooling in the decades afterward. Thus, it is uncommon for today’s tribes to have a purely Native American cultural background, and today Native Americans are in many ways simply another ethnicity of the secular American people. Because formal education is now respected, some like Peter MacDonald, a Navajo, left their jobs in the mainstream U.S. economy to become chairpeople of their tribal councils or similar self-government institutions. Not all tribal leaders are or were men. Wilma Mankiller was a well-known chief of the Cherokee Nation. Also, the chief may not free to wield power without the consent of a council of elders of some kind. For example: Cherokee men were not permitted to go to war without the consent of the council of women.” ref

“Historically, the U.S. government treated tribes as seats of political power, and made treaties with the tribes as legal entities. Be that as it may, the territory of these tribes fell under the authority of the Bureau of Indian Affairs as reservations held in trust for the tribes. Citizenship was formerly considered a tribal matter. For example, it was not until 1924 that the Pueblo people were granted U.S. citizenship, and it was not until 1948 that the Puebloans were granted the right to vote in state elections in New Mexico. In Wisconsin, the Menominee has its own county Menominee County, Wisconsin with special car license plates; 87% of the county’s population is Native American. Mainstream Americans often find pride and comfort in realizing that at least part of their ethnic ancestry is Native American, although the connection is usually only sentimental and not economic or cultural. Thus, there is some political power in one’s ability to claim a Native American connection (as in the Black Seminole).” ref

“The most common types are the chairman of a council (usually of “elders“) and/or a broader popular assembly in “parliamentary” cultures, the war chief (may be an alternative or additional post in war time), the hereditary chief, and the politically dominant medicineman. The term is usually distinct from chiefs at lower levels, such as village chief (geographically defined) or clan chief (an essentially genealogical notion). The descriptive “tribal” requires an ethno-cultural identity (racial, linguistic, religious etc.) as well as some political (representative, legislative, executive and/or judicial) expression. In certain situations, and especially in a colonial context, the most powerful member of either a confederation or a federation of such tribal, clan or village chiefs would be referred to as a paramount chief.” ref

One thinking could see the power transition as moving from Big Man/Person promoted by talents-work/actions-charisma-etc. Then, a small chef/Mayor, then a simple chiefdom, then a complex chiefdom, then kings/Empresses, and then empires.

An empire is a political unit made up of several territories, military outposts, and peoples, “usually created by conquest, and divided between a dominant center and subordinate peripheries”. The center of the empire (sometimes referred to as the metropole) exercises political control over the peripheries. Within an empire, different populations have different sets of rights and are governed differently. Narrowly defined, an empire is a sovereign state whose head of state is an emperor or empress; but not all states with aggregate territory under the rule of supreme authorities are called empires or are ruled by an emperor; nor have all self-described empires been accepted as such by contemporaries and historians (the Central African Empire, and some Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in early England being examples).” ref

Prehistoric Egypt

Nazlet Khater Culture (50,000 to 30,000 years ago?)

Nazlet Khater Skeleton, Upper Paleolithic, around 35,000 years ago. This specimen is the only complete modern human skeleton from the earliest Late Stone Age in Africa. Nazlet Khater is an archeological site located in Upper Egypt that has yielded evidence of early human culture and anatomically modern specimens dating to approximately thirty to fifty thousand years ago. Excavations at the Nazlet Khater 2 site (Boulder Hill) yielded the remains of two human skeletons. One of the skulls was that of a male subadult. The cranium was generally modern in form, but with a very wide face, and it evinced some archaic traits in the temple and mandible areas. Below the skull, the skeleton was robust, but otherwise, anatomically modern. Morphological analysis of the Nazlet Khater mandible indicates that the specimen was distinct from the examined Late Pleistocene and Holocene North African specimens.” refref

“Researchers found a strong Stone Age Sub-Saharan affinities in the 33,000 year old skeleton from Nazlet Khater, Upper Egypt as the authors noted “The morphometric affinities of the 33,000 year old skeleton from Nazlet Khater, Upper Egypt are examined using multivariate statistical procedures. The results indicate a strong association between some of the sub-Saharan Middle Stone Age (MSA) specimens, and the Nazlet Khater mandible , which are different from modern sub saharan africans. Furthermore, the results suggest that variability between African populations during the Neolithic and Protohistoric periods was more pronounced than the range of variability observed among recent African and Levantine populations.” ref

“The Nazlet Khater 2 skeleton possesses two plesiomorphic features in its mandible, which are not found among coeval, anatomically modern, humans. This suggests that the ancestors of the specimen may have interbred with neighboring late archaic humans. At Nazlet Khater 4 to the southeast, Upper Paleolithic axes, blades, burinsend scrapers, and denticulates were also excavated. The site has been radiocarbon dated to between 30,360 and 35,100 years ago. The similarities between NK2 and Upper Paleolithic European samples may indicate a close relationship between this Nile Valley specimen and European Upper Paleolithic modern humans.” ref

The Upper Paleolithic Human Remains of Nazlet Khater 2 (Egypt) and Past Modern Human Diversity

“Abstract: The Nazlet Khater 2 skeleton was discovered in 1980 during the excavations of the Belgian Middle Egypt Prehistoric Project in the Nile Valley (Egypt). Its association with the early Upper Paleolithic chert mining site of Nazlet Khater 4 (NK 4) (whose exploitation period ranged from 35 to 40 ka) makes it the oldest almost complete Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 3 modern human skeleton in northern Africa. The Nazlet Khater 2 (NK 2) remains belong to a young adult male. It is well preserved with the exception of the distal part of the legs and the foot. Comparative analyses of the specimen underline the complex morphology of modern humans from this time period. NK 2 exhibits several retained archaic features, notably on the face and the mandible. The inner ear structures display morphological characteristics that stand on the edge of extant human variation. The postcranial remains have strong muscular insertions and are adapted to high biomechanical strength. Furthermore, NK 2 has vertebral and membral lesions. These postcranial characteristics might be related to intensive mining activities. The study of this specimen provides an opportunity to increase our understanding of past modern human diversity during this time period (MIS 3) for which very rare human remains are known.” ref

Morphology and affinities of the Nazlet Khater man

“The fragmentary Nazlet Khater skeleton, from the upper-Palaeolithic period of Egypt, belongs to a subadult male individual. The ramus mandibulae and squama temporalis display archaic characters; otherwise, the whole anatomical structure of the skeleton is modern. The leptodolichomorphy of the skull is like that found on the Capsian skeletons; the strong alveolar prognathism and several small anatomical features are similar to the skeletons of Djebel Sahaba and Wadi Halfa.” ref


Nazlet Khater Man

“Scientists named the skeleton “Nazlet Khater man” in reference to the place where the remains were discovered. It dates back to the Upper Palaeolithic period — about 34,000 years ago. The skeleton was found buried with a stone tool. The Nazlet Khater skeleton is one of the most significant archaeological discoveries in Egypt. It has attracted much scientific interest locally and internationally, as it is the second-oldest known skeleton in Egypt.” ref

The position of the Nazlet Khater specimen among prehistoric and modern African and Levantine populations

“The morphometric affinities of the 33,000 year old skeleton from Nazlet Khater, Upper Egypt are examined using multivariate statistical procedures. In the first part, principal components analysis is performed on a dataset of mandible dimensions of 220 fossils, sub-fossils and modern specimens, ranging in time from the Late Pleistocene to recent and restricted in space to the African continent and Southern Levant. In the second part, mean measurements for various prehistoric and modern African and Levantine populations are incorporated in the statistical analysis. Subsequently, differences between male and female means are examined for some of the modern and prehistoric populations. The results indicate a strong association between some of the sub-Saharan Middle Stone Age (MSA) specimens, and the Nazlet Khater mandible. Furthermore, the results suggest that variability between African populations during the Neolithic and protohistoric periods was more pronounced than the range of variability observed among recent African and Levantine populations. Results also demonstrate a general reduction in the degree of sexual dimorphism during the Holocene. However, this pattern of reduction pattern varies by geographic location and is not uniform across the African continent.” ref

“Very little research has been carried out on post-Pleistocene African population affinities and their inter and intra-population biological variability despite the major role of Africa in the evolution of humankind. Africa is the probable geographic origin of anatomically modern humans and is the home of vast cultural and biological human diversity. Much of the research on late Pleistocene and early Holocene African populations has focused on the origin of sub-Saharan fossils and their affinities to modern sub-Saharan Bantu-speaking and Khoisan populations. Rightmire (1975) statistically analyzed Late Stone Age (LSA) human crania from Elmenteita, Willey’s Kopje, and Makalia, using 34 metric measurements. The LSA crania were compared with an Egyptian E series from Gizeh, East and South African Negroes and Khoisan samples. Multiple discriminant analyses were performed on the available data using 24 and 34 measurements, respectively. Results indicated that at least some of the LSA material from Kenya was inappropriately labeled as a ‘‘Mediterranean Caucasoid’’ population as they show no affinities to the Egyptian E (presumably of Caucasoid origins) series.” ref

“Instead, LSA individuals such as Elmenteita A and Elmenteita B display Negroid affinities. However, Rightmire (1975) asserts that while such specimens may be affiliated with modern Negro populations, their statistical affinities are weak and inconclusive. Rightmire’s analyses demonstrate the morphological variability among the studied LSA specimens; even the Elmenteita A, B, D, and F1 which are from the same geographic location and temporal timeframe display a considerable amount of morphological variance. De Villiers & Fatti (1982) analysed the antiquity of the Bantu-speaking populations in sub-Saharan Africa using both modern and prehistoric specimens. The authors performed discriminant function analysis using a total of 53 cranial and mandibular measurements. Results indicate that LSA East African specimens are not far removed from the recent Negro sample they used. In contrast, the North African specimens from Afalou-bou-Rhummel and Taforalt in Morocco and the Singa skull from Sudan display indeterminate affinities as they are neither closely associated with modern Negro specimens, nor with Khoisan specimens. However, the statistical analysis combined means of sample measurements of prehistoric populations with individual data. Such statistical procedure could be biased, as means of samples used for computation are not true representatives of the range of variability observed among ndividuals within each sample.” ref

“The focal point of the research carried out by Rightmire’s (1975), and De Villiers & Fatti’s (1982) analyses was the question of the antiquity of the Bantu-speaking and Khoisan populations in sub-Saharan Africa rather than the detection of morphometric affinities and the examination of biodiversity among Holocene and post-Holocene African fossils. Keita (1990) examined the population variability among prehistoric, protohistoric, and modern crania from Egypt, the Maghreb, Nubia, East Africa (Teita) and West Central Africa (Gabon), and Europe (Romano-British). Canonical variates, used as discrimination functions, were applied to the selected dataset of 13 cranial measurements. Subsequently, analyses were performed on smaller subsets of ten and seven measurements respectively. The analyses demonstrated the metric heterogeneity of the prehistoric and protohistoric Maghrebian crania. Variability was also found to be significant among and between the Egyptian crania, with Predynastic specimens (Badari, Naqada) displaying close affinities with Nubian specimens while northern Egyptians (Sedment and E-Series) displayed close affinities with both Maghrebian samples and with the European sample (Egyptian ‘‘E’’). Keita’s results show the heterogeneity within and between mid-Holocene and protohistoric North African populations and the affinities among some of the prehistoric Nile Valley populations.” ref

“However, it is unclear as to whether a similar pattern of variability and affinities existed among earlier (Late Pleistocene and early Holocene) African populations. This issue is addressed here through the examination of the morphometric affinities of the Nazlet Khater specimen. The Nazlet Khater skeleton was exhumed from a grave on the eastern flank of Boulder Hill in the proximity of Tahta, Upper Egypt (Vermeersch et al., 1984a). The grave was found in 1980 during the excavation of the Middle Palaeolithic site of Nazlet Khater 2. The skeleton was found on its back in an extended position with a bifacial axe underneath its cranium. During the following excavation season, Vermeersch and his team discovered the nearby Upper Palaeolithic chert mine site of Nazlet Khater 4. In 1982, nine 14 C dates, ranging between 35,100 and 30,360 years ago were obtained from hearth structures and four samples of dispersed charcoal from the mine site (Vermeersch et al., 1984b, 1984c). According to Vermeersch and co-workers (1984a, 1984b, 1984c) the bifacial axe found in the grave is typologically identical to some of the bifacial axes recovered from the nearby Upper Palaeolithic chert mine.” ref

“The Nazlet Khater skeleton was not directly dated due to the absence of collagen in the bone matrix (Vermeersch et al., 1984b, 1984c). The age of the skeleton was therefore indirectly inferred from a typological association as being 33,000 years old. The temporal association between the two sites is based on the following evidence. The typological association of the bifacial axe, which was found near the cranium of the skeleton with similar tools, found in the mining site of Nazlet Khater 4. The fact that the only prehistoric trenches filled with aeolian sand are the grave, the mining site, and the dated bell-pit in the Nazlet Khater 1 site. Both arguments were previously addressed by Gambier (1992). Gambier (1992) raises the possibility that the bifacial axe is intrusive. In this case, the given association between the two sites is based only on the aeolian fill. Although the fill is identical in all three loci, one should take into consideration that it may have been differentially accumulated through time. Apart from its association with the bifacial axe, the Nazlet Khater specimen is then of undetermined age. The skeleton will be dated in the near future, through application of the electron spin resonance (ESR) technique to a sample of tooth enamel from the specimen (Vermeersch, 1998, personal communication).” ref

“The morphological features of the Nazlet Khater skeleton were analysed by Thoma (1984). According to Thoma, the overall morphological pattern of the Nazlet Khater skull is modern, while three isolated characters (large ramus breadth, lack of curvature of the sutura squamosa, and alveolar prognathism), may be considered as archaic. Thoma’s analysis of the postcranial features further suggests that the specimen is altogether modern and extremely robust. Thoma therefore classified the Nazlet Khater specimen as an anatomically modern Homo sapiens with some archaic morphological features. The main aims of this study are (1) to examine the morphometric affinities of the Nazlet Khater mandible in relation to other Post-Pleistocene African fossils, and (2) to examine patterns of sex-specific variability among the prehistoric and modern samples. Results from the principal components analysis indicate that the Nazlet Khater specimen is orphologically associated with Springbok Flats, the sub-Saharan Iron Age specimen Bambandyanalo K3a and the mean MSA sample, and is distinctly separated from all other means and individuals. These results are in accord with the previous analysis of the affinities of the Nazlet Khater, using dental measurements (Pinhasi, 1998). In concluding his analysis of the Nazlet Khater morphology, Thoma (1984) states the following: ( 1) the skeleton is indisputably anatomically modern with certain archaic characteristics; ( 2) the skeleton is related to the Nubian Epipalaeolithic skeletal series from Wadi Halfa and Jebel Sahaba; ( 3) the skeleton displays Negroid characteristics such as alveolar prognathism and sub-nasal fossa.” ref

“Thoma (1984) asserts that the Nazlet Khater specimen is a robust male with mosaic-like characters. Based on the morphology of the mandible alone, this assertion is supported. The Nazlet Khater mandible presents a bilateral flexure of the posterior border of the ramus at the level of the occlusal surface of the molars, which is a male characteristic (Loth & Henneberg, 1996). It is therefore equally likely that the Nazlet Khater mandible belongs to an extremely robust male individual. However, the specimen’s pelvis and femur display both male and female traits, and the patella is small and feminine. It is, therefore, possible to speculate that the specimen is a female member of a particularly robust population. Robusticity is not only a function of sex but also of time period, geographic location, and various environmental factors (Stewart, 1954; St Hoyme & Iscan, 1989). In any case, the PC2 score of Nazlet Khater supports its affiliation with the MSA group regardless of the specimen’s sex and pronounced robusticity. Results of the present statistical analysis indicate that while the Nazlet Khater is anatomically modern, it does not display any strong association with the Late Palaeolithic Nubian samples from Wadi Halfa and Jebel Sahaba. The Nazlet Khater has a short and wide mandibular ramus that surpasses in width even that of the Amud 1 Neandertal (Thomas, 1984).” ref

“Thoma (1984) noted that a wide and squat mandibular ramus is not infrequent among African Upper Pleistocene mandibles and suggested that the Nazlet Khater’s mandible is related to Nubian Epipalaeolithic specimens. However, the ramus breadth dimension for the Late Palaeolithic Nubian series from Wadi Halfa ranges between 32 and 47 mm (Greene & Armelagos, 1972), showing that the Nazlet Khater dimension is clearly out of the Wadi Halfa series’ range of variation. The only other Nubian Late Palaeolithic skeletal series is the one reported by Anderson (1968). Although the report does not include individual data, the reported mean ramus breadth measurement is 43·3 mm and is, therefore, considerably lower than the dimension obtained for Nazlet Khater (51 mm). It is very likely that had Thoma (1984) included MSA specimens in his statistical analysis he would have found a strong association between Nazlet Khater and MSA sub-Saharan specimens. The Nazlet Khater mandible does not display any clear affinities with modern Negroid populations. The second part of the statistical analysis indicates that the Nazlet Khater falls closer to the Late Palaeolithic Nubian samples than to any of the North African samples. If an ancestral descendant relationship existed between Nazlet Khater and the Late Palaeolithic Nubian specimens, then regional continuity persisted among the Upper/Late Pleistocene populations of the Upper Nile region.” ref

“This probable phylogenetic continuity should then be examined on the basis of a statistical analysis of cranial and dental morphological traits. Hershkovitz & co-workers (1995), in their study of the Late Palaeolithic skeleton recovered from Ohalo, contend that the mandibles of Ohalo II H2 and Nazlet Khater are strikingly similar in their size, and share an extremely wide ramus. However, the Ohalo II H2 ramus breadth is only 40 mm, while Nazlet Khater’s breadth dimension is considerably larger (51 mm). Moreover, the Nazlet Khater mandible clearly differs from all North African and Levantine specimens not only in its mandibular ramus width dimension, but also in the morphology of the ramus, which is particularly wide and squat. This morphological combination is absent among North African and Levantine populations and was only detected among some of the studied MSA and LSA specimens. Although, out of the 220 individuals assembled for this study, only Springbok Flats (MSA) approximates the proportions observed in Nazlet Khater, with a ramus breadth greater than or equal to 47 mm. Bra ¨uer & Rimbach (1990) studied the phylogenetic relationships between late archaic and modern H. sapiens from Europe, Africa, and Southwest Asia, based on craniometric comparative analyses.” ref

“The sample consisted of 82 male individuals from Africa, Europe, and West Asia. Principal component analysis was used to measure the affinities between the various specimens. Additionally, two discriminant analyses were performed in order to analyse the position of Nazlet Khater, and Dar-es- Soltan 5. Three groups were considered for the two analyses: Upper Palaeolithic Europeans, North Africans, and sub-Saharan Africans. The first discriminant analysis was based on eight facial variables. In this analysis the Nazlet Khater is positioned within the 90% ellipse of the North African group, but closer to the sub-Saharan circle than to the European Upper Palaeolithic circle. In the second analysis, which was based on vault variables, Nazlet Khater is placed within the sub-Saharan 90% circle. Bra ¨uer & Rimbach (1990) assert that while such a position is remarkable, one should not overlook the fact that there is a great deal of overlap between the Upper Palaeolithic European and the sub-Saharan samples for the vault variables. However, the inability to successfully discriminate between the three groups may be affected by the small sample sizes (n30 for the face and vault analyses). Physical anthropologists and archaeologists tend to regard North Africa as a homogenous geographical zone, assuming that affinities between populations from Northwest Africa (mainly Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia) and the Upper Nile Valley are much more likely than those between the latter and sub-Saharan Africa.” ref

“However, as mentioned earlier, the distance between the western part of the Maghreb and the Nile Valley is larger than between the latter and Ethiopia or Kenya. Moreover, north–south population movements along the Eastern African route are just as likely as an east-bound migration along the winding southern Mediterranean coast. Plentiful sources of water, availability of game and favourable climatic conditions (i.e., no hot and dry ecological zones) probably spurred population movements along this route. The existence of such a route at least during the Late Pleistocene is supported by the fossil record, which indicates migrations from East Africa northward at particular points in time. Fluctuations in the size of the Mediterranean coastal belt accompanied transgressions and regressions of the Sahara during the Middle and Upper Pleistocene (Clark, 1992). The climatic conditions of the Saharan belt during the last Glacial maximum to the Holocene were inhospitable and would have thus restrained any population movements across the desert. Any gene flow between sub-Saharan and Northwest African populations during the last Glacial period and up until the Holocene must have been minimal and its effects on the biological aspects of the Northwest African populations negligible.” ref

“This assertion is further supported by studies of genetic markers among modern North African and certain sub-Saharan populations which clearly indicate regional continuity among the Northwest African populations and minimal contact with Egyptian and Libyan populations (Bosch et al., 1997). Our principal component analysis results also support the possibility of local evolution in Northwest Africa, from the Iberomaurusian period to the Protohistoric period. As in the case of the Northern African samples, it is possible to see a local evolution in sub-Saharan Africa between the MSA sample (mostly composed of South African and Rhodesian specimens) and the modern Khoisanoid populations. This local evolution, however, post-dates the genetic bottlenecking which accompanied the Out of Africa 2 event. Brothwell (1963) proposed a model in which during the Upper Pleistocene a ‘‘proto-Khoisan Negro stock’’ was present in East Africa. At the onset of the Holocene, the proto-Khoisan Negro stock became differentiated to proto-Negro and large proto-Khoisan varieties. The proto-Negro stock migrated west and the large proto-Khoisan varieties migrated south, replacing the ‘‘Rhodesian’’ stock. At the time, Brothwell (1963) was aware of the fact that his model could not be reliably tested due to the lack of well preserved, securely dated Late Pleistocene African fossils.” ref

“Brothwell further asserted that while prehistoric African specimens display much variability, it is impossible to assess the extent of such variability and in what physical ‘‘directions’’ earlier groups diverged. The position of mean measurements of the protohistoric and modern South African populations indicate that, in its mandibular dimensions, the Nazlet Khater is not closely related to modern Negro and Khoisan populations. The Nazlet Khater score on PC2 ( 2·75) is out of the range of PC2 scores for the Negro populations (0·27<PC2< 0·47) and of the Khoisan populations ( 0·45<PC2< 1·82). However, the specimen is clearly closer to the Khoisan populations and differs from those populations mainly in size. Furthermore, the affinities of Nazlet Khater to some of the MSA specimens suggest population affinities along the north–south axis of the eastern part of the African continent at least during the late Pleistocene period. Results of the present study also agree with Brothwell’s assertion regarding morphological variability among the Late Pleistocene and Holocene African specimens. The statistical results indicate that the amount of morphological variability among Holocene and post-Holocene African fossils surpasses the variability among modern African and Levantine populations. However, due to the lack of securely dated and well-preserved MSA specimens, it is presently impossible to assess the variability among Late Pleistocene African fossils. Lahr (1996) observed that morphological variability among sub-Saharan African populations was at its peak during the Late Pleistocene–early Holocene period.” ref

“However, this is partially due to the fact that during this period many of the sub-Saharan and North African populations display levels of robusticity which are largely lost in present African populations (Lahr, 1996). Unfortunately, the meagre sample sizes of Upper Pleistocene and Holocene African fossils and their uneven distribution across Africa does not presently allow a more elaborate discussion regarding the biological meaning of this statistical trend. This study indicates that the range of variability among the studied fossils is too large to allow any clear discrimination between sub-Saharan, Saharan and North African groups on the basis of mandibular dimensions alone. This drawback, however, is not due to the choice of mandibular variables over other craniometric ones. Similar conclusions were reached by Sokal et al. (1987) in their craniometric analysis of a large dataset of European populations from three historic time periods (Early Middle Ages, Late Middle Ages and Recent). Sokal and colleagues assert that the lack of clear-cut grouping among the populations is what should be expected in any inter population morphometric study. Thus, morphometric population studies should at best aim at the detection of general trends within and between groups.” ref

“The examination of the above-discussed statistical results suggests that there is a general trend towards a morphometrically based discrimination between sub-Saharan and North African populations. A second trend is a general decrease in the between-populations variance with time as the modern population means are more clustered in factorial space than the prehistoric means. Nevertheless, the Nazlet Khater specimen is clearly positioned within the range of MSA specimens and is outside the North African specimens’ range of variation. Among the sub-Saharan specimens, the Nazlet Khater is most similar to the MSA specimens from Springbok Flats and Kalomo. The separation of the Nazlet Khater from most of the studied fossils, and its affinities with the MSA sample can be explained by one of the following hypotheses. ( 1) The Nazlet Khater specimen is part of a relict population which is a descendant of a larger sub-Saharan stock, which extended as far north as present day upper Egypt sometime during the Last Interglacial period, or the early part of the Last Glacial period. In such a scenario, the Nazlet Khater belongs to a relict population which retained some of the morphological features that were present among MSA populations but no longer present in other contemporaneous sub-Saharan and North African populations. ( 2) The Nazlet Khater is roughly coeval with the MSA culture, and thus, it is of an early Upper Pleistocene age (i.e., 60–100 ka ago).” ref

“Nevertheless, it has been suggested that many of the supposedly MSA specimens are of Holocene age (Bra ¨uer, 1984, 1988, 1989). At present the lack of secure absolute dates for any of these specimens hinders the ability to assign such affinities to a secure timeframe. Furthermore, the Nazlet Khater is also associated with Bambandyanalo K3a specimen and LSA specimens such as Willey’s Kopje 1, based on the second principal component. These results suggest that on the basis of shape (PC2) the Nazlet Khater is within the range of variability of Holocene and post-Holocene southern African populations. However, Nazlet Khater departs from these populations by its size (PC1) component. Both hypotheses are compatible with the hypothesis proposed by Brothwell (1963) of an East African proto-Khoisan Negro stock which migrated southwards and westwards at some time during the Upper Pleistocene, and replaced most of the local populations of South Africa. Under such circumstances, it is possible that the Nazlet Khater specimen is part of a relict population of this proto-Khoisan Negro stock which extended as far north as Nazlet Khater at least until the late part of the Late Pleistocene. Direct dating of the Nazlet Khater and new fossil finds associated with MSA and LSA archaeological cultures may shed further light on this scenario.” ref

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

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Why are these 32 symbols found in caves all over Europe

32 Sacred Cave Art Pre-Writing Shapes Dated to 35,000 to 13,000 Years Ago

  • 1. Aviform: less than 10% of sites, 30,000 to 13,000 years ago.
  • 2. Cruciform: 13% of sites, all time periods.
  • 3. Half Circle: 18% of sites, all time periods.
  • 4. Penniform: 25% of sites, starting 25,000 years ago.
  • 5. Serpentiform: 7% of sites, starting 30,000 to 13,000 years ago.
  • 6. Circle: 20% of sites, all time periods.
  • 7. Cupule: 15% of sites, all time periods.
  • 8. Line: 70% of sites, all time periods.
  • 9. Dot: 42% of sites, all time periods.
  • 10. Negative Hand: 15% of sites, 30,000 to 13,000 years ago.
  • 11. Positive Hand: 7% of sites, 30,000 to 13,000 years ago.
  • 12. Claviform: 15% of sites, all time periods.
  • 13. Spiral: 2 sites, 25,000 to 15,000 years ago.
  • 14. Open-Angle: 42% of sites, all time periods.
  • 15. Quadrangle: 20% of sites, all time periods.
  • 16. Tectiform: 10% of sites, 25,000 to 13,000 years ago.
  • 17. Cordiform: 3 sites, 30,000 to 15,000 years ago.
  • 18. Finger Fluting: 15% of sites, all time periods.
  • 19. Oval: 30% of sites, all time periods.
  • 20. Reniform: rare, 35,000 to 13,000 years ago.
  • 21. Triangle: 20% of sites, all time periods.
  • 22. Crosshatch: 17% of sites, all time periods.
  • 23. Flabelliform: 18% of sites, all time periods.
  • 24. Pectiform: 5% of sites, starting 25,000 years ago.
  • 25. Scalariform: 3 sites, starting 25,000 years ago.
  • 26. Zig-Zag: 7 sites, 20,000 to 13,000 years ago.

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Even though not all signs are shown, palaeoanthropologist Von Petzinger, found through investigation of Europe’s cave art that there are at least 32 shapes. These are possibly a source of writings’ origin seen many times and places, thus the world’s oldest sacred code. A paleoanthropologist and rock art researcher explains that even though to many written language is the hallmark of human civilization, this construct in behavior didn’t just suddenly appear one day. Thousands of years before the first fully developed writing systems, our ancestors scrawled geometric signs across the walls of the caves they sheltered in. She has studied and codified these ancient markings in caves across Europe, suggesting that graphic communication, and the ability to preserve and transmit messages beyond a single moment in time, may be much older than we think. ref, ref, ref, ref

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

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“Humans living in wood huts were growing grain with pesky proto-weeds 11,000 years earlier than thought, international team of scientists finds. Evidence of cereal cultivation has been discovered at a 23,000-year-old site in the Galilee, doubling the age of the first attempts at farming.” ref

“Israeli archaeologists have unearthed evidence of early small-scale agricultural cultivation at Ohalo II, a 23,000-year-old hunter-gatherers’ sedentary camp on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Excavations at the site exposed six brush hut dwellings, a human grave, copious and well-preserved remains of both animal and plant foods, beads from the Mediterranean Sea, as well as evidence of flint tool manufacture and use.” ref

“The plant remains from the site were unusually well-preserved because of being charred and then covered by sediment and water which sealed them in low-oxygen conditions,” said Prof Ehud Weiss of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat-Gan, Israel, team leader and senior author of a paper published in the journal PLoS ONE.” ref

“Due to this, it was possible to recover an extensive amount of information on the site and its inhabitants – which made this a uniquely preserved site, and therefore one of the best archaeological examples worldwide of hunter-gatherers’ way of life. Here we see evidence of repeated sowing and harvesting of later domesticated cereals.” In the Ohalo II dwellings was a particularly rich assemblage of some 150,000 plant remains, showing that the residents gathered over 140 different plant species from the surrounding environment. Among these, the archaeologists identified edible cereals – such as wild emmer, wild barley, and wild oats.” ref

“These cereals were mixed with 13 species of so-called proto-weeds – ancestors of the modern-day weeds known to flourish in cultivated, single-crop fields – indicating that they grew and were subsequently unintentionally gathered together. “Because weeds thrive in cultivated fields and disturbed soils, a significant presence of weeds in archaeobotanical assemblages retrieved from Neolithic sites and settlements of later age is widely considered an indicator of systematic cultivation,” said co-author Prof Marcelo Sternberg of Tel Aviv University.” ref

“The archaeologists also found a grinding slab – a stone tool with which cereal starch granules were extracted – as well as a distribution of seeds around this tool, reflecting that the cereal grains were processed into flour. This flour was probably used to make dough, maybe by baking it on an installation of flat stones, found just outside one of the shelters.” ref

“Evidence from a site in Israel suggests Stone Age humans ate toasted wheat and barley cereal 23,000 years ago.” ref

“Archaeologists have found strong evidence that wheat and barley were refined into cereals 23,000 years ago, suggesting that humans were processing grains long before hunter-gatherer societies developed agriculture. The findings, including the identification of the earliest known oven and hence the oldest evidence of baking, were described in a recent issue of the journal Nature. “This is an observation of key progress in human society, as the beginning of baking was likely a major step forward in nutrition,” says author Ehud Weiss, a postdoctoral researcher in Harvard University’s Department of Anthropology and Peabody Museum. “Our work also provides evidence that ancient people held important knowledge that survives to this day. Ten thousand years before agriculture developed, humans recognized the value of cereals.” ref

“Hunter-gatherer culture is a type of subsistence lifestyle that relies on hunting and fishing animals and foraging for wild vegetation and other nutrients like honey, for food. Until approximately 12,000 years ago, all humans practiced hunting-gathering. Anthropologists have discovered evidence for the practice of hunter-gatherer culture by modern humans (Homo sapiens) and their distant ancestors dating as far back as two million years. With the beginnings of the Neolithic Revolution about 12,000 years ago, when agricultural practices were first developed, some groups abandoned hunter-gatherer practices to establish permanent settlements that could provide for much larger populations. However, many hunter-gatherer behaviors persisted until modern times.” ref

Ohalo II

“Ohalo II is an archaeological site in Northern Israel, near Kinneret, on the southwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. It is one of the best-preserved hunter-gatherer archaeological sites of the Last Glacial Maximum, radiocarbon dated to around 23,000 years ago. It is at the junction of the Upper Paleolithic and the Epipaleolithic, and has been attributed to both periods. The site is significant for two findings which are the world’s oldest: the earliest brushwood dwellings and evidence for the earliest small-scale plant cultivation, some 11,000 years before the onset of agriculture. The numerous fruit and cereal grain remains preserved in anaerobic conditions under silt and water are also exceedingly rare due to their general quick decomposition.” ref

“Ohalo II is the name given to the archaeological site located on the southwest shore of the Sea of Galilee in the Levant Jordan Rift Valley. The site consists of the remains of six charcoal rings where brushwood dwellings had been during the Upper Paleolithic. The huts are oval in shape and average between 9 and 16 feet long. They were simple in design, were constructed of tree branches and brushwood, and “probably only took a few hours to make.” Hearths were located outside the huts. In addition to the huts, the site also contains a grave and an area that was probably used as a refuse dump. The site is littered with a treasure trove of artifacts, including flints, animal bones, and remnants of fruit and cereal grains. Hundreds of species of birds, fish, fruits, vegetables, cereal grains, and large animals have been identified at the site.” ref

“These finds have greatly expanded knowledge of Upper Paleolithic hunting and gathering practices. At the time hunter-gatherers settled down at Ohalo II, the Sea of Galilee was newly formed and may have been attractive to many bands of people. After Ohalo II had been occupied for a relatively short amount of time, probably only a few generations, the village burned to the ground. Whether the burning was intentional or accidental is unknown. But what may have been tragic for its ancient inhabitants turned out to be a boon for archaeologists: at the same time as the village was destroyed, water levels at the Sea of Galilee rose and buried the site. Fortunately, …calm, relatively deep water covered the site, and the immediate deposition of fine clay and silt layers began.” ref

“Together, the water sediments sealed the site and protected the remains in situ for millennia. Since then, the rate of decomposition has been extremely low in the submerged anaerobic conditions, and the preservation of organic material has been excellent. This submersion and sedimentation (likely in combination with the charring) slowed the growth of bacteria in organic plant remains, preventing their destruction and preserving them through millennia on the lake bottom. It is possible that the rise in sea level that made preservation possible at Ohalo II was either caused by increase in global temperature at the end of the last glacial period or by an earthquake that changed the course of the water flowing into the Sea of Galilee. The site was discovered in 1989, when an extended drought caused a 9-meter drop in water levels in the Sea of Galilee. Archeologists have conducted an exhaustive study of Hut 1 at Ohalo II; this hut yielded over 90,000 seeds. The seeds account for more than 100 species of wild barley and fruits. Such a high concentration of seeds in the hut makes it highly unlikely that they were accidentally deposited into the hut via natural forces such as wind.” ref

“In addition, statistical analysis demonstrates that the concentration of plant matter was significantly higher around the walls than the center. Had the seeds been deposited by the collapsed roof, they would have evenly scattered on the ground. Furthermore, just 13 species of fruit and cereal make up about half of the total number of seeds found in the area; these include brome grains (Bromus pseudobrachystachys), wild barley (Hordeum spontaneum) and millet grass grains (Piptatherum holciforme), just to name a few. This suggests a marked preference of certain species of edible plants. A seed of particular interest comes from the Rubus fruit, which was fragile, difficult to transport, and preferably eaten immediately after collection. The presence of Rubus seeds at the Ohalo II site could indicate that the seeds were dried in the sun or by the fire for storage: early evidence for advanced planning of plant food consumption. Most importantly, the extremely high concentration of seeds clustering around the grinding stone in the northern wall of Hut 1 led archeologist Ehud Weiss to believe that humans at Ohalo II processed the grain before consumption.” ref

“A 2015 study reported that its “findings represent the earliest indications for the presence of proto-weeds in a site predating the Neolithic plant domestication by some 11,000 years. This study shows for the first time that proto-weeds grew in the vicinity of human camps and most probably also in small-scale, cultivated plots. The exact spatial distribution of the seed around a grinding stone further indicates extensive preparation. The seeds were scattered in a U-shape around the grinding stone, Weiss hypothesized that a woman was squatting at the open end of the U, and actively distributing the seeds all around her while grinding.” ref

“There is significant evidence to suggest that the center of activity for the inhabitants of Hut 1 was along the northern wall where the 40 cm long trapezoidal stone laid. There is strong evidence to suggest that this stone was used for the grinding of grain. It appears that someone attempted to embed the stone deep into the ground, using sand to provide a base beneath the grinding stone and small cobbles to provide additional support. A starch grain study was conducted, and grain remains were found on the grinding stone surface. A follow-up study was able to give further evidence of this use, documenting the processing of wild barley, wild wheat, and wild oats on the stone.” ref

“The flint tools in Ohalo II are highly varied, representing all stages of core reduction and are distributed in a pattern. Bladelets form a large percentage of the debris in hut I, which also include blades, flakes, primary elements, core trimming elements, and cores. There are 132 retouched tools, which are modified versions of stone flakes. A fairly large concentration of minute bladelets and flakes, along with other angular and fire-cracked fragments were found in the southern area, particularly around the entrance of Hut 1. There were also heavy cores and primary elements found in that vicinity. It is probable that individuals conducted flint-knapping near the entrance by the light from the door.” ref

Use-wear analysis of five glossed flint blades found at Ohalo II provides the earliest evidence for the use of composite cereal harvesting tools. The wear traces indicate that tools were used for harvesting near-ripe semi-green wild cereals, shortly before grains are ripe and disperse naturally. The studied tools were not used intensively, and they reflect two harvesting modes: flint knives held by hand and inserts hafted in a handle. The finds shed new light on cereal harvesting techniques some 8,000 years before the Natufian culture and 12,000 years before the establishment of sedentary farming communities in the Near East. Furthermore, the new finds accord well with evidence for the earliest ever cereal cultivation at the site and the use of stone-made grinding implements.” ref

“A study analyzing the distribution of flint materials and plant materials showed that distinct parts of the huts were used for different purposes. The concentration of flint material in the entrance area contrasts with plant material concentration and grinding stone placement in other parts of the hut, suggesting a distinct separation in activity space for food-preparation and tool-making. It is likely that this was a deliberate division of space within the hut. However it is also possible that these two activities were not absolutely restricted to their respective areas. One possible interpretation of this observed divide is labor division based on gender. Such a division has been observed in many past societies, however the culture-specific variability of this is also very high. As such, if this observed labor division was indeed related to gender, the finds at Ohalo II reflect the oldest evidence for such a situation.” ref

Opportunism or aquatic specialization? Evidence of freshwater fish exploitation at Ohalo II- A waterlogged Upper Paleolithic site

Abstract and Figures

“Analysis of ca. 17,000 fish remains recovered from the late Upper Paleolithic/early Epi-Paleolithic (LGM; 23,000 years ago) waterlogged site of Ohalo II (Rift Valley, Israel) provides new insights into the role of wetland habitats and the fish inhabiting them during the evolution of economic strategies prior to the agricultural evolution. Of the current 19 native fish species in Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), eight species were identified at Ohalo II, belonging to two freshwater families: Cyprinidae (carps) and Cichlidae (St. Peter fish). Employing a large set of quantitative and qualitative criteria (NISP, species richness, diversity, skeletal element representation, fragmentation, color, spatial distribution, etc.), we demonstrate that the inhabitants of Ohalo II used their knowledge of the breeding behavior of different species of fish, for year-round intensive exploitation.” ref

Ohalo II Man—unusual findings in the anterior rib cage and shoulder girdle of a 19000-year-old specimen

Abstract and Figures

“The analysis of the skeletal remains of Ohalo II man, aged 30–40 years at death and dated to 19 000 years ago, shows advanced and highly unusual ossification of the lower costosternal cartilage; the right humerus is morphologically larger and considerably more robust than the left; degenerative changes were noted unilaterally in the right glenohumeral, acromioclavicular and claviculosternal joints. There is a marked asymmetry of the atlas, axis and occipital condyles. The changes in the costochondral area of the lower anterior rib cage are considered to represent an infectious chronic osteomyelitic process. The marked discrepancy in size between the left and right shoulder girdles and humeri, and the evidence of degenerative disease exclusively on one side only may be the result of a traumatic brachial plexus nerve palsy. The asymmetrical atlas and axis are most probably anatomical variants that do not reflect clinical pathology.” ref

“The geographic area that has a shape reminiscent of an inverted crescent moon – and which therefore is also referred to as the Fertile Crescent – can be delimited by the areas of Levant (in the Eastern Mediterranean, comprising today’s Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, the land of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria), Upper Mesopotamia (formerly called Southeast Anatolia – identified today as SE Turkey), Middle and Lower Mesopotamia (now comprising the present-day Iran and Iraq and the lower basins of the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers). It therefore represents a vast and raggedy hodgepodge of landscape types running from the sea-coast and the plains to the area of the Zagros Mountains that are now located in today’s Iran.” ref

“Already at the end of the Early Stone Age (the Epipalaeolithic era) more than 20,000 years ago, the grain from wild forms of cereals – barley and some variants of wheat – were demonstrably being processed using stone grinding tools at the site designated as Ohalo II, located in the present-day State of Israel, which verifies their routine usage for subsistence. Plant components also constituted part of the diet during the subsequent period, which we refer to as the Kebaran complex (18,000 – 12,500 BCE). Different-sized groups of hunter-gatherers of this cultural complex inhabited a relatively elongated area corresponding roughly to the left half of the Fertile Crescent. The evidence of processing plant foods is represented by stone mortar pads, beaters, and mortars. A slightly larger space was occupied by the subsequent Natufien complex (12,500 – 9,800 BCE), in the earlier stage of which it is possible to document several long-term populated areas, including the planned development. At that time, a wide range of plants and animals were utilized and later demonstrably bred and domesticated. An analysis of the human remains, especially of teeth, also confirms the consumption of a much higher proportion of vegetable products than during the previous period. In their later stages, however, the number of settlement areas dwindled, and while there is also evidence of increasing mobility, this is inconsistent with any concept of linear progress.” ref

Abundance or stress? Faunal exploitation patterns and subsistence strategies: The case study of Brush Hut 1 at Ohalo II, a submerged 23,000-year-old camp in the Sea of Galilee, Israel


“The submerged site of Ohalo II was occupied during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), between 23,500–22,500 years ago, bridging the Upper Paleolithic/Epipaleolithic transition in the southern Levant. The site is known for the excellent preservation of its brush huts and botanical remains. This study examines the behavior of its past inhabitants through analysis of the entire faunal assemblage found on the three successive floors of Brush Hut 1. Furthermore, it provides an opportunity to test differing models of prey choice and assess whether the observed resource diversification is the result of resource depression (explained by Optimal Foraging Theory) or resource abundance (explained by Niche Construction Theory). We focused on a quantitative, qualitative and spatial investigation of the more than 20,000 faunal remains, combining traditional zooarchaeological methods with microwear analysis of teeth and Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) of burnt bones. Identification of faunal remains to the most detailed level possible, combined with analysis of skeletal element frequencies allowed reconstruction of a profile of the desired prey, highlighting the importance of small, expedient prey compared to larger game (ungulates). FTIR was used to identify degrees of burning and to develop a key to identifying burnt bones from water-logged environments. Availability of multiple food sources within a rich habitat may have driven exploitation of those varied local resources, rather than targeting energetically-rich large prey. The choice of a littoral habitat that could be intensively exploited is an example of niche selection. Comparison with contemporaneous and later sites contributes to the ongoing discussion about Early Epipaleolithic prey choice, and the impact, if any, of the LGM in the Jordan Valley. Ohalo II is an example of diverse prey choice motivated by abundance rather than stress, at a 23,000-year-old fisher-hunter-gatherers camp.” ref


Chinese pottery dates to about 20,000 years BCE.

“China holds the earliest pottery yet known anywhere in the world was found at this site dating by radiocarbon to between 20,000 and 19,000 years ago. The carbon 14 datation was established by careful dating of surrounding sediments. Many of the pottery fragments had scorch marks, suggesting that the pottery was used for cooking. These early pottery containers were made well before the invention of agriculture (dated to 10,000 to 8,000 BC), by mobile foragers who hunted and gathered their food during the Late Glacial Maximum.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xianren_Cave


The transmission of pottery technology among prehistoric European hunter-gatherers

“Although isolated cases of innovation cannot be excluded, a continuous process of adoption with the earlier occurrence of an antecedent tradition in western Siberia or central Asia, Siberia fit better though both are consistent with an ultimate origin for these traditions in the Far East.” ref

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

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The earliest centers of pottery origin in the Russian Far East and Siberia: Review of chronology for the oldest Neolithic cultures

“Abstract: The earliest pottery from the Russian Far East, Osipovka and Gromatukha cultural complexes, was radiocarbon-dated to c. 13,300-12,300 years ago. In Siberia, the earliest pottery is known from the Ust-Karenga complex, dated to c. 11,200-10,800 years ago. The Osipovka and Gromatukha complexes belong to the Initial Neolithic, and they are contemporaneous with the earliest Neolithic cultures in southern China and Japan. In spite of the very early emergence of pottery in the Russian Far East, there is no evidence of agriculture at the beginning of the Neolithic, and subsistence remains based on hunting and fishing, including anadromous salmonids in the Amur River and its tributaries.” ref

The earliest Neolithic complex in Siberia: the Ust-Karenga 12 site and its significance for the Neolithisation process in Eurasia

“Abstract: The discovery of Neolithic (i.e. pottery-containing) components at the Ust-Karenga 12 site in northern Transbaikal brought to light new data on the appearance of pottery in Siberia. Excavations and geoarchaeological studies identified the pottery complex in layer 7, 14C-dated to c. 12,180–10,750 years ago (charcoal dates) and c. 11,070–10,600 years ago (pottery organics dates). The pottery is thin and plant fibre-tempered; vessels are round-bottomed and with a comb-pattern design. Ust-Karenga 12 thus preserves by far the earliest Neolithic assemblage in Siberia, and is only slightly younger than the Initial Neolithic complexes of the Amur River basin, Russian Far East (c. 13,300–12,400 years ago).” ref

I think the “kurgan Origin” is found in “Stratified Ritual Mounds”
“From the later seventh-millennium cal BCE, in west Siberia, a new site type emerged in this period, the large, stratified mound (Russian kholm), with examples reaching 50m in diameter and up to 6m in height. These Mounds are characterized by unusual features such as groups of human skulls, clay figurines, bone and antler, hearths, and post-row structures, and are interpreted as ritual or sacrificial sites.”  ref
“A kurgan is a type of tumulus constructed over a grave, often characterized by containing a single human body along with grave vessels, weapons, and horses. Some scepter graves could have been covered with a tumulus, placing the first kurgans as early as the 5th millennium BCE in Eastern Europe. Within the burial chamber at the heart of the kurgan, elite individuals were buried with grave goods and sacrificial offerings, sometimes including horses and chariots. These structures are of the earlier Neolithic period from the 4th to the 3rd millenniums BCE.” ref


Ancient Fortifications in Western Siberia and Large Stratified Mounds in the 7th-millennium cal BCE

The innovations of the hunter-gatherer populations occupying the Siberian taiga 8000 years ago, including the construction of some of the oldest-known fortified sites in the world. 8000 years ago, that hunter-gatherers built fortified settlements, many centuries before comparable enclosures first appeared in Europe. The building of fortifications by forager groups has been observed sporadically elsewhere around the world in various—mainly coastal—regions from later prehistory onwards, but the very early onset of this phenomenon in inland western Siberia is unparalleled. Pit-house settlements with enclosures consisting of banks, ditches, and/or palisades appear on promontories and other topographical peaks across the West Siberian Plain from the end of the seventh-millennium cal BCE onwards. These complex settlements are part of a broader set of socio-economic and technological innovations and transformations in western Siberia and thus demarcate a phase of accelerated social change that is only partially understood. The sudden and unprecedented emergence of diversified hunter-gatherer life worlds in the west Siberian taiga 8000 years ago. As manifestations of social inequality, fortifications can also be related to (heritable) property rights, labor obligations, and the restriction of access to resources. Increasing political differentiation is not necessarily accompanied by greater wealth inequality; however, defensive architecture can also be coordinated without a centralized authority.” ref

The context of ancient fortifications in western Siberia

“Western Siberia, between the Ural Mountains and the River Yenisei, represents a particularly rich ecosystem from a hunter-gatherer-fisher perspective. Fish, aquatic birds, forest fowl, and large game such as elk and reindeer have predictable seasonal behaviors, and this abundance may have contributed to a rise in population and socio-political differentiation once the mass-harvesting strategies of such as ‘naturally stored’ resources developed. Storable and transportable goods made from these natural resources could include fish oil, fish meal, dried/smoked fish, dried birds and frozen meat—goods made and used by Indigenous groups in western Siberia to the present-day. These ‘front-loaded resources’, that is, goods that are labour-intensive to acquire and process but which can be stored and are subsequently easy to transport and prepare, would have been a target for raiders.” ref

“Early Holocene pre-pottery hunter-gatherer sites (termed ‘Mesolithic’) in the regional periodization, are concentrated in the Urals region and more sparsely distributed in the low-lying expanses further east. This latter area became occupied more intensively only from the later seventh-millennium cal BCE (regionally termed ‘Neolithic’) but referred to as the pottery Mesolithic in Western terminology. Among these pioneering sites are the earliest fortified settlements in northern Eurasia, with evidence of hierarchical organization indicated by pit houses of differing sizes; eight Stone Age examples are currently known. Another new site type that emerged in this period is the large, stratified mound (Russian kholm), with examples reaching 50m in diameter and up to 6m in height. These mounds are characterized by unusual features such as groups of human skulls, clay figurines, bone and antler, hearths, and post-row structures, and are interpreted as ritual or sacrificial sites. The adoption of pottery technology by the local hunter-gatherer communities is another novel feature of this period of change in the seventh millennium BCE.” ref

7th millennium BCE

Neolithic culture and technology were established in the Near East by 7000 BCE and there is increasing evidence through the millennium of its spread or introduction to Europe and the Far East. In most of the world, however, including north and western Europe, people still lived in scattered Palaeolithic hunter-gatherer communities. The Mehrgarh chalcolithic civilization began around 7000 BCE. The world population is believed to have been stable and slowly increasing. It has been estimated that there were perhaps ten million people worldwide at the end of this millennium, growing to forty million by 5000 BCE and 100 million by 1600 BCE.” ref

“Neolithic culture and technology reached modern Turkey and Greece c. 7000 BCE; and Crete about the same time. The innovations, including the introduction of farming, spread from the Middle East through Turkey and Egypt. There is evidence of domesticated sheep or goats, pigs, and cattle, together with grains of cultivated bread wheat. The domestication of pigs in Eastern Europe is believed to have begun c. 6800 BCE. The pigs may have descended from European wild boar or were probably introduced by farmers migrating from the Middle East. There is evidence, c. 6200 BCE, of farmers from the Middle East reaching the Danube and moving into Romania and Serbia. Farming gradually spread westward and northward over the next four millennia, finally reaching Great Britain and Scandinavia c. 3000 BCE to complete the transition of Europe from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic.” ref

“The Ubaid period (c. 6500–3800 BCE) began in Mesopotamia, its name derived from Tell al-‘Ubaid where the first significant excavation took place. By the end of this millennium, Jericho had become a large agricultural settlement with some eight to ten acres within its walls. Kathleen Kenyon reckoned that it was home to about three thousand people. Construction was done using stone implements to mould clay into bricks. The main crop was wheat. “Sheep and goats were domesticated in South West Asia, probably in the region of eastern Anatolia and northern Syria between 8000 and 7500 BCE, and were part of the agricultural package that was transmitted to Greece and the Balkans during the pioneering movements in the seventh millennium. From there the herding of domesticated sheep and goats was gradually taken up by foraging communities in the Pontic-Caspian steppe during the sixth and fifth millennia and became an essential part of the herder economy.” ref

“In the geologic time scale, the “Northgrippian” succeeded the “Greenlandian” c. 6236 BCE (to c. 2250 BCE). The starting point for the Northgrippian is the so-called 8.2 kiloyear event, which was an abrupt climate change lasting some four centuries in which there was a marked decrease in global temperatures, possibly caused by an influx of glacial meltwater into the North Atlantic Ocean.” ref

The Amnya Archaeological Complex

“Amnya I is regarded as the northernmost known Stone Age fortification in Eurasia and, based on current evidence, also one of the oldest fortified habitation sites worldwide. Located in the northern taiga of the Lower Ob’ region, the settlement occupies a sandy spit above a marshy river floodplain. Extant surface features include banks and ditches, which enclose the tip of the promontory, and 10 house pit depressions. Ten further house pits, located approximately 50m to the east, comprise the open settlement of Amnya II.” ref

“Excavations at Amnya I identified wooden palisades, confirming the defensive interpretation of two fortification lines (ditches II and III and associated features). A further, inner ditch across the tip of the promontory (ditch I) was also discovered. The pit houses are rectangular in plan and range from approximately 13 to 41m2 in size, with depths of up to 1.8m. The largest of these pit houses occupies the tip of the promontory. Construction features, including the presence of central elevated fireplaces, have led to the interpretation of these structures as long-term dwellings. Stratigraphic evidence from the house pits points to the repeated destruction of the settlement by fire, a phenomenon also observed at other early enclosed sites in the region and thought to be connected to violent conflict.” ref

“The remains of approximately 45 pottery vessels have been recovered from the Amnya complex. Both pointed, and flat-based forms are represented, reflecting two distinct typological traditions: one, potentially slightly older, type is broadly characterized by pricked/incised ornament, and the other by comb stamp decoration. On some of the house floors, both types of pottery were found together, indicating at least partial contemporaneity. Both pottery types belong to the initial phase of the early expansion of ceramic use along the riverine corridors of western Siberia. The lithic inventory largely consists of quartz but also includes flint artifacts such as microblades and ground slate tools and weapons, including among them numerous slate projectile heads. Bone fragments were preserved only in a calcined state, among which elk, reindeer, and beaver have been identified.” ref

Four radiometric radiocarbon dates from the initial excavations were interpreted as evidence for an earlier, Mesolithic phase in the eighth millennium cal BCE and a main settlement phase in the early sixth millennium cal BCE. Evidence for re-occupation during the Eneolithic period in the fourth-millennium cal BCE was also identified in some of the Amnya I house pits. Based on ceramic typology, the excavators attributed Amnya II to the Eneolithic, although earlier activity was also considered possiblere-assessment of the spatial distribution of the pottery and other material remains led to a re-interpretation of the site’s development, suggesting house 9 to be the oldest structure (containing pottery with pricked/incised decoration only), followed by houses 1 and 4 (with mixed assemblages of pottery), and finally building structures 2 and 3 (with only comb ware and unornamented pottery). The original radiocarbon dates do not exclude either interpretation.” ref

“The sequence of building activities at Amnya I and provide the first absolute dates for Amnya II, (indicates two phases of activity: 1) an initial phase of fortification at Amnya I in the final century of the seventh millennium BCE (based on charcoal from ditch I and palisade 1 and organic matter from the associated cultural layer); and 2) the main occupation phase at the beginning of the sixth millennium BCE (based on charcoal from houses 1, 2 and 8 at Amnya I and from house 2 at Amnya II). This indicates that the Early Neolithic complex comprised both a fortified settlement on the Amnya promontory (Amnya I) and a broadly contemporaneous open pit house complex 50m away (Amnya II). An Eneolithic re-occupation in the fourth-millennium cal BCE featuring pit houses and associated material culture is attested at both Amnya I and II but was not subject to new dating work.” ref

 “The results of sediment coring in the marshland at the foot of the Amnya promontory suggest that during its occupation from C. 6000 cal BCE onwards in the Atlantic period, there was a lake to the south of the site and a river on its northern side. Three radiocarbon dates indicate that lake mud deposits (gyttja) began to form in the eighth to seventh millennium cal BCE; peat started to form c. 5000 cal BCE, expanding to replace the lake during the fourth-millennium cal BCE.” ref

“What happened in western Siberia during the Early Holocene that led to the emergence of diversified hunter-gatherer life worlds featuring novel enclosed and structured settlements, as exemplified by the Amnya complex? Did a rise in intergroup conflict and persistent raiding necessitate defensive constructions? Did communal or ritual drivers, or technical innovations lead to new ways of appropriating space and landscape? And what role did climatic fluctuations and environmental change play in these developments? To approach these questions, the wider environmental and socio-cultural setting of the phenomenon must be examined.” ref

Climatic and environmental change: the framework of the 8.2 ka event

“Early fortified sites in western Siberia first appeared shortly after the 8,200 years ago cooling event, one of the most pronounced global climatic changes of the Holocene that lasted from c. 6200–6050 cal BCE. This event coincided with manifestations of increased territoriality among hunter-gatherer groups in other parts of northern Eurasia, for example, the emergence of formal cemeteries in Russian Karelia. Across Europe and Southwest Asia, adaptations of socio-economic systems have been linked to the 8.2 ka event; in north Asia, however, potential connections between climate change and human adaptation are still poorly understood. In arctic western Siberia, a rapid onset of the Holocene Thermal Maximum in the mid-seventh millennium cal BCE has been postulated, which may mask the 8.2 ka event. Further south, in the western Siberian basin, peatbogs began to develop much later, only 6000–5000 years ago, a scenario consistent with results from our pilot study of sediment cores from Amnya.” ref

“Understanding of palaeoenvironmental developments in Early Holocene western Siberia, however, remains patchy. Pottery, in particular, is seen as an important technical development, enabling new processing and storage strategies for long-lasting, high-calorie foods such as fish oil. In the study region, both the adoption of pottery and the construction of fortified sites might be seen to reflect these socio-economic developments. New dating results show that houses 2, 8 and 9 at Amnya I and house 2 at Amnya II were broadly contemporaneous. Parts of the fortification architecture (palisade 1 and ditch I) seem to be approximately 100–200 years earlier than these dwellings, whereas palisade 2 is stratigraphically later than house 8. The new dates therefore support the suggestion that the complex may have been structured as a fortified ‘citadel’ with a type of outer ‘bailey’. Such hierarchical layouts can also be observed at several other early enclosed sites in the region, including Kayukovo 1 & 2 and Imnegan 2.1.” ref

Territoriality, Social structure, and Inter-group conflict

“As territorial markers on riverbanks and lake shores, the early fortified sites in western Siberia would have ensured access to economically important places with a reliable seasonal abundance of aquatic resources. The autochthonous emergence of monumental constructions, such as ritual mounds, pit-houses, and fortifications, may mark a rearrangement of the social order towards ownership and territoriality through increased differentiation in the organization of labor and resources. By securing access to resources, by enhancing social memories and histories and by creating social relationships, monumental constructions would have embodied individual and collective objectives. Alternatively, it has been suggested that the early fortified sites in the taiga are an adaptation to increasing inter-group conflict. In this scenario, the sites would have been built either by incoming people, presumably from the south, to secure their occupation of the region, or by the local populations defending themselves against such immigrant groups.” ref

Explaining the west Siberian pathway

“Based on the current situation, we propose a model of economic intensification, possibly combined with an influx of people from beyond the region, to explain the concurrent changes observed in western Siberia c. 8000 years ago: population growth, the emergence of fortified sites, an increase in the numbers of pit house settlements, the rise of ritual monumentality—as exemplified by the kholmy mounds—and the adoption of pottery. Three possible scenarios concerning the potential role of environmental change in these developments, perhaps connected to the 8.2 ka climatic event, can be considered.” ref

“Scenario 1 assumes that the package of innovations described above developed in response to economic stress induced by climatic fluctuation (e.g. through changing oxygen regimes in water bodies, negatively affecting fish populations), and that this triggered the adjustment of economic and social systems through technological innovation. In contrast, scenario 2 proposes that environmental changes in the wake of the 8.2 ka event led to an increased abundance and/or accessibility of certain seasonal resources.” ref

“This triggered the development of new mass-harvesting strategies and improved storage practices that, in turn, enabled the accumulation of resource surplus. Management of these surpluses then led to changes in the socio-political structuring of populations and the emergence not only of wealth inequality and exclusive property rights, but also of increased community cohesion, for example through collective work on, and use of, monumental constructions.” ref

“Finally, scenario 3 rejects a deeper connection between the package of socio-economic innovations and environmental change suggesting, instead, that developments such as new fishing, fowling, processing and storage technologies were driven by other factors. These might include incoming groups, either bringing innovations with them, or triggering the development of such innovations though interactions with local populations. “The enclosed hunter-gatherer settlement of Amnya in the west Siberian taiga is one of the oldest-known fortified habitation sites in the world. Building on the results of earlier excavation, new fieldwork and a related programme of radiocarbon dating have now clarified the date of activity at the site, including the ditches, banks, palisades and the substantial pit houses, at Amnya I at c. 6000 cal BCE. For the first time, the broad contemporaneity of the adjacent open pit-house settlement Amnya II has also been demonstrated, indicating a complex hierarchical structure to the site, with an enclosed promontory and an associated undefended outer section, that mirrors the arrangements observed at contemporaneous settlements in the region.” ref

“Amnya and the, approximately eight, other known Stone Age hunter-gatherer forts in the region represent evidence of an unprecedented, autochthonous pathway towards socio-political differentiation in an unexpected part of the world. Coinciding with a sharp increase in population, these sites emerge as part of a broader package of change that took hold in the taiga c. 6000 cal BCE. This package encompassed innovations in technology (including pottery), subsistence, ritual practice and socio-political organisation, broadly resembling the main pillars of the ‘Neolithic package’ typically linked with the expansion of early farming.” ref

“This horizon of innovation suggests stark transformations in the socio-political structures of Early Holocene hunter-gatherer populations living in the taiga, including greater group cohesion, increased sedentism and territoriality, and a rise in inter-group social tensions and conflict. Within this suite of developments, fortified sites, while being functionally defensive, also signaled a new and more persistent attachment of communities to places. Working towards the creation and defense of fortified settlements would have enabled the development of stronger group unity and internal cohesion. Such developments are also inherent in the kholmy mounds as large-scale ritual structures in the landscape. The role of climatic fluctuations during the 8.2 ka event, and possible socio-economic adaptations in response to the associated environmental changes, remains unclear.” ref

“The Amnya settlement complex marks the beginning of a unique, long-term phenomenon of hunter-gatherer defensive sites in the north of Eurasia, an almost unbroken tradition that continued for almost eight millennia into the Early Modern period. This phenomenon distinguishes western Siberia from adjacent regions such as the Baikal area and north-eastern Europe where increasing territoriality was, instead, manifested in the emergence of large cemeteries. Explaining this specific cultural, economic and political pathway in a palaeoecological and cultural setting that was not markedly different from other regions at that date, such as the north-eastern European plain, is currently difficult. However, a better understanding of the west Siberian pathway is essential for the development of broader insights into early social differentiation, territoriality and conflict in non-agricultural societies and may, in turn, act as a lens through which social change in prehistory may be viewed more generally.” ref

7,000-year-old Siberian warrior, buried in a pre-kurgan,

in the Vengerovsky District of Novosibirsk region

“Novosibirsk Oblast, in southwestern Siberia, located in the south of the West Siberian Plain, at the foothills of low Salair ridge, between the Ob and Irtysh Rivers. The oblast borders Omsk Oblast in the west, Kazakhstan (Pavlodar Province) in the southwest, Tomsk Oblast in the north, Kemerovo Oblast in the east, and Altai Krai in the south. Average temperature is −19 °C (−2 °F) in January and +19 °C (66 °F) in July. Annual precipitation is 300–500 millimeters (12–20 in).” ref

“The burial mound that we have found most probably dates back to the Late Stone Age, 5-4 millennia BCE. It was previously thought that burial mounds appear at the end of the fourth to the beginning of the third millennium.’ Buried with stone axe and horn-tipped arrow, ancient human remains have archaeologists reshaping their assumptions. In a first for Siberia, a burial mound dating to the ‘New Stone Age’ has been unearthed in Novosibirsk region. In the mound were nine people, including women and children. ‘In the lower layer, they discovered a man with a stone axe and a horn-tipped arrow. ‘As this fact proves, that the burial mounds emerged much earlier than the Bronze Age, in Neolithic times.” ref

Dwellings of ancient people were also found close to the mound which may have contained a family grouping. At least in Siberia, it was thought until now that such burial mounds – signalling a new stage of development for early man – came later. It means there had been major changes in the socio-economic structure of the society. It is safe to assume that the process of destruction of collectivism, on which early tribal societies were based, began in Neolithic times. For the most part, the events that took place in the area that we now call Western Siberia were much more interesting and thought-provoking than previously thought.” ref


A kurgan is a type of tumulus constructed over a grave, often characterized by containing a single human body along with grave vessels, weapons, and horses. Originally in use on the Pontic–Caspian steppe, kurgans spread into much of Central Asia and Eastern, Southeast, Western, and Northern Europe during the 3rd millennium BCE. The earliest kurgans date to the 4th millennium BCE in the Caucasus, and some researchers associate these with the Indo-Europeans. Kurgans were built in the Eneolithic, Bronze, Iron, Antiquity, and Middle Ages, with ancient traditions still active in Southern Siberia and Central Asia.” ref

“According to the Etymological dictionary of the Ukrainian language the word “kurhan” is borrowed directly from the “Polovtsian” language (Kipchak, part of the Turkic languages) and means: fortress, embankment, high grave. The word has two possible etymologies, either from the Old Turkic root qori- “to close, to block, to guard, to protect”, or qur- “to build, to erect, furnish or stur”. According to Vasily Radlov it may be a cognate to qorγan, meaning “fortification, fortress or a castle.” The Russian noun, already attested in Old East Slavic, comes from an unidentified Turkic language. Kurgans are mounds of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves.” ref 

“Some scepter graves could have been covered with a tumulus, placing the first kurgans as early as the 5th millennium BCE in eastern Europe. However, this hypothesis is not unanimous. Kurgans were used in Ukrainian and Russian steppes, their use spreading with migration into southern, central, and northern Europe in the 3rd millennium BCE. Later, Kurgan barrows became characteristic of Bronze Age peoples, and have been found from Ukraine, Belarus, Bulgaria (ThraciansGetae, etc), Romania (Getae, Dacians), the Caucasus, Russia, to Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and the Altay Mountains.” ref

The Kurgan hypothesis is that Proto-Indo-Europeans were the bearers of the Kurgan culture of the Black Sea and the Caucasus and west of the Urals. Introduced by Marija Gimbutas in 1956, it combines kurgan archaeology with linguistics to locate the origins of the peoples who spoke the Proto-Indo-European language. She tentatively named the culture “Kurgan” after its distinctive burial mounds and traced its diffusion into Europe. The hypothesis has had a significant impact on Indo-European studies.” ref

“Scholars who follow Gimbutas identify a “Kurgan culture” as reflecting an early Proto-Indo-European ethnicity that existed in the steppes and in southeastern Europe from the 5th millennium to the 3rd millennium BCE. In Kurgan cultures, most burials were in kurgans, either clan or individual. Most prominent leaders were buried in individual kurgans, now called “royal kurgans.” More elaborate than clan kurgans and containing grave goods, royal kurgans have attracted the most attention and publicity.” ref

Pre-Scytho-Sibirian kurgans (Bronze Age)

“In the Bronze Age, kurgans were built with stone reinforcements. Some of them are believed to be Scythian burials with built-up soil, and embankments reinforced with stone (Olhovsky, 1991). Pre-Scytho-Sibirian kurgans were surface kurgans. Wooden or stone tombs were constructed on the surface or underground and then covered with a kurgan. The kurgans of Bronze culture across Europe and Asia were similar to housing; the methods of house construction were applied to the construction of the tombs. Kurgan Ak-su – Aüly (12th–11th centuries BCE) with a tomb covered by a pyramidal timber roof under a kurgan has space surrounded by double walls serving as a bypass corridor. This design has analogies with Begazy, Sanguyr, Begasar, and Dandybay kurgans. These building traditions survived into the early Middle Ages, to the 8th–10th centuries CE.” ref

“The Bronze Pre-Scytho-Sibirian culture developed in close similarity with the cultures of Yenisei, Altai, Kazakhstan, southern, and southeast Amur regions. Some kurgans had facing or tiling. One tomb in Ukraine has 29 large limestone slabs set on end in a circle underground. They were decorated with carved geometrical ornamentation of rhombuses, triangles, crosses, and on one slab, figures of people. Another example has an earthen kurgan under a wooden cone of thick logs topped by an ornamented cornice up to 2 m in height.” ref

Scytho-Siberian kurgans (Early Iron Age)

“The Scytho-Siberian kurgans in the Early Iron Age have grandiose mounds throughout the Eurasian continent. Females were buried in about 20% of graves of the lower and middle Volga river region during the Yamna and Poltavka cultures. Two thousand years later, females dressed as warriors were buried in the same region. David Anthony notes, “About 20% of Scythian – Sarmatian “warrior graves” on the lower Don and lower Volga contained females dressed for battle as if they were men, a phenomenon that probably inspired the Greek tales about the Amazons.” A near-equal ratio of male-to-female graves was found in the eastern Manych steppes and KubanAzov steppes during the Yamna culture. In Ukraine, the ratio was intermediate between the other two regions.” ref

Scytho-Siberian monuments

“The monuments of these cultures coincide with the Scytho-Siberian world (Saka) monuments. Scytho-Siberian monuments have common features, and sometimes common genetic roots. Also associated with these spectacular burial mounds are the Pazyryk, an ancient people who lived in the Altai Mountains lying in Siberian Russia on the Ukok Plateau, near the borders with China, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia. The archaeological site on the Ukok Plateau associated with the Pazyryk culture is included in the Golden Mountains of Altai UNESCO World Heritage Site. Scytho-Siberian classification includes monuments from the 8th to the 3rd century BCE.” ref

“This period is called the Early or Ancient Nomads epoch. “Hunnic” monuments date from the 3rd century BCE to the 6th century CE, and Turkic ones from the 6th century CE to the 13th century CE, leading up to the Mongolian epoch. The most obvious archeological remains associated with the Scythians are the great burial mounds, some over 20 m high, which dot the Ukrainian and Russian steppe belts and extend in great chains for many kilometers along ridges and watersheds. From them much has been learnt about Scythian life and art.” ref

Burial mounds are complex structures with internal chambers. Within the burial chamber at the heart of the kurgan, elite individuals were buried with grave goods and sacrificial offerings, sometimes including horses and chariots. The structures of the earlier Neolithic period from the 4th to the 3rd millenniums BCE, and Bronze Age until the 1st millennium BCE, display continuity of the archaic forming methods. They were inspired by common ritual-mythological ideas.” ref

“In all periods, the development of the kurgan structure tradition in the various ethnocultural zones is revealed by common components or typical features in the construction of the monuments. They include:

  • funeral chambers
  • tombs
  • surface and underground constructions of different configurations
  • a mound of earth or stone, with or without an entrance
  • funeral, ritual, and other traits
  • the presence of an altar in the chamber
  • stone fence
  • moat
  • bulwark
  • the presence of an entryway into the chamber, into the tomb, into the fence, or into the kurgan
  • the location of a sacrificial site on the embankments, inside the mound, inside the moat, inside the embankments, and in their links, entryways, and around the kurgan
  • the location of a fire pit in the chamber
  • a wooden roof over or under the kurgan, at the top of the kurgan, or around the kurgan
  • the location of stone statues, columns, poles and other objects; bypass passages inside the kurgan, inside tombs, or around the kurgan
  • funeral paths from the moat or bulwark.
  • Depending on the combination of these elements, each historical and cultural nomadic zone has certain architectural distinctions.” ref

“Some excavated kurgans include:

  • The Ipatovo kurgan revealed a long sequence of burials from the Maykop culture c. 4000 BCE down to the burial of an elite woman of the 3rd century BCE, excavated 1998–99.
  • Kurgan 4 at Kutuluk near Samara, Russia, dated to c. 24th century BCE, contains the skeleton of a man, estimated to have been 35 to 40 years old and about 152 cm tall. Resting on the skeleton’s bent left elbow was a copper object 65 cm long with a blade of a diamond-shaped cross-section and sharp edges, but no point, and a handle, originally probably wrapped in leather. No similar object is known from Bronze Age Eurasian steppe cultures.
  • The Maikop kurgan dates to the 3rd millennium BCE.
  • The Novovelichkovskaya kurgan of c. 2000 BCE on the Ponura River, Krasnodar region, southern Russia, contains the remains of 11 people, including an embracing couple, buried with bronze tools, stone carvings, jewelry, and ceramic vessels decorated with red ocher. The tomb is associated with the Novotitorovka culture nomads.
  • The Kostromskaya kurgan of the 7th century BCE produced a famous Scythian gold stag (now Hermitage Museum), next to the iron shield it decorated. Apart from the principal male body with his accoutrements, the burial included thirteen humans with no adornment above him, and around the edges of the burial twenty-two horses were buried in pairs. It was excavated by N. I. Veselovski in 1897.
  • The Issyk kurgan, in southern Kazakhstan, contains a skeleton, possibly female, c. 4th century BCE, with an inscribed silver cup, gold ornaments, Scythian animal art objects and headdress reminiscent of Kazakh bridal hats; discovered in 1969.
  • Kurgan 11 of the Berel cemetery, in the Bukhtarma River valley of Kazakhstan, contains a tomb of c. 300 BCE, with a dozen sacrificed horses preserved with their skin, hair, harnesses, and saddles intact, buried side by side on a bed of birch bark next to a funeral chamber containing the pillaged burial of two Scythian nobles; excavated in 1998.
  • The Tovsta Mohyla Kurgan belongs to the 4th century BC and was excavated in 1971 by the Ukrainian archaeologist Boris M. Mozolevsky. It contained the famous Golden Pectoral from Tovsta Mohyla that is now in exhibition in the Museum of Historical Treasures of Ukraine, which is located inside the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, in Kyiv. This pectoral is the most famous artwork connected with the Scythians. A beautiful sword scabbard was found in the same burial pre-chamber, which was never robbed, differently from the main chamber. A second lateral burial was found intact in the same Kurgan. It belonged to a woman and her 2-year old baby girl, both very likely related to the man buried at the center of the Kurgan. She was found covered with gold, including a golden diadem and other fine golden jewels. The Tovsta Mohyla Kurgan, 60 m in diameter before the excavation, is located in present-day southern Ukraine near the city of Pokrov in the Dnipro region.
  • The Ryzhanovka kurgan, a 10-metre-high (33 ft) kurgan 125 km south of Kyiv, Ukraine, containing the tomb of a Scythian chieftain, 3rd century BC, was excavated in 1996.
  • The Solokha kurgan, in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast of Ukraine, Scythian, dates to the early 4th century BC.
  • Mamai-gora, kurgan on the banks of Kakhovka Reservoir south west of Enerhodar (near the village of Velyka Znam’yanka). Known as one of the biggest tumulus in Europe. The height of the kurgan is 80 meters. Here were found remains of people from Bronze Age, Scythians, Sarmatians, Cimmeriansand Nogai people.
  • The Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak, near the town of Kazanlak in central Bulgaria, is a Thracian kurgan of c. the 4th century BCE.
  • The Aleksandrovo kurgan is a Thracian kurgan of c. the 4th century BCE.
  • The Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari, Bulgaria, is a Thracian kurgan of c. the 3rd century BCE.
  • The Håga Kurgan, located on the outskirts of Uppsala, Sweden, is a large Nordic Bronze Age kurgan from c. 1000 BCE.
  • The Pereshchepina Kurgan is a burial memorial of the Bulgarian ruler Kubrat from c. CE 660.
  • Noin-Ula kurgan, located by the Selenga River in the northern Mongolia hills north of Ulan Bator, is the tomb of Uchjulü-Chanuy (8 BCE – CE 13), head of the Hun confederation.
  • Scythian Kurgans tombs, located in Almaty, Kazakhstan
  • The Melitopol kurgan near Melitopol was excavated, and its assemblage included Scythian gold jewelry, which is not in the collection of the Melitopol Museum of Local History.” ref

Kurgans in Poland

Kurgan building has a long history in Poland. The Polish word for kurgan is kopiec or kurhan. Some excavated kurgans in Poland:

  • Burial mounds of the Unetice culture include fourteen kurgans dated to 2000–1800 BCE
  • Kraśnik Neolithic (Stone Age) kurhans
  • Tombs at Pleśnik
  • Trawiasta Buczyna — hundreds of stone kurhans dated to 1200–1000 BCE
  • Skalbmierz has kurgans dated 4000 BCE.
  • Zambrow
  • Mounds at Jawczyce were described by Bishop Nankerus in 1322. Kurgan mounds dated to the Neolithic or Bronze Age included a burial of an elderly person, probably male. Some weapons and pottery fragments were also found in the tomb.
  • Near Sieradz a tomb dated to the Trzciniec culture of c. 1500 BCE contains a man and woman buried together.
  • A kurgan burial site at Łubna-Jakusy and a kurgan cremation near Guciów are examples of Trzciniec culture of c. 1500 BCE.” ref

“In Azerbaijan, nine kurgans were found at the cemetery of Soyuqbulaq. It was dated to the beginning of the 4th millennium BCE, which makes it the oldest kurgan cemetery in Transcaucasia. There is also an evidence that the Duzdağı salt deposits in the Araxes valley were already being exploited from the second half of the 5th millennium BC, which is the most ancient exploitation of rock salt.” ref

Soyuqbulaq (also, Soyuq Bulaq) is a village in the Agstafa Rayon of Azerbaijan. The nine kurgans at the cemetery of Soyuqbulaq were dated to the beginning of the fourth millennium BCE, and are similar kurgans have been found at Kavtiskhevi, Kaspi Municipality, in central Georgia. Several other archaeological sites seem to belong to the same ancient cultural tradition as Soyuq Bulaq. They include Berikldeebi, Kavtiskhevi, Leilatepe, Boyuk Kesik, and Poylu, Agstafa, and are characterized by pottery assemblages “mainly or totally in the North Mesopotamian tradition.” ref

“The numerous artifacts discovered at these sites have shed light on the material and spiritual culture of this ancient people during the late Eneolithic period. Amongst the finds are stone and bone tools, metal objects, and a huge cache of clay vessels. There are also anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figurines made of clay or bone. Grain residues were also excavated. The residents kept cattle and other domesticated animals in these settlements. Most of these sites are associated with the Leilatepe archeological culture of the first half of the fourth millennium BCE. It is believed that this was the result of the migration of near-eastern tribes from Mesopotamia to the South Caucasus, especially to Azerbaijan.” ref  

“According to the excavators, the discovery of Soyugbulaq and subsequent excavations provided substantial proof that the practice of kurgan burial was well established in the South Caucasus during the late Eneolithic. The roots of the Leylatepe Archaeological Culture to which the Soyugbulaq kurgans belong to, stemmed from the Ubaid culture of Central Asia. The Leylatepe Culture tribes migrated to the north in the mid-fourth millennium BCE. and played an important part in the rise of the Maikop Culture of the North Caucasus. A number of Maikop Culture kurgans and Soyugbulaq kurgans display the same northwest to southeast grave alignment. More than that, Soyugbulaq kurgans yielded pottery forms identical to those recovered from the Maikop kurgans. These are the major factors attesting to the existence of a genetic link between the two cultures.” ref

“The earliest mining of metals started in this area already in the second half of the 4th millennium. After 3000 BCE, a significant increase in the use of metal objects occurred in this area of Caucasus, and at the Kura-Araxes sites in general. Also, the variation in copper alloys increased during this time. The rich tomb of a woman at Kvazchela is a good example of this, which is quite similar to the ‘royal tomb’ from Arslantepe. The use of an arsenical component of up to 25% in copper objects resulted in a shiny greyish, silvery color. So it’s quite possible that these unusually high arsenical alloys were intended to imitate silver. Also, the earliest evidence of silver use in the Caucasus is attested at Soyuq Bulaq at this time, although these items are still rather few. Silver also occurred for the first time in the archaeological record of Georgia during this period.” ref

“The prehistory of Georgia, its Paleolithic, ended some 10,000-12,000 years ago to be succeeded by the Mesolithic culture (Kotias Klde). Signs of Neolithic culture, and the transition from foraging and hunting to agriculture and stockraising, are found in Georgia from at least the beginning of the 6th millennium BCE. Early metallurgy started in Georgia during the 6th millennium BCE. Very early metal objects have been discovered in layers of the Neolithic Shulaveri-Shomutepe culture. From the beginning of the 4th millennium, metal use became more extensive in East Georgia and in the whole Transcaucasian region.” ref

“The so-called early Neolithic sites are chiefly found in western Georgia. These are Khutsubani, Anaseuli, Kistriki, Kobuleti, Tetramitsa, Apiancha, Makhvilauri, Kotias Klde, Paluri and others. In the 5th millennium BCE, the Kura (Mtkvari) basin also became stably populated, and settlements such as those at Tsopi, Aruchlo, and Sadakhlo along the Kura in eastern Georgia are distinguished by a long lasting cultural tradition, distinctive architecture, and considerable skill in stoneworking. Most of these sites relate to the flourishing late Neolithic/Eneolithic archaeological complex known as the Shulaveri-Shomu culture. Radiocarbon dating at Shulaveri sites indicates that the earliest settlements there date from the late sixth − early fifth millennium BCE.” ref

“In the highlands of eastern Anatolia and South Caucasus, the right combination of domesticable animals and sowable grains and legumes made possible the earliest agriculture. In this sense, the region can justly be considered one of the “cradles of civilization.” The entire region is surmised to have been, in the period beginning in the last quarter of the 4th millennium BCE, inhabited by people who were possibly ethnically related and of Hurrian stock. The ethnic and cultural unity of these 2,000 years is characterized by some scholars as Chalcolithic or Eneolithic.” ref

“The Hurrians (also called Hari, Khurrites, Hourri, Churri, Hurri or Hurriter) were a people who inhabited the Ancient Near East during the Bronze Age. They spoke the Hurrian language, and lived throughout northern Syriaupper Mesopotamia, and southeastern Anatolia.” ref

“The Hurro-Urartian languages are an extinct language family of the Ancient Near East, comprising only two known languages: Hurrian and Urartian. It is often assumed that the Hurro-Urartian languages (or a pre-split Proto-Hurro-Urartian language) were originally spoken by people who engaged in the Kura-Araxes cultureThere was also a strong Hurrian influence on the Hittite culture in ancient times, so many Hurrian texts are preserved from Hittite political centres. The Mitanni variety is chiefly known from the so-called “Mitanni letter” from Hurrian Tushratta to Pharaoh Amenhotep III surviving in the Amarna archives. The “Old Hurrian” variety is known from some early royal inscriptions and from religious and literary texts, especially from Hittite centers. Urartian is attested from the late 9th century BCE to the late 7th century BCE as the official written language of the state of Urartu and was probably spoken by the majority of the population in the mountainous areas around Lake Van and the upper Zab valley. It branched off from Hurrian at approximately the beginning of the second millennium BCE.” ref

“While the genetic relation between Hurrian and Urartian is undisputed, the wider connections of Hurro-Urartian to other language families are controversial. After the decipherment of Hurrian and Urartian inscriptions and documents in the 19th and early 20th century, Hurrian and Urartian were soon recognized as not related to the Semitic nor to the Indo-European languages, and to date, the most conservative view holds that Hurro-Urartian is a primary language family not demonstrably related to any other language family. Early proposals for an external genetic relationship of Hurro-Urartian variously grouped them with the Kartvelian languages, Elamite, and other non-Semitic and non-Indo-European languages of the region.” ref 

Igor Diakonoff and Sergei Starostin suggested that Hurro-Urartian and the Northeastern Caucasian language family can be included in a macro-family; this grouping was provisionally dubbed the Alarodian languages, by Diakonoff. Several studies argue that the connection is probable. Other scholars, however, doubt that the language families are related, or believe that, while a connection is possible, the evidence is far from conclusive. Uralicist and Indo-Europeanist Petri Kallio argues that the matter is hindered by the lack of consensus about how to reconstruct Proto-Northeast-Caucasian, but that Alarodian is the most promising proposal for relations with Northeast Caucasian, greater than rival proposals to link it with Northwest Caucasian or other families. Arnaud Fournet and Allan R. Bomhard argue that Hurro-Urartian is a sister family to Indo-European. The poorly attested Kassite language may have belonged to the Hurro-Urartian language family.” ref

“From c. 3400 to 2000 BCE, the region saw the development of the Kura-Araxes or Early Transcaucasian culture centered on the basins of Kura and Aras. During this era, economic stability based on cattle and sheep raising and noticeable cultural development was achieved. The local chieftains appear to have been men of wealth and power. Their burial mounds have yielded finely wrought vessels in gold and silver; a few are engraved with ritual scenes suggesting the Middle Eastern cult influence. This vast and flourishing culture was in contact with the more advanced civilization of Akkadian Mesopotamia, but went into gradual decline and stagnated c. 2300 BCE, being eventually broken up into a number of regional cultures. One of the earliest of these successor cultures is the Bedeni culture in eastern Georgia.” ref

“At the end of the 3rd millennium BCE, there is evidence of considerable economic development and increased commerce among the tribes. In western Georgia, a unique culture known as Colchian developed between 1800 and 700 BCE, and in eastern Georgia the kurgan (tumulus) culture of Trialeti reached its zenith around 1500 BCE. By the last centuries of the 2nd millennium BCE, ironworking had made its appearance in the South Caucasus, and the true Iron Age began with the introduction of tools and weapons on a large scale and of superior quality to those hitherto made of copper and bronze, a change which in most of the Near East may not have come before the tenth or ninth centuries BCE. During this period, as linguists have estimated, the ethnic and linguistic unity of the Proto-Kartvelians finally broke up into several branches that now form the Kartvelian family.” ref


tumulus (pl.tumuli) is a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves. Tumuli are also known as barrowsburial mounds or (in Siberia and Central Asia) kurgans, and may be found throughout much of the world. A cairn, which is a mound of stones built for various purposes, may also originally have been a tumulus. Tumuli are often categorised according to their external apparent shape. In this respect, a long barrow is a long tumulus, usually constructed on top of several burials, such as passage graves. A round barrow is a round tumulus, also commonly constructed on top of burials. The internal structure and architecture of both long and round barrows have a broad range; the categorization only refers to the external apparent shape. The method of inhumation may involve a dolmen, a cist, a mortuary enclosure, a mortuary house, or a chamber tomb. Examples of barrows include Duggleby Howe and Maeshowe. The word tumulus is Latin for ‘mound’ or ‘small hill’, which is derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *teuh2 with extended zero grade *tum-, ‘to bulge, swell’ also found in tombtumortumescentthumbthigh, and thousand. Burial mounds are one of several funerary forms practiced by Indigenous Australians. Burial mounds were once practiced by some Aboriginals across Australia, the most eloborate burial mounds are recorded in New South WalesSouth AustraliaVictoria, and Western Australia.” ref

Preceded by assumed earlier sites in the Eastern Sahara, tumuli with megalithic monuments developed as early as 4700 BCE in the Saharan region of Niger. Fekri Hassan (2002) indicates that the megalithic monuments in the Saharan region of Niger and the Eastern Sahara may have served as antecedents for the mastabas and pyramids of ancient Egypt. The prehistoric tradition of monarchic tumuli-building is shared by both the West African Sahel and the Middle Nile regions. Ancient Egyptian pyramids of the early dynastic period and Meroitic Kush pyramids are recognized by Faraji (2022) as part of and derived from an earlier architectural SudanicSahelian” tradition of monarchic tumuli, which are characterized as “earthen pyramids” or “proto-pyramids.” Faraji (2022) characterized Nobadia as the “last pharaonic culture of the Nile Valley” and described mound tumuli as being “the first architectural symbol of the sovereign’s return and reunification with the primordial mound upon his death.” ref

“Faraji (2022) indicates that there may have been a cultural expectation of “postmortem resurrection” associated with tumuli in the funerary traditions of the West African Sahel (e.g., northern Ghana, northern Nigeria, Mali) and Nile Valley (e.g., Ballana, Qustul, Kerma, Kush). Based on artifacts found in the tumuli from West Africa and Nubia, there may have been “a highly developed corporate ritual in which the family members of the deceased brought various items as offerings and tribute to the ancestors” buried in the tumuli and the tumuli may have “served as immense shrines of spiritual power for the populace to ritualize and remember their connection to the ancestral lineage as consecrated in the royal tomb.” In Niger, there are two monumental tumuli – a cairn burial (5,695 – 5,101 years ago) at Adrar Bous, and a tumulus covered with gravel (6229 – 4933 years ago) at Iwelen, in the Aïr Mountains. Tenerians did not construct the two monumental tumuli at Adrar Bous and Iwelen. Rather, Tenerians constructed cattle tumuli at a time before the two monumental tumuli were constructed.” ref

“The earliest kurgans date to the 4th millennium BCE in the Caucasus, and researchers associate these with the Indo-Europeans. Kurgans were built in the Eneolithic, Bronze, Iron, Antiquity and Middle Ages, with ancient traditions still active in Southern Siberia and Central Asia. The word kurgan is of Turkic origin, and derives from Proto-Turkic *Kur- (“to erect (a building), to establish”). In Ukraine and Russia, there are royal kurgans of Varangian chieftains, Oleg‘s Grave in Russian Staraya Ladoga, and vast, intricate Rurik’s Hill near Russian Novgorod. Other important kurgans are found in Ukraine and South Russia and are associated with much more ancient steppe peoples, notably the Scythians (e.g., Chortomlyk, Pazyryk) and early Indo-Europeans (e.g., Ipatovo kurgan) The steppe cultures found in Ukraine and South Russia naturally continue into Central Asia, in particular Kazakhstan. It is constructed over a grave, often characterized by containing a single human body along with grave vessels, weapons, and horses. Originally in use on the Pontic–Caspian steppe, kurgans spread into much of Central Asia and Eastern, Southeast, Western, and Northern Europe during the 3rd millennium BCE.” ref

Archaeologists often classify tumuli according to their location, form, and date of construction (see also mound). Some British types are listed below:

  • Bank barrow
  • Bell barrow
  • Bowl barrow
  • D-shaped barrow – round barrow with a purposely flat edge at one side often defined by stone slabs.
  • Disc barrow
  • Fancy barrow – generic term for any Bronze Age barrows more elaborate than a simple hemispherical shape.
  • Long barrow
  • Oval barrow – a Neolithic long barrow consisting of an elliptical, rather than rectangular or trapezoidal mound.
  • Platform barrow – The least common of the recognised types of round barrow, consisting of a flat, wide circular mound that may be surrounded by a ditch. They occur widely across southern England with a marked concentration in East and West Sussex.
  • Pond barrow – a barrow consisting of a shallow circular depression, surrounded by a bank running around the rim of the depression, from the Bronze Age.
  • Ring barrow – a bank that encircles a number of burials.
  • Round barrow – a circular feature created by the Bronze Age peoples of Britain and also the later Romans, Vikings, and Saxons. Divided into subclasses such as saucer and bell barrow – the Six Hills are a rare Roman example.
  • Saucer barrow – a circular Bronze Age barrow that features a low, wide mound surrounded by a ditch that may have an external bank.
  • Square barrow – burial site, usually of Iron Age date, consisting of a small, square, ditched enclosure surrounding a central burial, which may also have been covered by a mound.” ref

The Kurgan hypothesis 

“Gimbutas defined the Kurgan culture as composed of four successive periods, with the earliest (Kurgan I) including the Samara and Seroglazovo cultures of the DnieperVolga region in the Copper Age (early 4th millennium BCE). The Kurgan model of Indo-European origins identifies the Pontic–Caspian steppe as the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) urheimat, and a variety of late PIE dialects are assumed to have been spoken across this region. According to this model, the Kurgan culture gradually expanded to the entire Pontic–Caspian steppe, Kurgan IV being identified with the Yamnaya culture of around 3000 BCE.” ref

“The mobility of the Kurgan culture facilitated its expansion over the entire region and is attributed to the domestication of the horse followed by the use of early chariots. The first strong archaeological evidence for the domestication of the horse comes from the Sredny Stog culture north of the Azov Sea in Ukraine, and would correspond to an early PIE or pre-PIE nucleus of the 5th millennium BCE. Subsequent expansion beyond the steppes led to hybrid, or in Gimbutas’s terms “kurganized” cultures, such as the Globular Amphora culture to the west. From these kurganized cultures came the immigration of Proto-Greeks to the Balkans and the nomadic Indo-Iranian cultures to the east around 2500 BCE.” ref

“Cultures that Gimbutas considered as part of the “Kurgan culture”:

Bug–Dniester culture

The Bug–Dniester culture was an archaeological culture that developed in and around the Central Black Earth Region of Moldavia and Ukraine, around the Dniester and Southern Bug rivers, during the Neolithic era. Over the course of approximately 1,300 years (from the years 6300–5000 BCE), the Bug–Dniester culture went through different cultural phases; during this period of time the population remained about the same. The Neolithic phase in this region developed out of the local Mesolithic, through contact with the Chalcolithic cultures in the west and Neolithic hunter-gatherer cultures in the East (adhering to Soviet terminology, Neolithic is defined here as pottery-bearing, not agricultural).” ref

“They made pottery from approximately 6200 BCE of a sort derived from the Elshanka culture of the middle Volga. Much of this pottery had pointed bottoms, designed for cooking over a fire; they were often decorated in patterns of wavy lines. This local culture was influenced by the neighboring Neolithic Körös culture, whose origins lay in the Carpathian basin. The Körös farmers had arrived in the upper valleys of the Seret and Prut in around 5800–5700 BCE. Körös pottery forms were copied by the Bug–Dniester people.” ref

“The Elshanka culture (Russian: Елшанская культура) was a Subneolithic or very early Neolithic culture that flourished in the middle Volga region in the 7th millennium BCE. The sites are mostly individual graves scattered along the Samara and Sok rivers. They revealed Europe’s oldest pottery. The culture extended along the Volga from Ulyanovsk Oblast in the north through the Samara Bend towards Khvalynsk Hills and the Buzuluk District in the south. No signs of permanent dwellings have been found. Elshanka people appear to have been hunters and fishermen who had seasonal settlements at the confluences of rivers. Most grave goods come from such settlements.” ref

“Elshanka is believed to be the source from which the art of pottery spread south and westward towards the Balkans (with one particularly important site being the Surskoy Island in the Dnieper Rapids where pottery was made from 6200 to 5800 BCE). Elshanka pots, dated from 6700 BCE onwards, usually have simple ornaments, though some have none. They were made “of a clay-rich mud collected from the bottoms of stagnant ponds, formed by the coiling method and were baken in open fires at 450-600 degrees Celsius.” ref

“A man buried at Lebyazhinka IV (a site usually assigned to the Elshanka culture) had the Haplogroup R1b. I. Vasiliev and A. Vybornov, citing the similarity of pottery, assert that Elshanka people were the descendants of the Zarzian culture who had been ousted from Central Asia by progressive desertification. Other researchers see Elshanka ceramic industry as a local attempt at reproducing Zarzian pots. A rapid cooling around 6200 BCE and influences from the Lower Volga region led the Elshanka culture to be succeeded by the Middle Volga culture (with more complex ceramic ornaments) which lasted until the 5th millennium BCE. It was succeeded in the region by the better known Samara culture.” ref

“Linguist Asko Parpola (2022) associates the Elshanka culture and the Kama culture with the early Proto-Uralic language, which would later expand eastwards and westwards with the Seima-Turbino material culture. Uralic languages would later be transmitted by language shift from groups of hunters and fishers participating in the spread of the Seima-Turbino culture towards Siberia and back to Northeastern Europe.” ref

Fortifications and fabrications: Reassessing the emergence of fortifications in Prehistoric (Turkey/Türkiye) Asia Minor

“Abstract: Fortifications have been postulated in Asia Minor from as early as the Neolithic period, and these fortifications have often been interpreted as evidence for warfare from that period onwards. Here, a reassessment of the Prehistoric data from Asia Minor is offered, and it is suggested that the earliest unequivocal military fortifications emerged in the EB II period, thus after 2600 BCE. It will be argued that the emergence of these fortifications can be linked with wider social transformations occurring simultaneously.” ref

“Unlike other types of monuments, such as pyramids and stone henges, fortifications are usually interpreted in functional terms: as a defence technology. Further, fortifications are often connected with urbanism. First, although fortifications often have a military function, it would be erroneous to suggest that they are always best explained in terms of defensive technologies. For example, discussing fortified cities in Early Historic India, suggests that fortifications served in part to protect against floods and in part as expressions of corporate power of elites displaying their capability to organize the construction of these massive projects.” ref
“Off the shores of northern Israel, archaeologists found a 7,000-year-old wall that stretches more than 330 feet (100 meters) long. The researchers have interpreted the structure as a seawall for a Stone Age village, making it the oldest such coastal defense structure that’s ever been identified. The long wall was made up of big boulders, some of which could be more than 3 feet (1 meter) wide and weigh more than a metric ton (1,000 kg). The barrier was located on the western edge of an underwater village known as Tel Hreiz. Artifacts and the remnants of homes in the town suggest it could have supported a few hundred people, who likely relied on fishing and agricultural activities like making olive oil. When the town was built about 7,000 years ago, it was likely about 7 to 10 feet above sea level, according to the study. But the first occupants may not have known they were settling in a quickly changing landscape. When the last ice age ended, melting glaciers around the world caused sea level to rise. During the Neolithic era, water in the Mediterranean crept up about 27 inches (70 cm) over 100 years, which is faster than the global sea level is rising today. The average sea-level rise alone may not have inundated the town, but the rising water likely caused winter storm surges to damage the town with more frequency over fewer generations, the researchers say.” ref
“Here, it is of interest that the construction and restoration of city walls by mighty kings is an important and recurring theme in Mesopotamian literature, which suggests that ideology played an important role in the construction of fortifications. Further, many fortifications do not make sense from a military perspective. An example from the Near East consists of the fortifications of Hattuša. These impressive fortifications of the Hittite capital are indeed awe inspiring and a testimony to the engineering and organizational skills of the Hittites. However, from a military point of view the location of the heavily fortified capital makes little sense, as there are many weak points due to the nature of the terrain.” ref

“Second, fortifications and urbanism are not necessarily linked. There are cities without fortifications and fortified settlements that are not urban. Childe (1950) noted long ago that cities and towns are extremely diverse cross-culturally, and fortifications only occur in some urban settlements. However, archaeologists have often argued the reverse: that fortifications are an index for urbanism.  A classic example is the case of Pre-Pottery Neolithic A Jericho, ca. 9500-8700 BCE. Kenyon (1956) postulated a population of about 3000 people and argued that Jericho constituted a town, primarily on the basis of features interpreted by her as a city wall and an associated tower. By contrast, Braidwood (1957) argued that the site of Jericho did not possess many of the characteristics characteristic of towns.” ref 

“Importantly, later scholars have argued that the structures at Jericho were not part of a fortification system, but served to protect against floods, to symbolically protect the settlement, as ritual structures, and as a territorial marker. The Jericho case exemplifies the main issues that recur in discussions about fortifications in Prehistory: on the one hand many archaeologists have claimed to have excavated perimeter walls and have used this interpretation to claim that their site was either urban in nature or a precursor of later complex settlements and societies; on the other hand, many scholars have pointed out that fortifications need not have been military in purpose and that they can be associated with settlements that are not urban in character.” ref 

Ritual Mound Migrations: Kurgans, Dolmens, and later Pyramids likely all trace back to Siberia, helping show how Yeniseian languages, may have influenced Proto-Indo-European languages

Hunter-Gatherer or Forager

“A hunter-gatherer or forager is a human living in a community, or according to an ancestrally derived lifestyle, in which most or all food is obtained by foraging, that is, by gathering food from local naturally occurring sources, especially edible wild plants but also insectsfungihoneybird eggs, or anything safe to eat, and/or by hunting game (pursuing and/or trapping and killing wild animals, including catching fish). This is a common practice among most vertebrates that are omnivores. Hunter-gatherer societies stand in contrast to the more sedentary agricultural societies, which rely mainly on cultivating crops and raising domesticated animals for food production, although the boundaries between the two ways of living are not completely distinct.” ref

“Hunting and gathering was humanity’s original and most enduring successful competitive adaptation in the natural world, occupying at least 90 percent of human history. Following the invention of agriculture, hunter-gatherers who did not change were displaced or conquered by farming or pastoralist groups in most parts of the world. Across Western Eurasia it was not until approximately 4,000 BCE that farming and metallurgical societies completely replaced hunter-gatherers. These technologically advanced societies expanded faster in areas with less forest, pushing hunter-gatherers into denser woodlands.” ref

“Only the middle-late Bronze Age and Iron Age societies were able to fully replace hunter-gatherers in their final stronghold located in the most densely forested areas. Unlike their Bronze and Iron Age counterparts, Neolithic societies couldn’t establish themselves in dense forests, and Copper Age societies had only limited success. In addition to men, women engage in hunting in 79% of modern hunter-gatherer societies. Only a few contemporary societies of uncontacted people are still classified as hunter-gatherers, and many supplement their foraging activity with horticulture or pastoralism.” ref

“Hunter-gatherer societies manifest significant variability, depending on climate zone/life zone, available technology, and societal structure. Archaeologists examine hunter-gatherer tool kits to measure variability across different groups. Collard et al. (2005) found temperature to be the only statistically significant factor to impact hunter-gatherer tool kits. Using temperature as a proxy for risk, Collard et al.’s results suggest that environments with extreme temperatures pose a threat to hunter-gatherer systems significant enough to warrant increased variability of tools. These results support Torrence’s (1989) theory that the risk of failure is indeed the most important factor in determining the structure of hunter-gatherer toolkits.” ref

“One way to divide hunter-gatherer groups is by their return systems. James Woodburn uses the categories “immediate return” hunter-gatherers for egalitarianism and “delayed return” for nonegalitarian. Immediate return foragers consume their food within a day or two after they procure it. Delayed return foragers store the surplus food. Hunting-gathering was the common human mode of subsistence throughout the Paleolithic, but the observation of current-day hunters and gatherers does not necessarily reflect Paleolithic societies; the hunter-gatherer cultures examined today have had much contact with modern civilization and do not represent “pristine” conditions found in uncontacted peoples.” ref

“The transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture is not necessarily a one-way process. It has been argued that hunting and gathering represents an adaptive strategy, which may still be exploited, if necessary, when environmental change causes extreme food stress for agriculturalists. In fact, it is sometimes difficult to draw a clear line between agricultural and hunter-gatherer societies, especially since the widespread adoption of agriculture and resulting cultural diffusion that has occurred in the last 10,000 years. Nowadays, some scholars speak about the existence within cultural evolution of the so-called mixed-economies or dual economies which imply a combination of food procurement (gathering and hunting) and food production or when foragers have trade relations with farmers.” ref

 Understanding Foragers 

“Hunter-gatherer or forager societies, as the names imply, have been defined first and foremost by their mode of subsistence: ‘hunting of wild animals, gathering of wild plants, and fishing, with no domestication of plants, and no domesticated animals except the dog’. Another recent survey develops this defining characteristic in the following terms: ‘the absence of direct human control over the reproduction of exploited species, and little or no control over other aspects of population ecology such as the behavior and distribution of food resources. In essence, hunter-gatherers exercise no deliberate alteration of the gene pool of exploited resources’. In addition to this primary characteristic of ‘not being farmers’, there are or have been two other very common features amongst recent and contemporary forager societies, as Lee and DeVore (1968) commented in their opening essay to the seminal Man the Hunter volume: ‘(1) they live in small groups, and (2) they move around a lot’. At the end of the Pleistocene, forager societies peopled most regions of the world, at most latitudes. By the middle of the second millennium ad, foragers still occupied a third of the globe including all of Australia and most of North America, and large tracts of South America, Africa, North, and North-East Asia. Yet in recent centuries foragers have ‘retreated precipitously in the face of the steamroller of modernity’, occupying only those areas where farmers simply cannot go, or where farming is so marginal as to be uneconomic. Many societies frequently cited in archaeological textbooks as examples of forager societies today, like the !Kung-San of the Kalahari, in fact also practice cultivation or herding on a small scale, and others depend heavily on trade with neighboring farmers for staple foods. It is extremely difficult to translate foragers’ behavior as recorded today or in the recent past into theories of general applicability to the world’s prehistoric foraging population prior to farming. The task is all the more complicated by the remoteness of the everyday lives of foragers (present and past) from western Europeans, a remoteness that has given rise to two enduring currents in European philosophical thinking about such societies: that they are alien savages on the one hand, or innocents close to the state of nature on the.” ref

Beyond affluent foragers: rethinking hunter-gatherer complexity

“Edited volumes play major roles in the affluent forager/ complex hunter-gather literature as they do for hunter-gatherer studies generally. Establishing the intellectual lineages among edited volumes is also important. The volumes growing out of the International Conferences on Hunter-Gatherers (CHAGS) descend directly from Man the Hunter. For affluent forager studies, the founding edited volumes are especially important. Editors of more recent volumes carefully place themselves and their books into intellectual genealogies extending back to either or both of these seminal works, which can then claim descent from Man the Hunter. Sahlins’ 1972 Stone Age Economics is also intellectually central because it is the best known articulation of ‘Original Affluent Societies’. The volume at hand is a case in point.” ref

“Its title claims to move us beyond and to rethink both founding books. It links itself overtly to Koyama and Thomas not only in its title, but by opening with a forward by Koyama and Junzo Uchiyama, one of the editors of the current volume. In their foreword, Koyama and Uchiyama revisit the notion of ‘affluence’ developed in Koyama and Thomas and set out the goals for the current volume: Over twenty years ago, “Affluent Foragers” was coined as a short hand term for the specific socioeconomic conditions of coastal fisher-hunters in productive environments. A central implication of this label was that during the Holocene certain prehistoric groups were recognized as having achieved highly organized social structures and high degrees of sedentism in the course of adapting to temperate coastal environments. According to Koyama and Uchiyama, the term ‘affluence’ was used by Koyama and Thomas in its common sense of material well-being in deliberate opposition to Sahlins’ usage.” ref

“In the original volume, Sasaki (1979) equated ‘affluence’ with large populations and technological complexity. Koyama and Uchiyama go on to suggest the concept of affluent foragers was recast by Price and Brown’s Complex Hunter-Gatherer volume with its emphases on economics, hunter-gatherer mobility patterns and the Binfordian (1980) linkage among economy, mobility patterns and social organization. They assert: [T]these discussions have failed to adequately explain the mechanisms that produce the great degree of cultural variability among foragers, and tend to simplify the multi-factored and dynamic processes involved in social and economic change among hunter-gatherers. In their view, ‘the sociality of hunter-gatherer lifeways’ is among the crucial processes causing hunter-gatherer diversity. The current volume’s purpose is to bring these social dynamics to the foreground. They see two fundamental issues facing hunter-gatherer studies: accounting for cultural variability among hunter-gathers and explaining social and economic change, which, in their view, has been made difficult by oversimplification of the causes of change.” ref

“Accounting for variability and change, of course, are the central issues in explaining any form of evolution. To my mind ‘Affluent Forager’ and ‘Complex Hunter-Gatherer’ reflect somewhat different but overlapping realizations about ancient hunter-gatherers. As originally conceived ‘Affluent Forager’ was a way to grapple with the diversity among ancient hunter-gatherers becoming visible by the mid-1970s. The concept was originally applied to ‘aquatic hunter-gatherers’ (Ames 2002) who did not fit Lee and DeVore’s succinct description of generalized hunter-gatherers: ‘We make two assumptions about hunters and gatherers: (1) they live in small groups, and (2) they move around a lot’. ‘Complex Hunter-Gatherers’ grew from the discovery that some cultural traits widely viewed as major thresholds in cultural evolution were not contingent upon agriculture. Chief among these traits were sedentism, food storage and especially permanent social inequality. Complex hunter-gatherers became an alternative set of evolutionary experiments in human social complexity with which to develop and test theories of cultural evolution.” ref

“Appropriately for its intellectual lineage, the current book is primarily about variability despite talking a great deal about complexity. In fact, I think it’s more about variability than the editors realized or perhaps wanted. It has something of an oval-peg-stuffed-into-round-hole quality; the sum of the volume’s papers is different from what the editors think. The book’s strength is the array of case studies from disparate places, most especially East Asia and the southern hemisphere, regions for which the Anglophone literature is quite weak. It provides a number of researchers an opportunity to get their views out and attract others to their work and ideas. Its weaknesses are the array of case studies from disparate places, which, despite the editors’ valiant effort, do not really cohere; some papers are extremely narrow and empirical while others are innovative and broad in view, although always firmly rooted in their empirical case. I do agree with the editors’ assessment that we do not adequately understand hunter-gatherer diversity or have the theoretical tools to explain it; I first review the book, and then discuss some of the issues in the study of complex – affluent – hunter-gatherer-foragers that the book raises and against which it should be should be judged using the editors’ concluding essay as a basis.” ref

New research challenges hunter-gatherer narrative

“The oft-used description of early humans as “hunter-gatherers” should be changed to “gatherer-hunters,” at least in the Andes of South America, according to groundbreaking research led by a University of Wyoming archaeologist. Archaeologists long thought that early human diets were meat-based. However, Assistant Professor Randy Haas’ analysis of the remains of 24 individuals from the Wilamaya Patjxa and Soro Mik’aya Patjxa burial sites in Peru shows that early human diets in the Andes Mountains were composed of 80% plant matter and 20% meat.” ref

“The study, titled “Stable isotope chemistry reveals plant-dominant diet among early foragers on the Andean Altiplano,” has been published in PLOS ONE. It applies methods in isotope chemistry and statistical modeling to unveil a surprising twist in early Andean societies and traditional hunter-gatherer narratives. “Conventional wisdom holds that early human economies focused on hunting—an idea that has led to a number of high-protein dietary fads such as the Paleodiet,” Haas says. For these early humans of the Andes, spanning from 9,000 to 6,500 years ago, there is indeed evidence that hunting of large mammals provided some of their diets. But the new analysis of the isotopic composition of the human bones shows that plant foods made up the majority of individual diets, with meat playing a secondary role.” ref

“Additionally, burnt plant remains from the sites and distinct dental-wear patterns on the individuals’ upper incisors indicate that tubers—or plants that grow underground, such as potatoes—likely were the most prominent subsistence resource. “Our combination of isotope chemistry, paleoethnobotanical and zooarchaeological methods offers the clearest and most accurate picture of early Andean diets to date,” Haas says. “These findings update our understanding of earliest forager economies and the pathway to agricultural economies in the Andean highlands.” ref

“Food is incredibly important and crucial for survival, especially in high-altitude environments like the Andes,” Chen says. “A lot of archaeological frameworks on hunter-gatherers, or foragers, center on hunting and meat-heavy diets—but we are finding that early hunter-gatherers in the Andes were mostly eating plant foods like wild tubers.” Haas notes that archaeologists now have the tools to understand early human diets, and their results are not what they anticipated. This case study demonstrates for the first time that early human economies, in at least one part of the world, were plant-based.” ref 

The complex structure of hunter–gatherer social networks

“In nature, many different types of complex system form hierarchical, self-similar or fractal-like structures that have evolved to maximize internal efficiency. In this paper, we ask whether hunter-gatherer societies show similar structural properties. We use fractal network theory to analyze the statistical structure of 1189 social groups in 339 hunter-gatherer societies from a published compilation of ethnographies. We show that population structure is indeed self-similar or fractal-like with the number of individuals or groups belonging to each successively higher level of organization exhibiting a constant ratio close to 4. Further, despite the wide ecological, cultural, and historical diversity of hunter-gatherer societies, this remarkable self-similarity holds both within and across cultures and continents.” ref

“We show that the branching ratio is related to density-dependent reproduction in complex environments and hypothesize that the general pattern of hierarchical organization reflects the self-similar properties of the networks and the underlying cohesive and disruptive forces that govern the flow of material resources, genes, and non-genetic information within and between social groups. Our results offer insight into the energetics of human sociality and suggest that human social networks self-organize in response to similar optimization principles found behind the formation of many complex systems in nature. In an innovative study, Zhou et al. (2005) showed that human social groups form a hierarchy of discrete group sizes with a constant scaling ratio of approximately 3.” ref

“Here, we ask three questions: (i) do we find similar hierarchical scaling relations within hunter-gatherer societies? (ii) If so, how do these scaling relations vary across societies? and (iii) what mechanisms might be hypothesized for such scaling relations? Researchers suggest that hunter-gatherer social organizations can also be viewed as social networks. The network arises from interactions and exchanges of energy, material, and information between individuals, which occur within the context of a hierarchical group structure. This hierarchical structure is constrained externally by seasonal variation in local ecological conditions and internally by the human life history. In foraging societies, energy and material flows typically include the exchange of food resources, trade goods and raw materials for tools, clothing, and shelter, and information transfers include both gene flow through reproduction and the exchanges of many kinds of culturally transmitted information by means of language or other signals.” ref

“Traditional hunter-gatherer societies exhibit hierarchical structures, in which individuals form a nested series of discrete, yet flexible social units that occupy space and exchange energetic, material and informational resources at differential rates. Individuals are nested within nuclear families, formed to provide the parental investment required to rear dependent offspring. Families fission and fuse to form larger residential foraging groups, which tend to increase the rate and decrease the variance of resource acquisition, and which change in size and composition in response to temporal and spatial changes in the environment. These extended families are members of still larger groups that are dispersed over larger areas and interact with decreasing frequency, but serve to maintain social ties, conduct trade and information exchange, perform ceremonies, and exchange marriage partners.” ref

“Considerations of group size and social organization in traditional human societies commonly emphasize group foraging, cognitive capacity, demographic variance, and the various mechanisms such as group fissioning, mass rituals, and political hierarchies that have evolved as a consequence of the cohesion and tension inherent to living in large populations. While all these mechanisms must play important roles individually, of interest here is whether hunter-gatherer social organizations as a whole form self-similar structures. If so, this would suggest that hunter-gatherer social structures may have self-organized to optimize energy, material, and information flows among group members.” ref

Complex Hunters and Gatherers

“Complex hunter-gatherers are hunter-gatherers whose cultures and societies have cultural, social, and economic traits that anthropologists and other scholars had long assumed required agriculture for them to develop. Permanent inequality is the trait that has attracted the most attention among archaeologists, but others include large, dense populations; large, relatively permanent settlements; and intensive economies among other characteristics. First widely recognized by archaeologists in the late 1970s, they have been a focus of major research efforts since. This research has been a testing ground for many theories about the origins and evolution of social complexity, especially of the origins and development of permanent inequality in small-scale societies.” ref

“The term complex hunter-gatherers (CHG) is a fairly new term that attempts to correct some ill-conceived notions of how people in the past organized their lives. Anthropologists traditionally defined hunter-gatherers as human populations that lived (and live) in small groups and that are highly mobile, following and subsisting on the seasonal cycle of plants and animals. Like general hunter-gathers, complex hunter-gatherers do not practice agriculture or pastoralism. They can achieve the same levels of social complexity including technology, settlement practices, and social hierarchy as agricultural groups. As a result, some archaeologists believe agriculture should be seen as less a significant characteristic of complexity than others.” ref

“In the 1970s, however, anthropologists and archaeologists realized that many groups who subsisted on hunting and gathering around the world did not fit the rigid stereotype into which they were put. For these societies, recognized in many parts of the world, anthropologists use the term “Complex Hunter-Gatherers.” In North America, the most well-known example is the prehistoric Northwest Coast groups on the North American continent. Complex hunter-gatherers, also known as affluent foragers, have a subsistence, economic, and social organization far more “complex” and interdependent than generalized hunter-gatherers.” ref

“The two types are similar: they base their economies without relying on domesticated plants and animals. Here are some of the differences:

  • Mobility: Complex hunter-gatherers live in the same place for most of the year, or even for longer periods, in contrast to generalized hunter-gatherers who stay in one place for shorter periods and move around a lot.
  • Economy: Complex hunter-gatherers subsistence involves a large amount of food storage, whereas simple hunter-gatherers usually consume their food as soon as they harvest it. For example, among Northwest Coast populations, storage involved both meat and fish desiccation as well as creating social bonds that allowed them to have access to resources from other environments.
  • Households: Complex hunter-gatherers don’t live in small and mobile camps, but in long-term, organized households and villages. These are also clearly visible archaeologically. On the Northwest Coast, households were shared by 30 to 100 people.
  • Resources: Complex hunter-gatherers do not harvest only what is available around them, they focus on gathering specific and very productive food products and combining them with other, secondary resources. For example, in the Northwest Coast subsistence was based on salmon, but also other fish and mollusks and in smaller amounts on the forest products. Furthermore, salmon processing through desiccation involved the work of many people at the same time.
  • Technology: Both generalized and complex hunter-gatherers tend to have sophisticated tools. Complex hunter-gatherers don’t need to have light and portable objects, therefore they can invest more energy in larger and specialized tools to fish, hunt, harvest. Northwest Coast populations, for example, constructed large boats and canoes, nets, spears and harpoons, carving tools and desiccation devices.
  • Population: In North America, complex hunter-gatherers had larger populations than small size agricultural villages. Northwest Coast had among the highest population rate of North America. Villages size spanned between 100 and more than 2000 people.
  • Social hierarchy: complex hunter-gatherers had social hierarchies and even inherited leadership roles. These positions included prestige, social status, and sometimes power. Northwest Coast populations had two social classes: enslaved and free people. Free people were divided into chiefs and elite, a lower noble group, and commoners, who were free people with no titles and therefore with no access to leadership positions. Enslaved people were mostly war captives. Gender was also an important social category. Noble women had often high-rank status. Finally, social status was expressed through material and immaterial elements, such as luxury goods, jewels, rich textiles, but also feasts and ceremonies.” ref

Distinguishing Complexity

“The term complexity is a culturally weighted one: There are about a dozen characteristics that anthropologists and archaeologists use to measure or approximate the level of sophistication achieved by a given society in the past or the present. The more research people have undertaken, and the more enlightened they become, the fuzzier the categories grow, and the whole idea of “measuring complexity” has become challenging.” ref

“One argument made by American archaeologist Jeanne Arnold and colleagues has been that one of those long-defined characteristics—the domestication of plants and animals—should no longer be the defining complexity, that complex hunter-gatherers can develop many more important indicators of complexity without agriculture. Instead, Arnold and her colleagues propose seven platforms of social dynamics to identify complexity:

  • Agency and authority
  • Social differentiation
  • Participation in communal events
  • Organization of production
  • Labor obligations
  • Articulation of ecology and subsistence
  • Territoriality and ownership” ref 

History of the west coast of North America

“The human history of the west coast of North America is believed to stretch back to the arrival of the earliest people over the Bering Strait, or alternately along a now-submerged coastal plain, through the development of significant pre-Columbian cultures and population densities, to the arrival of the European explorers and colonizers. The west coast of North America today is home to some of the largest and most important companies in the world, as well as being a center of world culture.” ref

“The term “west coast of North America” means a contiguous region of that continent bordering the Pacific Ocean: all or parts of the U.S. states of AlaskaWashingtonOregon, and California; all or parts of British Columbia and the Yukon in Canada; all or part of the Mexican states of Baja CaliforniaBaja California SurSonoraSinaloaNayaritJaliscoColimaMichoacánGuerreroOaxaca and Chiapas; and the Central American countries of GuatemalaEl SalvadorHondurasNicaraguaCosta Rica and Panama. The eastern islands of the Pacific Ocean off the west coast, such as the coastal islands of the Californias, are also important.” ref

“The west coast of North America likely saw the first sustained arrival of people to the continent. Although there are other theories, most scientists believe that the first significant groups of people came from Asia, through today’s Bering Strait area, then through modern Alaska, and from there spread throughout North America and to South America. Although the cultures on the west coast of today’s Canada and United States are not known to have developed substantial urban centers and sophisticated writing or scientific systems, it is likely that, before European contact, the population density was significantly higher than in the rest of the northern part of the continent. For example, it has been estimated that in 1492, one-third of all Native Americans in the United States were living in what is now California.” ref

The oldest dated human remains were found in the Los Angeles area. Partial remains of a skeleton referred to as Los Angeles Man were recovered from the ancient channel of the Los Angeles river in the Baldwin Hills area. The ‘Los Angeles Man’ appeared to be contemporaneous with the partially preserved remains of an Imperial mammoth. The remains were located some 370 meters apart; they revealed a similar fluorine content profile, and were recovered within the same geological unit. It was years later that the ‘Los Angeles Man’ remains were finally dated, but by then the mammoth remains were not available for comparative study, and only the cranium of ‘Los Angeles Man’ remained available for dating. The UCLA radiocarbon laboratory indicated the sample age to be more than 23,600 old (UCLA sample #1430), but the sample, obtained from cranial bone collagen, was too small to produce a confident date.” ref

“The Channel Islands of California provide the earliest evidence for human seafaring in the Americas. They are now known to have been settled by maritime Paleo-Indian peoples at least 13,000 years ago. The Arlington Springs Man was discovered in 1960 at Arlington Springs on Santa Rosa Island (California). The remains were dated to 13,000 years ago. The Cedros Island off the coast of Baja CaliforniaMexico, had a human presence already about 11,000 years ago. The earliest fishhooks in the Americas were found here, dating to that time. These ancient fisher folk were catching deepwater fish species, indicating that they were using boats. These island peoples maintained trading connections with the mainland for thousands of years.” ref

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

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Tlingit language

Haida language

Tsimshian language

Heiltsuk language (Heiltsuk, also known as Bella Bella, not be confused with Salish-speaking Nuxalk peoples, called Bella Coola)

Kwakwaka’wakw language

Nuu-chah-nulth language

Salishan languages

Chinook languages

Penutian languages

Athabaskan languages (part of the Na-Dené: Athabaskan–Eyak–Tlingit)

Indigenous Religion and Monuments of the Land: Ancient Earthworks/Rockworks; Rings and Mounds in Canada:

*Rings, such as medicine wheels

*Mounds, such as burial mounds, temple mounds, platform (like elite housing or ritual ceremonies) mounds, and effigy mounds

  1. Medicine Wheel
  2. Serpent Mound
  3. Mesa Verde
  4. Chaco Canyon
  5. Casas Grandes/Paquime
  6. Ciudad Perdida “lost city”; Teyuna
  7. Ingapirca “Inca”
  8. Chavín de Huántar “pre-Inca”
  9. Sacred City of Caral-Supe *Caral culture developed between 3000 – 1800 BCE*
  10. Machu Picchu
  11. Nazca Lines
  12. Sacsayhuamán
  13. Tiwanaku/Tiahuanaco
  14. Atacama Giant/Lines
  15. Pucará de Tilcara “pre-Inca”

Old Cordilleran (Stone tool) culture was seen in the Central and Southern parts of the Pacific Northwest

“The old Cordilleran culture, also known as the Cascade phase, is an ancient culture of Native Americans that settled in the Pacific Northwestern region of North America that existed from 9000 or 10000 BCE until about 5500 BCE. The Cascade phase may be even older, depending on when human beings first arrived in America. They originated in Alaska, and migrated to occupy a wide area as far as Idaho and the plateaus of California, but they are generally not considered to be a maritime society. However, their spear points, or points resembling theirs, have been found as far south as Mexico and South America. This was the typical artifact of these people — a simple, bi-facial, leaf-shaped projectile point which average about 6 cm (2.4 in) in length. These tools were used as spears or darts, or also knives, indicating the importance of hunting, although they also fished and gathered for subsistence. However, the main dependence was on land hunting, mostly of deer, bison, and other large mammals. The culture possibly spoke a Macro-Penutian language (a hypothetical macrofamily which may include Penutian, Uto-Aztecan, and some other language families). This culture also created the oldest attested examples of art in the Pacific Northwest.” ref

Uto-Aztecan languages

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art


“The Mesoamerican language area is a sprachbund containing many of the languages natively spoken in the cultural area of Mesoamerica. This sprachbund is defined by an array of syntactic, lexical, and phonological traits as well as a number of ethnolinguistic traits found in the languages of Mesoamerica, which belong to a number of language families, such as Uto-AztecanMayanTotonacanOto-Manguean and Mixe–Zoque languages as well as some language isolates and unclassified languages known to the region. Similarities have been noted between many of the languages of Mesoamerica. In their 1986 paper “Meso-America as a Linguistic Area” the above authors explored several proposed areal features of which they discarded most as being weakly attested, possibly by chance or inheritance or not confined to the Mesoamerican region. However, five traits in particular were shown to be widely attested among the languages, with boundaries coinciding with that of the Mesoamerican region and having a probable origin through diffusion.” ref

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Uto-Aztecan languages is a family of indigenous languages of the Americas, consisting of over thirty languages. Uto-Aztecan languages are found almost entirely in the Western United States and Mexico. The name of the language family was created to show that it includes both the Ute language of Utah and the Nahuan languages (also known as Aztecan) of Mexico. The Uto-Aztecan language family is one of the largest linguistic families in the Americas in terms of number of speakers, number of languages, and geographic extension. The northernmost Uto-Aztecan language is Shoshoni, which is spoken as far north as Salmon, Idaho, while the southernmost is the Pipil language of El Salvador and Nicaragua. Most scholars view the breakup of Proto-Uto-Aztecan as a case of the gradual disintegration of a dialect continuum.” ref

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

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California-Peruvian connection

“The Cell study also revealed a surprising connection between ancient people living in California’s Channel Islands and the southern Peruvian Andes at least 4,200 years ago. It appears that these two geographically distant groups have a shared ancestry, the researchers found. It’s unlikely that people living in the Channel Islands actually traveled south to Peru, the researchers said. Rather, it’s possible that these groups’ ancestors sallied forth thousands of years earlier, with some ending up in the Channel Islands and others in South America. But those genes didn’t become common in Peru until much later, around 4,200 years ago, when the population may have exploded, the researchers said. It could be that this ancestry arrived in South America thousands of years before and we simply don’t have earlier individuals showing it,” study co-lead researcher Nathan Nakatsuka, a research assistant in the Reich lab at Harvard Medical School, said in the statement. “There is archaeological evidence that the population in the Central Andes area greatly expanded after around 5,000 years ago. Spreads of particular subgroups during these events may be why we detect this ancestry afterward.” ref

Tlingit-related people and California

“Even with today’s DNA testing, the origin of the Tlingit people is not certain. It is generally accepted they came from the Eastern Hemisphere across the Bering Strait and down into Southeastern Alaska. Some believe the ancient imigration by-passed the glacier-choked panhandle and instead populated parts of California and the Lower 48, even as far south as South America, and then returned later when the ice had receded. Others believe some of these ancient travelers remained to settle this area. The ocean provided not only food, but also a transportation corridor. Highly skilled navigators with seaworthy canoes, the Tlingit thought nothing of paddling for days in any direction. The Chilkats and Chilkoots also had overland routes to the interior. A great trade empire was established from interior Alaska/Canada south to northern California. In the Americas, this trade empire was rivaled in size only by the Incas.” ref

“Somewhat similar to Indigenous peoples in the Pacific Northwest, the Indigenous peoples of California, at least most tribes practiced forest gardening or permaculture and controlled burning to ensure the availability of food and medicinal plants as well as ecosystem balance.” ref

The indigenous people practiced various forms of sophisticated forest gardening in the forests, grasslands, mixed woodlands, and wetlands to ensure availability of food and medicine plants. They controlled fire on a regional scale to create a low-intensity fire ecology; this prevented larger, catastrophic fires and sustained a low-density “wild” agriculture in loose rotation. By burning underbrush and grass, the natives revitalized patches of land and provided fresh shoots to attract food animals. A form of fire-stick farming was used to clear areas of old growth to encourage new in a repeated cycle; a permaculture.” ref

“Tribes in California lived in societies where men and women had different roles. Women were generally responsible for weaving, harvesting, processing, and preparing food, while men were generally responsible for hunting and other forms of labor. It was also noted by Juan Crespi and Pedro Fages of “men who dressed as women” being an integral part of native society. The Spanish generally detested these people, who they referred to as joyas in mission records. With colonialism “joyas were driven from their communities by tribal members at the instigation of priests and made homeless.” The joyas traditionally were responsible for deathburial, and mourning rituals and performed women’s roles.” ref

Haplogroup Q1a3a is a Y chromosome haplogroup generally associated with the Indigenous peoples of the Americas. The Q-M3 mutation appeared on the Q lineage roughly 10 to 15 thousand years ago, as the migration throughout the Americas was underway by the early Paleo-Indians. The Na-Dené, Inuit, and Indigenous Alaskan populations exhibit haplogroup Q (Y-DNA) mutations, however, which are distinct from other indigenous Amerindians along with various mtDNA mutations. This suggests that the migrant ancestors of the current inhabitants of the northern extremes of North America and Greenland derived from later migrant populations. Genetic analyses of HLA I and HLA II genes as well as HLA-A, -B, and -DRB1 gene frequencies links the Ainu people of Japan to some Indigenous peoples of the Americas, especially to populations on the Pacific Northwest Coast such as Tlingit. The scientists suggest that the main ancestor of the Ainu and of some Native American groups can be traced back to Paleolithic groups in Southern Siberia.” ref

“Populations carrying Q-M3 are widespread throughout the Americas. Since the discovery of Q-M3, several subclades of Q-M3 bearing populations have been discovered in the Americas as well. An example is in South America, where some populations have a high prevalence of SNP M19, which defines subclade Q-M19. M19 has been detected in 59% of Amazonian Ticuna men and in 10% of Wayuu men. Subclades Q-M19 and Q-M199 appear to be unique to South American populations and suggests that population isolation and perhaps even the establishment of tribes began soon after migration into the Americas. Q-M19 lineage is found among Indigenous South Americans, and is approximately 5,000 to 10,000 years ago. The Kennewick Man has a Y chromosome that belongs to the most common sub-clade Q1b1a1a-M3 while the Anzick’s Y chromosome belongs to the minor Q1b1a2-M971 lineage.” ref


“Obsidian is restricted to volcanic regions, and in the United States, obsidian outcrops are widely distributed in the Mountain West, Southwest, California, Oregon, and Washington State.  Many of these sources are represented among Native American artifacts housed in the Museum’s North American collections.   The Field Museum Anthropology Department recently began building up a collection of obsidian source samples from the American West for use in identifying the sources from which these artifacts originated.  During survey work in the Fall of 2010, Field Museum researchers visited sources in northern Arizona and New Mexico.  Additional source samples, provided by archaeologists at Idaho State University, have been acquired from important sources in Oregon, Idaho, and Wyoming.  At present, more than 30 chemically distinct sources are represented in our North American obsidian collections.” ref

Obsidian Sources from Southeast Alaska

“In this study archaeologists looked at stone implements–microblade cores–made of obsidian from prehistoric sites across Southeast Alaska that are dated to roughly 10,000 years ago. The suite of six sites (Groundhog Bay II, Hidden Falls, Irish Creek, Shuk‐Kaa Cave, Neck Lake Terrace, and Shaheen Falls) examined here mark the first archaeologically visible human occupation of the islands of Southeast Alaska. Researchers used chemical analyses to recognize distinctive geochemical fingerprints of both artifacts and geological sources and, in turn, were able to reconstruct ancient paths of transport or trade.” ref

“Most of the tools were found to come from a local source of high-quality obsidian found at Obsidian Cove on Suemez Island, Alaska and these were transported over distances up to 220 miles. A few obsidian cores were derived from a slightly closer source in interior British Columbia, Mount Edziza, at roughly 180 miles in a straight line distance, but which would have required a circuitous riverine or overland route to access. Prehistoric use of a newly documented source of obsidian from Zim Creek on Kupreanof Island, Alaska is described here for the first time.” ref

“Glenrose Cannery Site: Old Cordilleran period, which is between 5,000 and 9,000 years old.” ref

 “Obsidian is a naturally occurring volcanic glass formed when lava extruded from a volcano cools rapidly with minimal crystal growth. It is an igneous rock.” ref

An Overview of Alaskan’s Prehistoric Cultures: https://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/oha/publications/oha173overviewofalaskaprehistory.pdf

Early Peoples

“Lt. Whidbey was not the first to see Glacier Bay. His record includes mention of the natives who paddled out in their canoes from what is now Pt. Carolus to meet his boats and offer to trade. Were these descendents of the people who once lived in the Bay but were forced out by the advancing glacier? Tlingit oral history is corroborated by modern science — it appears that lower Glacier Bay was habitable for many centuries up until about 300 years ago, when a final glacial surge would have forced the human habitants to flee their homeland. A rich oral tradition and detailed place names speak volumes of the history of the area. How long they might have been there is unknown. There were people living over 9,000 years ago at nearby Groundhog Bay, but we may never know who they were. A site on Baranof Island shows that people with an unmistakable northwest coast culture have been in the region for at least the last 3,000 years.” ref

“Even as Glacier Bay itself lay encased in ice, native people carried on their activities in many places along the nearby coast, places that may have been free of ice for as long as 13,000 years. The oldest known site in Glacier Bay National Park, located in Dundas Bay, is about 800 years old. Natives were at Lituya Bay, on the park’s wild outer coast, to greet Lapérouse in 1786. Although a series of earthquake-triggered tidal waves, the latest in 1959, devastated most of the shoreline of Lituya Bay, a pocket of undisturbed forest still harbors archeological evidence of their life there. The Tlingit have traditionally occupied much of Southeast Alaska, from Yakutat in the North to Ketchikan in the South. Oral history and scientific findings corroborate that the ancestors of the Huna Tlingit occupied Glacier Bay long before the last glacier advance. This place was their home and was known as S’e Shuyee or “edge of the glacial silt.” ref

A Place Where Chitons are Cooked: The Bear Cove Fauna in the Context of the Origins of Northwest Coast Maritime Culture by Catherine Carlson

“Abstract: The Bear Cove site (EeSu 8) was excavated in 1978 on the northern end of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The 8,200 years ago stratigraphic sequence included shell midden and non-shell deposits, an early Pebble Tool Tradition artifact assemblage and later Developmental Northwest Coast artifact assemblages, radio-carbon dated samples (uncalibrated), and extensive faunal remains. This paper will present an overview of the hitherto unreported complete faunal assemblage from the early 8,020 years ago component, to the later post-4,000 years old shell midden components of the site. The faunal data indicate a record of a fully marine-adapted culture that has focused on the sea for subsistence since the early occupation.” ref

“Pacific Northwest, showing early Holocene sites: Northwest Coast : (1) Bear Cove EeSu-8, (2) Chuck Lake Crg-237, (3) Glenrose Cannery DgRr6, (4) Kilgii Gwaay (1325T), (5) Tahkenitch 35DO130; Plateau : (6) Bernard Creek Rockshelter 10IH483, (7) Bob’s Point 45KL219, (8) Kirkwood Bar 10IH699, (9) Lind Coulee 45GR97, (10) Marmes 45FR50 (includes Rockshelter and Floodplain localities), (11) Plew 45DO387, (12) The Dalles Roadcut 35WS8; and South-Central Northwest Coast (A) and Northern Columbia Plateau (B) subareas.” https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Pacific-Northwest-showing-early-Holocene-sites-Northwest-Coast-1-Bear-Cove-EeSu-8_fig1_226649913


Pacific Northwest Roots of Formline Style

Pacific Period 4400 BCE – 1775 CE

  • Early Pacific 4400 BCE – 1800 BCE
  • Middle Pacific 1800 BCE – 200 CE
  • Late Pacific CE 200/500 – 177″ ref


“90% of food comes from the water/sea. Shell mounds in the Pacific Northwest show signs of differing social status/stratified society. While some burials had burial goods, and yet other burials had none.” ref

Hunter-Gather’s Societal Complexity seems to have started 6,400 years ago. And group diversification, like the language of the Tlingit, emerged around 5,000 years ago.

Shell Middens and Midden Burials in Southern Strait of Georgia Prehistory

“Shell Middens/Shell Mounds are the predominant site type forming the archaeological record of the southern Strait of Georgia region for the last 5000 years and have provided much of the information used in the development of regional chronologies and archaeological reconstructions.” ref

RECYCLING THE SOUL: Death and the Continuity of Life in Coast Salish Burial Practices.

“ABSTRACT: The death rituals of a culture define the interaction between the world of the living and the land of the dead. This thesis examines how the Coast Salish depict this connection through an analysis of both archaeological and historical evidence and Coast Salish oral histories and interviews. I maintain that there are continuities that can be traced from the earliest midden burials of the “prehistoric” era through the time of contact and the missionary period into the present time. These practices illustrate that the perception of community extends beyond the grave in the Coast Salish culture. This connection is characterized by the practice of feeding the dead, which has been an important component of Coast Salish practice for thousands of years. This thesis also discusses some of the changes that have occurred over time and the forces that motivated the Coast Salish to modify their customs.” ref

Link to see Some Artefacts of the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest


“The Strait of Georgia lies between Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland, with the Canada-US border running to its south.” ref

Shell Money

“Shell money is a medium of exchange similar to coin money and other forms of commodity money, and was once commonly used in many parts of the world. Shell money usually consisted of whole or partial sea shells, often worked into beads or otherwise shaped. The use of shells in trade began as direct commodity exchange, the shells having use-value as body ornamentation. The distinction between beads as commodities and beads as money has been the subject of debate among economic anthropologists.” ref

“Shell money has appeared in the Americas, Asia, Africa and Australia. The shell most widely used worldwide as currency was the shell of Cypraea moneta, the money cowry. This species is most abundant in the Indian Ocean, and was collected in the Maldive Islands, in Sri Lanka, along the Malabar coast, in Borneo and on other East Indian islands, and in various parts of the African coast from Ras Hafun to Mozambique. Cowry shell money was an important part of the trade networks of Africa, South Asia, and East Asia.” ref

“n the east coast of North America, Indigenous peoples of the Iroquois Confederacy and Algonquian tribes, such as the Shinnecock tribe, ground beads called wampum, which were cut from the purple part of the shell of the marine bivalve Mercenaria mercenaria, more commonly known as the hard clam or quahog. White beads were cut from the white part of the quahog or whelk shells. Iroquois peoples strung these shells on string in lengths, or wove them in belts. The shell most valued by the Native American tribes of the Pacific Coast from Alaska to northwest California was Dentalium, one of several species of tusk shell or scaphopod. The tusk shell is naturally open at both ends, and can easily be strung on a thread. This shell money was valued by its length rather than the exact number of shells; the “ligua”, the highest denomination in their currency, was a length of about 6 inches.” ref

“Farther south, in central California and southern California, the shell of the olive snail Olivella biplicata was used to make beads for at least 9,000 years. The small numbers recovered in older archaeological site components suggest that they were initially used as ornamentation, rather than as money. Beginning shortly before 1,000 years ago, Chumash specialists on the islands of California’s Santa Barbara Channel began chipping beads from olive shells in such quantities that they left meter-deep piles of manufacturing residue in their wake; the resulting circular beads were used as money throughout the area that is now southern California. Starting at about CE 1500, and continuing into the late nineteenth century, the Coast Miwok, Ohlone, Patwin, Pomo, and Wappo peoples of central California used the marine bivalve Saxidomus sp. to make shell money.” ref

Dentalia Shell & Bead Necklace

“This necklace is strung with dentalia shells and beads. Dentalium (Antalis pretiosum) are variously sized ocean mollusks that resemble miniature elephant tusks and may grow up to several inches in length.  They first appear in the archaeological record of  Pacific Northwest coastal communities around 4400 BCE, but in small numbers.  After 1800 BCE, dentalium becomes more commonly found—particularly among the graves of high-status individuals.  Archaeologists credit their increased appearance during that time to a corresponding intensification of Native economies—directly related to the stabilization of ocean levels following the end of the Pleistocene ice age.  As more complex trade relations developed along the Northwest Coast, dentalium—also known as hiixwa or haqua—became a highly prized mark of wealth and status, typically displayed as ornaments in clothing and headdresses, used as jewely, and even used in some places as a type of currency.” ref

“Most dentalium entering the indigenous trade network of the Pacific Northwest originated off the coast of Vancouver Island.  Chicklisaht, Kyuquot, and Ehattesaht communities of the Northern Nuu-chah-nulth, inhabitants of the west coast of the island, were the primary source of the shells.  However, the Kwakwaka’wakw of Quatsino Sound and Cape Scott, on the eastern coast, were also large producers.  Harvesters would work from their ocean-going canoes, extending specially-constructed long poles to the dentalium beds on the ocean floor.  At the end of the long poles were large brushes that were pushed into the mollusk beds, ensnaring dentalium in the process.” ref

“Those dentalium destined for the Columbia River trade network found their way south through the hands of the Makah, inhabiting the northwest region of the Olympic Peninsula, and then further south to the Chinookans on the lower Columbia River.  Chinookan traders, in turn, bartered with Sahaptin-speaking peoples from the Interior, and Kalapuyans of the Willamette River Valley.  Each summer, dentalium were also traded at The Dalles/Celilo trade-mart, the largest in the Pacific Northwest.  From there, dentalium made their way east as far as the Great Plains.” ref

 Duwamish people

“The Duwamish are a Lushootseed-speaking Southern Coast Salish people in western Washington, and the Indigenous people of metropolitan Seattle. Prior to colonization, the center of Duwamish society was around the Black and Duwamish rivers in Washington. Western Washington has been permanently inhabited since at least 12,000 years ago, to the Pleistocene epoch and the end of the Last Glacial Maximum. Although it is possible that humans lived in the region before that time, the landscape was highly volcanic and unstable, leading to vast alteration of the coastline and rivers over time. Archaeological sites at the former village at West Point (Lushootseedpaq̓ac̓aɬčuʔ) date back at least 4,200 years. Villages at the mouth of the Duwamish River such as ʔapus and t̕uʔəlalʔtxʷ had been continuously inhabited since the 6th century CE.” ref

“In the first half of the 19th century, the Duwamish began facing extreme raiding from the Lekwiltok and Kwakwaka’wakw, who raided much of the Puget Sound area for slaves and loot. Food resources varied, and resources were not always sufficient to last through to spring. There is evidence that an extensive trade and potlatch network evolved to help distribute resources to areas in need that varied year to year, and was potent and effective until European diseases arriving in the 1770s and ravaged the region for more than a century.” ref

“By 1851, the Duwamish had 17 villages with at least 93 buildings, including longhouses, around the present-day Seattle area. There were four prominent villages on Elliott Bay and the lower Duwamish River. Before modern civil engineering, the area at the mouth of Elliot Bay had extensive tidelands which were abundantly rich in marine life and a plentiful source of food for the Duwamish. Duwamish contact with Europeans was sporadic until the 1850s. From the early 19th century, the maritime fur trade in the Puget SoundStrait of Georgia regions greatly accelerated the pace of social and organizational change.” ref

“Like many other Coast Salish societies, traditional Duwamish society was dominated by the village. It was the basis of societal organization for the Puget Sound peoples and, in the pre-contact period, the village was the highest form of social organization. Each village had one or more cedar plank longhouses housing one or more extended families. Longhouses were often divided into sections by dividers made of cattail or cedar, with each family having their own section of the house with a fire pit in the center of the section. A single longhouse could support as few as tens of people, to as many as hundreds of people.” ref

“Although the village was the highest form of social cohesion, it was not centralized. There were no formal organs of government or authority which ruled over a village. Although members of the Duwamish have been historically called “chiefs,” the Duwamish (along with other Puget Sound peoples) did not have chiefs. Rather, that term was bestowed upon important individuals of local villages by members of the United States government and the general public. In reality, authority was entrusted to high-status individuals when called for, such as leading a war party, constructing a house, or gathering berries. The highest-status male of the highest-status family in a village was generally seen as the leader of the village for most purposes, and this position fluctuated often.” ref

“For most of their history, the Duwamish were not a unified tribe. Instead, villages were completely autonomous, linked by shared language, culture, location, and family. While some villages held higher status and had a certain influence over others, there was no official authority of one village over another. Duwamish villages, due to their geographical and familial closeness, were historically tightly allied within their drainage. Duwamish villages also were closely allied with their neighbors, such as the Hachuamish, the Sammamish, the Snoqualmie, the Stkamish, the Puyallup, the Homamish, Suquamish, and many more. As marrying distant peoples to get unique access to far-away resources was ideal, some Duwamish intermarried and allied with peoples as far away as the Stillaguamish. Good marriages gave prestige and could result in the gain of material wealth.” ref

“Intermarriage between villages created a large trade network stretching across much of the Pacific Northwest, extending up into what is now British Columbia and over the Cascade Range. The Puget Sound was the primary waterway connecting the Lushootseed-speaking peoples with the rest of the world, allowing swift water travel across great distances. Duwamish society was divided into an upper class, lower class, and slave class. Each of these classes were largely hereditary, although social movement did happen. Nobility was based on impeccable genealogy, inter-tribal kinship, wise use of resources, and possession of esoteric knowledge about the workings of spirits and the spirit world, making an effective marriage of class, secular, religious, and economic power. There were physical distinctions for high-status individuals: mothers carefully shaped the heads of their young babies, binding them with cradle boards just long enough to produce a steep sloping forehead.” ref

Traditional Jewelry of the Pacific Northwest (Common Aspects Across Tribes)

 Pacific Northwest, specifically Seattle, is the traditional land of the Duwamish People. 

“Dentalium, also referred to as hiqua or hiixwa, was a tubular mollusk predominately harvested off of the coast of Vancouver Island. The shell of the creature has held a place of significance to many coastal communities with archaeological finds dating pieces of dentalium back to 4400 BCE or around 6,400 years ago. Often strung into necklaces with other beads, or sewn onto clothing or hats, it often was a marker of wealth within the community. Dentalium acted as currency in certain situations, being traded out as far as the Northern Plains tribes.” ref

“Abalone was another shell that is used in jewelry to show status. The iridescent quality of the shell caught the light and gave a regal quality to whatever they adorned. Commonly its use was to decorate ceremonial regalia and totem poles. For the Kwakwaka’wakw, abalone earrings and painted spruce-root hats were worn by women of the highest status in the community.” ref

“Cedar holds great significance to coastal tribes being seen as having its own spirit. These trees hold the sentiment of strength and revitalization. Red and Yellow cedar was a part of every aspect of life, from housing to hunting to clothing. The woven fibers are used in aspects of dancers’ regalia such as head and neck rings, as well as wristlets.” ref

“Trade Beads were glass beads that were added to the repertoire of PNW indigenous post-contact with Western traders. The beads had origins in Italy and Bohemia (modern-day Czech Republic). The blue color was coveted due to the lack of natural materials in the region that could produce a strong color like the Europeans were providing. It was noted that trading was difficult with the Pacific Coast indigenous without the presence of these blue beads.” ref

“Repousse Technique was a common metalworking technique where metal is shaped from the reverse side. Malleable metals such as copper, silver, and gold were hammered to create low-relief designs of family crests and other crest figures.” ref

Mid-Holocene culture and climate on the Northwest Coast of North America

“Abstract: This chapter reviews the cultural dynamics as a result of climatic changes in the Northwest Coast of North America. It reviews the paleoclimatic and archaeological records of this region to establish possible causal relationships between them. It suggests that on the Northwest Coast of North America, the middle Holocene was a time of changing climate and culture. The mid-Holocene climate of the Northwest Coast was cooler and wetter than the early Holocene, but warmer and somewhat drier than today. 5800 cal yr BP (5000 14C yr BP) is viewed as a major turning point in the prehistory of the Northwest Coast. Compared to the early Holocene, during the mid-Holocene the number of archaeological sites increased, their average size was larger, and shell middens became common, preserving bone and antler technologies as well as abundant faunal remains. To explain this, the study presents a synthesis of mid-Holocene environmental history based on records of pollen, plant macrofossil, charcoal, limnologic, glacial, and marine sediments. It indicates that the environmental changes during the transition from early Holocene to mid-Holocene and then late Holocene were registered throughout the Northwest Coast, and superimposed on these long-term shifts, were climate variations that took place more locally on annual-to-centennial time scales. Finally, it suggests a collaboration and frequent data sharing between paleoecologists and archaeologists as an obvious first step in approaching the effects of climate change on culture.” ref 

Ancient Shell Middens of The Pacific Northwest

“Indian Tribes have harvested shellfish in the Pacific Northwest for more than 4,000 years. The Japanese are credited with pioneering shellfish aquaculture techniques. The Olympia oyster, the only native Northwest oyster, is named after and helped bring the state capital to Olympia.” ref

The Chemicals Between Us: A Geoarchaeological Analysis of a Shell Midden and Patterns of Deposition at the Woodstock Farm Site, Chuckanut Bay, Washington

“Abstract Human settlement of the Gulf of Georgia region by hunter-forager peoples began nearly 5000 years ago, culminating in the familiar Developed Northwest Coast Pattern exhibited in many Marpole Phase archaeological sites beginning 2400 years BP throughout the Gulf of Georgia region. The physical remnants of the intensive shellfish collection and processing that took place on the Northwest Coast are in shell midden deposits: archaeological sites that contain an abundance of discarded shell, bones, lithic tools, and charcoal. The preceding Locarno Beach Phase (3500-2400 BP), particularly in the southern Gulf of Georgia region, is less well understood by archaeologists because of the past academic focus on northern Marpole Phase sites.” ref

“The Woodstock Farm site (45WH55) is a Locarno Beach Phase shell midden located in the southern Gulf of Georgia, adjacent to Chuckanut Bay in Whatcom County, Washington. Recorded in 1974, the site has been the subject of three Western Washington University archaeological field schools in 2005, 2007, and 2010, and the shell midden identified on the bluff has been the focus of study for past Anthropology graduate theses at WWU. This thesis applies a program of geoarchaeological analysis, including radiocarbon dating, grain size analysis, magnetic susceptibility, and phosphorous values, to twenty five matrix samples from the approximately 4-square meter exposed beach profile shell midden below the bluff of 45WH55. To date, there has been no geochemical or geophysical lab analysis to help interpret the depositional processes that created the complex stratigraphy that characterizes the exposed shell midden in the beach profile at 45WH55. The numerous ash lenses, layers of burnt shell, and charcoal in the shell midden indicates repeating task-specific activities that are more typical of postLocarno Beach phases. The purpose of these tests was to describe the human activities that created the distinct and repeating layers by combining macro-level observations of the stratigraphy with micromorphological analysis of the collected midden samples.” ref

“The goals were to distinguish between depositional processes present in the midden and identify archaeological features related to anthropogenic subsistence activities. The results of the laboratory tests supported the hypothesis that the shell midden is the result of in-situ anthropogenic deposition, and not contemporaneous with the Locarno Beach phase portion of 45WH55 on the upper bluff. The midden yielded later Phase dates between 508 BP and 933 BP, indicating over a thousand years of continued use of 45WH55 for intensive shellfish collection and processing. I detected evidence of hearth reuse, which aligns with the intensive, specialized subsistence activities that are expressed in later Phase archaeological sites throughout the Gulf of Georgia. This research will add to our knowledge about the history of occupation of the Woodstock Farm site.” ref 

It seems apt that a clam shell would be part of an origin story in the coastal Pacific Northwest. Thousands of years of shell middens — old refuse deposits — are testament to shellfish’s role in sustaining people here.

“The receding of the glaciers left behind a pleasant homeland for shellfish. Clams were accessible on sandy beaches. On Haida Gwaii, the Haida’s island homeland, people were living sustainably on game and shellfish as early as nearly 11,000 years ago, not long after the ice retreated and Raven coaxed humanity into the daylight. Indigenous people throughout the Northwest coast dug for clams, carrying special clam baskets and using digger sticks to chase them down. Many middens were the result of processing large numbers of clams, which were often smoked and dried for later consumption or trade. Dried and smoked clams made their way over the mountains. People far from the sea could still enjoy some briny goodness.” ref

“The cultivation of clam beds by Indigenous people is one phenomenon that is being revived. Many Native peoples made “clam gardens.” Some argue the term is a misnomer because the gardens involved a variety of techniques and serious heavy lifting. Shorelines were re-engineered to expand sandy beaches. Rocks were removed to increase clam habitat. Walls and revetments were erected to improve cultivation. Aquaculture here is thousands of years old.” ref

Shell midden and tree health hypothesis confirmed in Pacific Northwest forests

“Indeed, it’s becoming clear that native people of North America knew how to grow big trees! In 2006 I published a peer-reviewed chapter titled “Ecological evidence of large-scale silviculture by California Indians” in the book Unlearning the Language of Conquest (Four Arrows, ed.). In that chapter I proposed the hypothesis that “the many types of refuse mounds and middens, including shell middens, bone middens, and rock middens originate not from the gradual accumulation of the waste products of daily living, but rather from the intentional stockpiling of gathered or recycled lime-rich materials for use as mineral fertilizers.” A careful review of the literature at the time indicated to me that this hypothesis was novel to modern science, though not at all novel to traditional ecological knowledge. Furthermore, I provided evidence for the fertilization effect of midden materials on trees that I collected from a giant sequoia grove in central California and from a grove of western hemlock and Sitka spruce trees in southeastern Alaska, which I attributed to intentional tending by native people.” ref

“Now, ten years later, comes a study published in Nature Communications detailing the positive effects of shell middens on the growth and health of western redcedar trees in coastal British Columbia. The paper, “Intertidal resource use over millennia enhances forest productivity” (by A.J. Trant et al. 2016. Nature Communications 7:12491) makes several key points that are relevant to my original hypothesis. These include: “Pockets of enhanced forest productivity are associated with increased phosphorous availability resulting from higher soil pH from the slow leaching of calcium from shell middens along with the nutrient amendments of past fires.” “Western redcedar (Thuja plicata) trees growing on the middens were found to be taller, have higher wood calcium, greater radial growth, and exhibit less top die-back.” ref

“Coastal British Columbia is the first known example of long-term intertidal resource use enhancing forest productivity and we expect this pattern to occur at archaeological sites along coastlines globally.” This last point I take some exception to, as Trant et al. fail to recognize that examples of the same phenomenon were reported ten years earlier in my peer-reviewed publication noted above. I might have given them a pass for unintentionally overlooking my work, except that when I do a google search on “shell middens and tree health” my 2006 publication shows up on the first page of results. Perhaps the authors were careless in their searches, or viewed the evidence I reported as somewhat scant, which I agree it was. But any peer-reviewed hypothesis with supportive evidence, scant or not, deserves to be cited and recognized as taking precedent to any later work.” ref

Shell Midden Archaeology: Current Trends and Future Directions


“Approximate locations for localities, key sites, complexes, or regions discussed in the text. Open circles denote key underwater/intertidal sites. 1. Aleutian Islands (eastern), 2. Kodiak/Chirikof, 3. Port Houghton/southeast Alaska, 4. Kilgii Gwaay/Haida Gwaii, 5. Quadra Island, BC, 6. Seaside, Oregon, 7. Northern California, 8. San Francisco Bay, 9. Central California, 10. California Channel Islands, 11. Escorpiones site, 12. San Felipe region/Totoaba, 13. Isla Cedros, 14. Espirtu Santo, 15. Coquile, 16. Yazoo River, 17. Green River, 18 Maine, 19. Ninigret Pond, 20. Connecticut/Pequot, 21. Chesapeake Bay, 22. Sea Pines, SC, 23. Georgia Coast Mounds, 24. St. Johns River, 25. Econfina, 26. Shell Mound/Crystal River, 27. Mound Key, 28. Florida Keys, 29. Chantuto, 30. Maya submerged site, 31. Puerto Rico, 32. Costa Rica, 33. Sitio Drago, 34. Pearl Islands, 35. Cariacou, 36. Huaca Prieta, 37. La Yerba 2, 38 Quebrada Jaguay, 39. Ring site, 40. Zapatero, 41. El Teniete Bay, 42 Punta Ñagué, 43. Beagle Channel, 44. Isla Grande, 45. Minas sites, 46. Saco de Pedra, 47. Lannos de Moxos, 48. Saquarema region sambaquis, 49. Babitanga Bay sambaquis, 50. Santa Marta/Camacho sambaquis, 51. Orkney, 52. Denmark, 53. Hjarnø, 54. Brittany, 55. Cantabria, 56. Figuria Brava and Muge, 57. Gibraltar, 58. Bajondillo Cave, 59. Grotta d’ Orienta, 60. Early Moroccan middens, 61. Canary Islands, 62. Saloum Delta, 63. Elands Bay (megamiddens), 64. Yserfontein/Pinnacle Point/Klasies River Mouth, 65. Eastern South Africa. 66. Velondriake, 67. Comoros Islands, 68. Mafia Archipelago, 69. Panga ya Saidi, 70. Jizan/Hodeidah, 71. Farasan Islands, 72. H3, Kuwait, 73. Khor, Qatar, 74. ar-Ramlah, 75. Oman, 76. Daun-1, Pakistan, 77. South Sri Lanka, 78. Andaman Islands, 79. Guar Kepah, 80. Vietnam caves, 81. Guangxi, 82. Ryuku Islands, 83. Higashimyo, 84. Awazu, 85. Nakazato, 86. South Korea sites, 87. Sakiyama, 88. Kitogane, 89. Kuril Islands, 90. Western Aleutians Islands, 91. Cagayan Valley, 92. Bubog 1 Rockshelter, 93. Palau, 94. Lene Hara, East Timor, 95. Matenbeck Cave, New Ireland, 96. Caution Bay, 97. Torres Strait, 98. Albatross Bay, 99. Blue Mud Bay, 100. Barrow Island, 101. Southwest Australia middens, 102. Moyjil, 103. Willandra Lakes/Murray/Darling, 104. Curtis coast middens, 105. Shag River, 106. Tata beach, 107. Aukland Isthmus, 108. Fiji, 109. Kiribati, 110. Hawaii” ref

Trends and strategies in shellfish gathering on the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America

“Abstract: Analyses of shellfish remains from sites on the Pacific Northwest Coast show a mix of temporal and spatial trends, which have been variously attributed to human impacts on populations or to environmental changes. We review studies from a number of sites throughout the region and from an area on the central coast of British Columbia to show local and regional trends in species emphasis, which are generally consistent with opportunistic use of environmentally available resources. Against this backdrop, we present growth increment analysis of clam shell (Saxidomus gigantea and Tresus capax) from central coast sites that indicates a variety of specific patterns and longer term strategies in shellfish use. These include casual collection from the immediate vicinity of smaller campsites, intensive harvest at specialized locations, and selective gathering from base camps and villages. The results of this multi-site study point to the complex variety of patterns likely to be evident throughout the region, and highlight the value of new research strategies and methods. The archaeological history of shellfish use on the Northwest Coast has not generally been the subject of sustained systematic investigation, despite the ubiquity of shell in coastal sites. Research has not developed much beyond descriptions of site contents, trial seasonality studies, taphonomic analyses, and initial observations of trends in species representation or shell size, which are attributed to either human predation or environmental change. Any implications for variable and developing collection strategies over time have been difficult to evaluate with the available data. We briefly review current knowledge and investigations of shellfish use on the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America, and present the initial results of a more extensive, multi-site investigation on the central coast of British Columbia. These results are beginning to reveal specific patterns of shellfish use, and indicate more general strategies of harvest and management extending to as early as 5000 years ago.” ref 

North America

  • 4130 BCE: Toggling harpoons are invented somewhere in eastern Siberia, spreading south into via trade into Japan and east into North America, where they are ancestral to the sophisticated designs of the Inuit and later European whalers.
  • 4000 – 2000 BCE: The Dene-Yeniseian languages split into Na-Dene in North America and Yeniseian languages in Siberia. The connection is commonly thought to have been the result of a back-migration of early American Indians in Beringia back into Siberia, forming the Yeniseian peoples that were once widespread throughout Eurasia.
  • Across the Southeastern Woodlands, starting around 4000 BCE, people exploited wetland resources, creating large shell middens.
  • Old Copper culture thrives in Oronto northeastern Wisconsin.
  • Native Americans in the northern Great Lakes produce copper tools, ornaments, and utensils traded throughout the Great Plains and Ohio Valley representing a high level of social stratification.
  • Emergence of the Shield Archaic tradition circa 4500 BCE.
  • Around 5000 BCE, Holocene glacial runoff affects the Southwest and notably the Colorado Plateau with stronger storm patterns result in significant rates of soil erosion. Precursors to the migrations of the Ancestral Puebloans lived through this climatic shift in tribes and chiefdoms in the Archaic-Early Basketmaker Era, with cultural and trade connections to the early Cochise cultures. Despite nomadic lifestyles in hunting seasons continuing early on from the 6th millennium BC these cultures also had settlements with store houses. The Cochise culture begins circa 5000 BC alongside the San Dieguito cultures.
  • Shell ornaments and copper items at Indian Knoll in Kentucky evidence an extensive trade system over several millennia across North America.
  • During this millennium astronomical and theological work continues to develop. Such examples synonymous with the yearly cycle and gift of maize production is the origins of the Green Corn Ceremony.
  • The Tehuacán culture (5000-2300 BCE) were likely Proto-Otomanguean speakers that inhabited the area of the Tehuacán valley during the 5th millennium BCE.
  • Some estimates using the controversial method of glottochronology suggest an approximate splitting date of the Proto-Otomanguean languages at c. 4400 BCE. This makes the Oto-Manguean family the language family of the Americas with the deepest time depth, as well as the oldest language family with evidence of tonal contrast in the proto-language.
  • Cultures of Mesoamerica advance their cultivation of maize further with an introduction of maize (corn) into the inter-Andean valleys of Colombia in this millennia sometimes via highways. Meanwhile, Peruvian cultures continue to advance cultivation of beans and squash circa 4000 BCE. Forest clearing is present especially on the Gulf Coast, with the cultures of Mesoamerica, with social stratification present, workshops, stone settlements, paved roads and an extensive obsidian trade, see Archaic period in Mesoamerica and Gheo-shih. Despite sedentary cultures present within Mexico, typically coastal, nomadic cultures also remain with seasonal occupation, but agriculture yearly and store pits for meats i.e., El Gigante, Honduras. ref

The Caribbean

  • Trinidad continues from the 6th to 5th millennium onwards to hold the Ortoiroid archaeological tradition, being the first part of the Caribbean to be settled prior to 3500 BCE.
  • Some of the earliest known villages appear along sea coasts, specifically the Chiapas and Caribbean coasts.It is likely that the abundant sea and lagoon resources could easily support long-term, via sea travel and year-round settlements, leading people to settle first in these areas.ref

“Shell mounds in these areas are highly visible, which likely aided in their identification by scholars. Examples like Cerro de las Conchas, which dates between 5500 and 3500 BCE appearing to have been a sea resource collection and processing site. While it seems Cerro de las Conchas was only occupied seasonally, it seems likely that inland base camps were occupied year-round.” ref

South America

  • Significant occupation of the Colombian Caribbean coast by polities encompassing sedentary populations has been documented to have occurred by c. 4000 BC.
  • The advanced Mexican agriculturalist culture and polities expanded and developed their agricultural practices for millennia now, alongside their Southern intensive trading networks and preistlt rites of fertility brought maize, an ingredient vital for urban civilization was brought to South America. Muisca origins circa 5000 BC in Soacha Tequendama Falls, and through their interrelated expansion Northwards, intensive maize production and permanent settlements are formed distinguishing them from tribes and other polities. Potentially they carried with them major constituent groups of the proto-Chibchan language. This is where legendary hero Bochica is said to have once lived.
  • Alongside the Muisca, the Tairona, located in present-day Colombia also began to shift towards long term permanent settlements with agriculture. This shift for these two groups, gives them population advantages over other groups.
  • The Amazon rainforest with earlier sourced agricultural polities, experiences migrations and colonization of these now more advanced agriculturalist chiefdoms with their permanent settlements. Conflicts with native tribes in more remote regions would have arose. Rather than being a pristine wilderness, has been shaped by man for at least 11,000 years through practices such as forest gardening, development of terra mulata soils for fertility, construction of highways, trade routes and large complex chiefdoms.
  • ancient sites was a major trading hub in Peru (Paredones and Huaca Prieta) In connection to the trading networks to Mexico, maize was farmed here, as early as 4700 BCE, representing networks of trade and agricultural selective breeding, spanning over millennia. Peoples living in complex sedentary structures, along the coast of northern Peru were already eating corn by that time.
  • Peruvian advances this side of the world, in domestication of llamas and alpacas since at least 6000 BCE. For the transportation of goods and dung for fertiliser, increases economic growth and agricultural yield when undertaken, thus making this process vital for civilization. This is representative of economic specialisation. Settlements grow all over Peru, significant technological advancements are achieved. Evidence of architectural classes, labour force and social stratification again is noticeable in the Zaña Valley where from 4700 BCE these canals drew and transported water from springs in the Andes mountains region for immense agriculture. Use of the canals ended circa 4500 BC, representing periodic social declines and conflict between polities.
  • Clothing alongside social stratification is demonstrable in Peru. 6000-year-old dyed cotton fabric was discovered at the Preceramic site of Huaca Prieta. This marks the earliest recorded use of cotton worldwide. Gossypium barbadense and was domesticated by the cultures in the region. Indigo dye was used for selective clothes, representative of higher classes and economic specialisation. Priest-like roles dedicated to astronomical study and observational seasonal change in relation to Peruvian society’s reliance on agriculture were present.
  • Las Vegas culture holds large scale sedentary structures and coastal adaptation with inheritance of agricultural practices from millennia before alongside newly maize production. Experiences a sudden collapse (circa 4600 BC) resulting in a 1000-year gap within the local archaeological record. Maize production originates from Mexico , but within this millennium continues to rapidly spread all over South America further South, reflecting strong trade routes, diffusions of ideas and culture and social networks.
  • Lauricocha II: 6000 – 4200 BCE (Andean preceramic IV) ends. ref

“Lauricocha III: 4200 – 2500 BCE (Andean preceramic V) begins. Chiefdoms and fish gatherer-hunter societies dominate. Lauricocha was one of the important mountain encampments at the time. Neolithic period disappears in Argentina circa 4000 bc due to an extensive dry period which would go on to last 2000 years. This may account for racial distinctions between Patagonia whose hunter-gatherer populations remained in the South, and the rest of Argentina.” ref 


“Based on studies by glaciologist Lonnie Thompson, professor at Ohio State University and researcher with the Byrd Polar Research Center, a number of indicators shows there was a global change in climate 5,200 years ago, probably due to a drop in solar energy output.” ref

  • The Older Perontransgression was a period identified in 1961 happening between 6,000 and 4,600 years ago when sea levels were 3 to 5 metres higher than today.
  • Plants buried in the Quelccaya Ice Capin the Peruvian Andes demonstrate the climate had shifted suddenly and severely to capture the plants and preserve them until now.
  • 3750 BC – The last North American mammoths, on Saint Paul IslandAlaska, go extinct. ref

Major changes in plant pollen uncovered from lakebed cores in South America.

“The 3rd millennium BCE spanned the years 3000 to 2001 BC. This period of time corresponds to the Early to Middle Bronze Age, characterized by the early empires in the Ancient Near East. World population growth relaxed after the burst due to the Neolithic Revolution. World population was largely stable, at roughly 60 million.” ref


  • Mesoamerican Archaic period
  • Old Copper Complex
  • Caral/Norte Chico civilization
  •  3700-1800 BCE: Caral-Supeflourished between the fourth and second millennia BCE, with the formation of the first city generally dated to around 3500 BCE, at Huaricanga, in the Fortaleza area. It is from 3100 BCE onward that large-scale human settlement and communal construction become clearly apparent, which lasted until a period of decline around 1800 BCE.
  •  3500-3000 BCE Huaricangais the earliest city of the Norte Chico civilization, called Caral or Caral-Supe in Peru and Spanish language sources. “It existed around 3500 BCE and was the oldest city in the Americas and one of the earliest cities in the world.” It is located in the arid Fortaleza Valley on Peru’s north central coast and is 14 mi (23 km) inland from the Pacific Ocean. The site covers a total area of 100 hectares, and is the largest Late Archaic construction in the Norte Chico region. The three earthwork mounds on the large site are believed to be remains of pyramidal-shaped structures. Two standing stones, known as huancas, also survive. Excavation in 2007 revealed a structure believed to be a temple, of a design similar to, but predating, the Mito architectural tradition seen in the Peruvian highlands. In addition, later research in the Fortaleza and Pativilca valleys has found evidence of maize cultivation, as well as fourteen other domesticated species of fruits and vegetables. This suggests that agriculture may have been more important to the development of Caral-Supe civilization than previously thought, as it was for other independent civilizations of the world, such as Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, and India.
  • Pottery develops in Americas(30th century BC).
  • Oldest known medicine wheelconstructed in the Americas.
  • Era of Buena Vistapyramid/observatory in Peru. ref


Prehistoric Coastal Mass Burials: Did Death Come in Waves?

“Abstract: Recent large tsunamis in the twenty-first century have provided graphic reminders of the catastrophic impacts such natural hazards can have upon coastal communities. Death tolls in the thousands give rise to the rapid adoption of coastal mass burials for the interment of the dead. While recognized as a necessary practice in the aftermath of such contemporary tragedies, the paucity of coastal mass burial sites related to earlier tsunamis reported in the archaeological record is unusual. We establish a suite of criteria for identifying the geological and archaeological evidence of inundation by past tsunamis and review case studies from two well-documented prehistoric coastal mass burial sites in the Southern Hemisphere (Solomon Islands and Vanuatu). To varying degrees, both sites possess numerous characteristics that suggest a direct correlation with previously reported catastrophic palaeotsunamis. In the Northern Hemisphere, we investigate palaeotsunami inundation as an alternative hypothesis for mass burial sites in Orkney and Shetland, a relatively tectonically inactive region where such an association is unlikely to have ever been considered. The nature, chronology and location of these mass burial sites fit well with the proposed archaeological evidence for palaeotsunami inundation, and they also appear to be contemporaneous with the as-yet poorly documented Garth tsunami (~ 5500 years ago). We suggest that a potentially key diagnostic criterion for determining a palaeotsunami linkage is the use of diatom testing on skeletal remains to establish whether death was caused by drowning in saltwater, a test which has never been applied in this context.” ref

Gender, Grave Goods, and Status in British Columbia Burials

“Abstract: A gender-based analysis of burials from the coast of British Columbia shows that there are no significant differences in the frequency of burial, or grave goods between male and female burials. A total of 1,130 burials were examined to identify any differences in age, sex, and grave good types. When examined regionally, within the south, central and north coasts, local patterns in mortuary treatment become apparent. Although the results for the north and south coasts show no difference in the overall frequency of grave goods between males and females, it does show that the south coast has more burials with grave goods and especially burials with ornamental inclusions. The regional differences in mortuary practices are explored through a discussion of descent systems, social structure, and the influence of conflict on mortuary ritual.” ref 

“Ancient North Americans started using tobacco around 12,500 to 12,000 years ago, roughly 9,000 years before the oldest indications that they smoked the plant in pipes, a new study finds.” ref 

“Ancient pipes and pipe fragments found at five archaeological sites along the Snake and Columbia rivers in Washington contain evidence of tobacco use, new research shows. The finds suggest that indigenous people there smoked tobacco-filled pipes long before Europeans brought the plant west. Chemical traces of nicotine, tobacco’s key ingredient, on the artifacts date to around 1,200 years ago. That’s roughly 600 years before European fur traders were thought to have first introduced domesticated tobacco to Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest, researchers report online October 29 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Cultivated tobacco seeds from roughly 3,500 years ago have been found at archaeological sites in the southern United States, and evidence of the plant’s domestication in South America stretches back almost 8,000 years. But this is the earliest “biomolecular evidence of tobacco use anywhere in the Northwest,” says Shannon Tushingham, an anthropologist at Washington State University in Pullman.” ref

“Native American hunter-gatherers living more than a thousand years ago in what is now northwestern California ate salmon, acorns, and other foods, and now we know they also smoked tobacco — the earliest known usage in the Pacific Northwest, according to a new University of California, Davis, study.” ref 

“The English word ‘tobacco’ originates from the Spanish word tabaco. The precise origin of this word is disputed, but it is generally thought to have derived, at least in part, from Taíno, the Arawakan language of the Caribbean. In Taíno, it was said to mean either a roll of tobacco leaves (according to Bartolomé de las Casas, 1552), or to tabago, a kind of L-shaped pipe used for sniffing tobacco smoke (according to Oviedo, with the leaves themselves being referred to as cohiba). However, perhaps coincidentally, similar words in Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian were used from 1410 for certain medicinal herbs. These probably derived from the Arabic طُبّاق ṭubbāq (also طُباق ṭubāq), a word reportedly dating to the ninth century, referring to various herbs. According to Iroquois mythology, tobacco first grew out of Earth Woman’s head after she died giving birth to her twin sonsSapling and Flint.” ref

“Tobacco has long been used in the Americas, with some cultivation sites in Mexico dating back to 1400–1000 BCE or around 3,400 to 3,000 years ago. Many Native American tribes traditionally grow and use tobacco. Historically, people from the Northeast Woodlands cultures have carried tobacco in pouches as a readily accepted trade item. It was smoked both socially and ceremonially, such as to seal a peace treaty or trade agreement. In some Native cultures, tobacco is seen as a gift from the Creator, with the ceremonial tobacco smoke carrying one’s thoughts and prayers to the Creator.” ref

“While the science on tobacco affirms its damaging effects on human health, ancestral views on the plant dissent. Shamanic views, as well as indigenous perspectives on the plant, insist on the sacrality of tobacco and its ritualistic usage as a spiritual and physical medicine. Some Native Americans consider tobacco to be a medicine and advocate for its respectful usage, rather than a commercial one. Indigenous communities have smoked tobacco leaves for thousands of years in order to heal diseases.” ref

Tobacco smoke enemas were employed by the indigenous peoples of North America to stimulate respiration, injecting the smoke with a rectal tube. Later, in the 18th century, Europeans emulated the Americans. Tobacco resuscitation kits consisting of a pair of bellows and a tube were provided by the Royal Humane Society of London and placed at various points along the Thames.” ref

“There is an old story that says how some strange people came from the western ocean. Among them were two sisters. They landed on Dall Island in Southeastern Alaska. There the sisters met and married men whose people were coming down the rivers from interior North America. One sister went with her family to the Queen Charlotte Islands. Her children grew and multiplied into the Haida Nation. The other sister went with her family to Prince of Wales Island. She became the ancestress or Mother of the Tlingit Nation.” The Proud Chilkat by Brendan and Lauri Larson, 1977.” ref

“Even with today’s DNA testing, the origin of the Tlingit people is not certain. It is generally accepted they came from the Eastern Hemisphere across the Bering Strait and down into Southeastern Alaska. Some believe the ancient immigration bypassed the glacier-choked panhandle and instead populated parts of California and the Lower 48, even as far south as South America, and then returned later when the ice had receded. Others believe some of these ancient travelers remained to settle this area.” ref

“The pre-contact native population of the Pacific Northwest Coast is also difficult to determine. Successive epidemics of measles and smallpox took their toll on native villages, sometimes leaving only one or two survivors. There is no way to determine exactly how many lives were lost due to these new diseases, but it appears that there was a great decline in population in the first half of the nineteenth century.” ref

“Tlingit clan houses were rectangular in shape, longer than they were wide (ie: 50 feet wide, 55 feet long) with a post and beam construction.  The more important houses were partly subterranean with one or two step-like platforms descending to a central square enclosure from four to six feet below the surface of the ground. This photo of the Klukwan Whale House of the Gaanaxteidi (Raven) Clan shows many Clan and House treasures.” ref

“Klukwan is the only original village which remains an active community today. It is considered to be a citadel of Tlingit art and culture. The Tlingit people traditionally embellished their lives with art– even ordinary objects were decorated in highly sophisticated and stylized art forms. Skilled craftsmen, the Chilkat people developed the Chilkat Blanket weave, made spruce root baskets, and were beautiful carvers known for their highly-stylized animal designs. Their artwork is highly prized and sought after today.” ref

Tlingit language

The Tlingit language (English: /ˈklɪŋkɪt/  KLING-kit; Lingít Athapascan pronunciation: [ɬɪ̀nkɪ́tʰ]) is spoken by the Tlingit people of Southeast Alaska and Western Canada and is a branch of the Na-Dene language family. Extensive effort is being put into revitalization programs in Southeast Alaska to revive and preserve the Tlingit language and culture. Tlingit is currently classified as a distinct and separate branch of Na-Dene, an indigenous language family of North America. Sapir initially proposed a connection between Tlingit and Haida, but the debate over Na-Dene gradually excluded Haida from the discussion. Haida is now considered an isolate, with some borrowing from its long proximity with Tlingit.” ref

Tlingit language may have split from the closely-related Athabaska language five thousand years ago.” ref

Haida language

Haida is the language of the Haida people, spoken in the Haida Gwaii archipelago off the coast of Canada and on Prince of Wales Island in Alaska. Classification of the Haida language is a matter of controversy, with some linguists placing it in the Na-Dené language family and  others arguing that it is a language isolate. Haida itself is split between Northern and Southern dialects, which differ primarily in phonology. The Northern Haida dialects have developed pharyngeal consonants, typologically uncommon sounds which are also found in some of the nearby Salishan and Wakashan languages. Today, however, many linguists regard Haida as a language isolate. This theory is not universally accepted; for example, Enrico (2004) argues that Haida does in fact belong to the Na-Dené family, though early loanwords make the evidence problematic. A proposal linking Na-Dené to the Yeniseian family of central Siberia finds no evidence for including Haida.

Haida has a major dialectal division between Northern and Southern dialects. Northern Haida is split into Alaskan (or Kaigani) Haida and Masset (or North Graham Island) Haida. Southern Haida was originally split into Skidegate Haida and Ninstints Haida, but Ninstints Haida is now extinct and is poorly documented. The dialects differ in phonology and to some extent vocabulary; however, they are grammatically mostly identical. Northern Haida is notable for its pharyngeal consonants. Pharyngeal consonants are rare among the world’s languages, even in North America. They are an areal feature of some languages in a small portion of Northwest America, in the Salishan and Wakashan languages as well as Haida. The pharyngeal consonants of Wakashan and Northern Haida are known to have developed recently.” ref

“Alaska is home to at least 20 Native languages belonging to four distinct language families. As the term implies, a language family is a group of languages descended from a common ancestor. Languages related in this way often share many resemblances, just as do people descended from a common ancestor. Of course, just as unrelated people may look alike, languages may be similar without being related through a common ancestor.” ref

“In Alaska, it is relatively easy to distinguish language families. The difference between Inuit-Aleut and Athabascan-Eyak-Tlingit is immediately obvious even to the casual listener. First, the sound systems are very different. For example, AET languages all contain ejective, or popping, consonants, while Inuit-Aleut languages do not. Furthermore, the rules of word formation are completely different in the two families. Inuit-Aleut languages build words by adding suffixes to the right end of a word root, while AET languages build words by adding prefixes to the left end of word root.” ref

“The Haida and Tsimshian languages are not related to either the Inuit-Aleut or AET families. Tsimshian is related to three other languages in Canada that together form the Tsimshianic family. Haida, though structurally quite similar to Tlingit, has not been demonstrably related to any other language family in the world. It is a language isolate. Distinguishing between individual languages within a family of related languages is a much more difficult task. The crucial problem is deciding just how much of a difference justifies calling two speech varieties different languages rather than different dialects.” ref

Tsimshianic languages

The Tsimshian (/ˈsɪmʃiən/TsimshianTs’msyan or Tsm’syen, also once known as the Chemmesyans) are an Indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America. Their communities are mostly in coastal British Columbia in Terrace and Prince Rupert, and Metlakatla, Alaska on Annette Island.” ref

“The Tsimshianic languages are a family of languages spoken in northwestern British Columbia and in Southeast Alaska on Annette Island and Ketchikan. All Tsimshianic languages are endangered, some with only around 400 speakers. Only around 2,170 people of the ethnic Tsimshian /ˈsɪmʃiən/ population in Canada still speak a Tsimshian language; about 50 of the 1,300 Tsimshian people living in Alaska still speak Coast Tsimshian. Tsimshianic languages are considered by most linguists to be an independent language family, with four main languages: Coast Tsimshian, Southern Tsimshian, Nisg̱a’a, and Gitksan. The Tsimshianic languages were included by Edward Sapir in his Penutian hypothesis, which is currently not widely accepted, at least in its full form. The Penutian connections of Tsimshianic have been reevaluated by Marie-Lucie Tarpent, who finds the idea probable, though others hold that the Tsimshianic family is not closely related to any other North American language.” ref

Heiltsuk dialect

“The Heiltsuk or Haíɫzaqv /ˈhltsək/, sometimes historically referred to as Bella Bella, are an Indigenous people of the Central Coast region in British Columbia, centered on the island community of Bella Bella. Ancestors of the Heiltsuk (Haíɫzaqv) have been in the Central Coast region of British Columbia since at least 7190 BCE or possibly even up to 12,000 BCE as evidenced by a 2017 archaeological study of their traditional home on Triquet Island. The Heiltsuk (Haíɫzaqv) practiced a set of cultural expressions that have been grouped together with other, similar groups under the term “Northwest Coast“. These expressions include organization into extended family groups, linkage to origin stories, ranking and differentiation in status, ownership of non-physical prerogatives, seasonal movement to harvest resources centred on large permanent “winter villages”, sophisticated use of wood, stone and other items, complex ceremonies and elaborate social interactions culminating in the “potlatch“. The Heiltsuk were (and are) renowned for their ceremonies, arts, and spiritual power. The two dimensional style of design – called formline art – or Northwest Coast art – extends along the north coast, the central coast and down to Vancouver Island.” ref

“Skull imagery is usually associated with the Tánis (Hamatsa) ceremony practised by the Heiltsuk and Kwakwakaʼwakw people. Hamatsa is a secret society that is involved ceremonial cannibalism and rituals to return to humanity. Young males are initiated into the community during a four-part ritual in which they are symbolically transformed from flesh-eating cannibals, a state equated with death, into well-behaved members of society. The skull thus symbolizes the rebirth of initiates as they come back from the dead. Skull items are used during the final stages of the ceremony: ritual feeding of the skull, possibly using special ceremonial spoons, precedes a ceremonial meal for the initiates, and the officiating medicine man might wear a skull headdress.” ref

Heiltsuk /ˈhltsək/, Haíłzaqvḷa, also known as Bella Bella and Haihais, is a dialect of the North Wakashan (Kwakiutlan) language Heiltsuk-Oowekyala that is spoken by the Haihai (Xai’xais) and Bella Bella First Nations peoples of the Central Coast region of the Canadian province of British Columbia, around the communities of Bella Bella and KlemtuBritish Columbia. Heiltsuk is considered to be a dialect of Heiltsuk-Oowekyala, which, like neighbouring Haisla and Kwak’wala, are part of the Northern Wakashan language group. Heiltsuk has both conversational and ceremonial forms.” ref

Kwak’wala language

“The Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw (IPA: [ˈkʷakʷəkʲəʔwakʷ]), also known as the Kwakiutl (/ˈkwɑːkjʊtəl/; “Kwakʼwala-speaking peoples”), are one of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest CoastKwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw oral history says their ancestors (ʼnaʼmima) came in the forms of animals by way of land, sea, or underground. When one of these ancestral animals arrived at a given spot, it discarded its animal appearance and became human. Animals that figure in these origin myths include the Thunderbird, his brother Kolas, the seagull, orca, grizzly bear, or chief ghost. Some ancestors have human origins and are said to come from distant places. The Kwakʼwala language is a part of the Wakashan language group.ref

“Historically, the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw economy was based primarily on fishing, with the men also engaging in some hunting, and the women gathering wild fruits and berries. Ornate weaving and woodwork were important crafts, and wealth, defined by slaves and material goods, was prominently displayed and traded at potlatch ceremonies. These customs were the subject of extensive study by the anthropologist Franz Boas. In contrast to most non-native societies, wealth and status were not determined by how much you had, but by how much you had to give away. This act of giving away your wealth was one of the main acts in a potlatch.” ref

Wakashan is a family of languages spoken in British Columbia around and on Vancouver Island, and in the northwestern corner of the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state, on the south side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. As is typical of the Northwest Coast, Wakashan languages have large consonant inventories—the consonants often occurring in complex clusters. Besides the Kwak’wala language being part of the Wakashan language, the Heiltsuk dialect (also known as Bella Bella) and Nuu-chah-nulth is a part. In the 1960s, Swadesh also suggested a connection of the Wakashan languages with the Eskimo–Aleut languages. This was picked up and expanded by Holst (2005). Sergei Nikolaev has argued in two papers for a systematic relationship between the Nivkh language of Sakhalin island and the Amur river basin and the Algic languages, and a secondary relationship between these two together and the Wakashan languages.” ref

Nuu-chah-nulth language 

The Nuu-chah-nulth are related to the Kwakwaka’wakw, the Haisla, and the Ditidaht First Nation. The Nuu-chah-nulth language belongs to the Wakashan familyThe Nuu-chah-nulth were one of the few Indigenous peoples on the Pacific Coast who hunted whales. Whaling is essential to Nuu-chah-nulth culture and spirituality. It is reflected in stories, songs, names, family lines, and numerous place names throughout their territories. Carbon dating shows that the Nuu-chah-nulth peoples hunted whales over 4000 years ago for both blubber and meat. The Nuu-chah-nulth peoples hunted whales of different species due to the range of territory that they reside in and the migration pattern of the whales. Those most often caught would be either grey or humpback whales due to their more docile nature and how close they would come to the shore.” ref

“Nuu-chah-nulth nations also used the wood and bark of red and yellow cedar trees as both a building material and to produce many different objects. Artists and wood workers within a nation would carve full logs into totem poles and ocean going canoes, and the bark would be torn into strips and softened in water until malleable enough to be woven into baskets, clothing, and ceremonial regalia. Due to the abundance of resources throughout the territories of the Nuu-chah-nulth nations, social life became more structured and a visible hierarchy formed within the communities. These consisted of the commoner class, and the chiefs that controlled the region. While members of the commoner class had autonomy they still required the consent of the chief to fish, hunt, and forage within the communities’ territory.” ref

“While being in control of ceremonial and territorial rights, chiefs were also responsible for the redistribution of wealth within their communities. This redistribution of wealth was a key societal factor for the Nuu-chah-nulth nations. A chief’s status is realized and maintained by their ability to provide for the members of their nation. By dictating the use of resources, chiefs could maintain social structure, and ensure the continued viability and strength of those resources. The Nuu-chah-nulth and other Pacific Northwest cultures are famous for their potlatch ceremonies, in which the host honours guests with generous gifts. The term ‘potlatch’ is ultimately a word of Nuu-chah-nulth origin. The purpose of the potlatch is manifold: redistribution of wealth, maintenance and recognition of social status, cementing alliances, the celebration and solemnization of marriage, and commemoration of important events.” ref

“A potlatch is a gift-giving feast practiced by Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast of Canada and the United States, among whom it is traditionally the primary governmental institution, legislative body, and economic system. This includes the Heiltsuk, Haida, Nuxalk, Tlingit, Makah, Tsimshian, Nuu-chah-nulth, Kwakwaka’wakw, and Coast Salish cultures. Potlatches are also a common feature of the peoples of the Interior and of the Subarctic adjoining the Northwest Coast, although mostly without the elaborate ritual and gift-giving economy of the coastal peoples (see Athabaskan potlatch).” ref

“A potlatch involves giving away or destroying wealth or valuable items in order to demonstrate a leader’s wealth and power. Potlatches are also focused on the reaffirmation of family, clan, and international connections, and the human connection with the supernatural world. Potlatch also serves as a strict resource management regime, where coastal peoples discuss, negotiate, and affirm rights to and uses of specific territories and resources. Potlatches often involve music, dancing, singing, storytelling, making speeches, and often joking and games. The honouring of the supernatural and the recitation of oral histories are a central part of many potlatches.” ref

“From 1885 to 1951, the Government of Canada criminalized potlatches. However, the practice persisted underground despite the risk of government reprisals including mandatory jail sentences of at least two months; the practice has also been studied by many anthropologists. Since the practice was decriminalized in 1951, the potlatch has re-emerged in some communities. In many it is still the bedrock of Indigenous governance, as in the Haida Nation, which has rooted its democracy in potlatch law.” ref

“The word comes from the Chinook Jargon, meaning “to give away” or “a gift”; originally from the Nuu-chah-nulth word paɬaˑč, to make a ceremonial gift in a potlatch. A potlatch was held on the occasion of births, deaths, adoptions, weddings, and other major events. Typically the potlatch was practiced more in the winter seasons as historically the warmer months were for procuring wealth for the family, clan, or village, then coming home and sharing that with neighbors and friends. The event was hosted by a numaym, or ‘House‘, in Kwakwaka’wakw culture.” ref

“A numaym was a complex cognatic kin group usually headed by aristocrats, but including commoners and occasional slaves. It had about one hundred members, and several would be grouped together into a nation. The House drew its identity from its ancestral founder, usually a mythical animal who descended to earth and removed his animal mask, thus becoming human. The mask became a family heirloom passed from father to son along with the name of the ancestor himself. This made him the leader of the numaym, considered the living incarnation of the founder.” ref

“Only rich people could host a potlatch. Tribal slaves were not allowed to attend a potlatch as a host or a guest. In some instances, it was possible to have multiple hosts at one potlatch ceremony (although when this occurred, the hosts generally tended to be from the same family). If a member of a nation had suffered an injury or indignity, hosting a potlatch could help to heal their tarnished reputation (or “cover his shame,” as anthropologist H. G. Barnett worded it). The potlatch was the occasion on which titles associated with masks and other objects were “fastened on” to a new office holder. Two kinds of titles were transferred on these occasions.” ref

“Firstly, each numaym had a number of named positions of ranked “seats” (which gave them a seat at potlatches) transferred within itself. These ranked titles granted rights to hunting, fishing and berrying territories. Secondly, there were a number of titles that would be passed between numayma, usually to in-laws, which included feast names that gave one a role in the Winter Ceremonial. Aristocrats felt safe giving these titles to their out-marrying daughter’s children because this daughter and her children would later be rejoined with her natal numaym and the titles returned with them.” ref 

“Any one individual might have several “seats” which allowed them to sit, in rank order, according to their title, as the host displayed and distributed wealth and made speeches. Besides the transfer of titles at a potlatch, the event was given “weight” by the distribution of other less important objects such as Chilkat blankets, animal skins (later Hudson Bay blankets) and ornamental “coppers”. It is the distribution of large numbers of Hudson Bay blankets, and the destruction of valued coppers that first drew government attention (and censure) to the potlatch. On occasion, preserved food was also given as a gift during a potlatch ceremony. Gifts known as sta-bigs consisted of preserved food that was wrapped in a mat or contained in a storage basket.” ref

“Dorothy Johansen describes the dynamic: “In the potlatch, the host in effect challenged a guest chieftain to exceed him in his ‘power’ to give away or to destroy goods. If the guest did not return 100 percent on the gifts received and destroy even more wealth in a bigger and better bonfire, he and his people lost face and so his ‘power’ was diminished.” Hierarchical relations within and between clans, villages, and nations, were observed and reinforced through the distribution or sometimes destruction of wealth, dance performances, and other ceremonies. The status of any given family is raised not by who has the most resources, but by who distributes the most resources. The hosts demonstrate their wealth and prominence through giving away goods.” ref

“Potlatch ceremonies were also used as coming-of-age rituals. When children were born, they would be given their first name at the time of their birth (which was usually associated with the location of their birthplace). About a year later, the child’s family would hold a potlatch and give gifts to the guests in attendance on behalf of the child. During this potlatch, the family would give the child their second name. Once the child reached about 12 years of age, they were expected to hold a potlatch of their own by giving out small gifts that they had collected to their family and people, at which point they would be able to receive their third name. For some cultures, such as Kwakwaka’wakw, elaborate and theatrical dances are performed reflecting the hosts’ genealogy and cultural wealth. Many of these dances are also sacred ceremonies of secret societies like the hamatsa, or display of family origin from supernatural creatures such as the dzunukwa.” ref

Salishan languages

The Salishan (also Salish /ˈslɪʃ/) languages are a family of languages of the Pacific Northwest in North America (the Canadian province of British Columbia and the American states of WashingtonOregonIdaho, and Montana). Edward Sapir suggested that the Salishan languages might be related to the Wakashan and Chimakuan languages in a hypothetical Mosan family. This proposal persists primarily through Sapir’s stature: with little evidence for such a family, no progress has been made in reconstructing it. The Salishan languages, principally Chehalis, contributed greatly to the vocabulary of the Chinook Jargon.” ref

“Some cultural elements are more resilient to language change, namely, religion and folklore. Salishan language communities that have demonstrated change in technology and environmental vocabulary have often remained more consistent with their religious terminology. Religion and heavily ingrained cultural traditions are often regarded as sacred, and so are less likely to undergo any sort of change. Indeed, cognate lists between various Salishan languages show more similarities in religious terminology than they do in technology and environment vocabulary. Other categories with noticeable similarities include words for body parts, colors, and numbers. There would be little need to change such vocabulary, so it’s more likely to remain the same despite other changes between languages. The Coast Salishan languages are less similar to each other than are the Interior Salishan languages, probably because the Coast communities have more access to outside influences.” ref

“Another example of language change in the Salishan language family is word taboo, which is a cultural expression of the belief in the power of words. Among the Coast languages, a person’s name becomes a taboo word immediately following their death. This taboo is lifted when the name of the deceased is given to a new member of their lineage. In the meantime, the deceased person’s name and words that are phonetically similar to the name are considered taboo and can only be expressed via descriptive phrases. In some cases, these taboo words are permanently replaced by their chosen descriptive phrases, resulting in language change.” ref

Chinookan languages

The Chinookan languages are a small family of extinct languages spoken in Oregon and Washington along the Columbia River by Chinook peoplesChinookan peoples include several groups of Indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest in the United States who speak the Chinookan languages. Since at least 4000 BCE Chinookan peoples have resided along the upper and Middle Columbia River (Wimahl) (“Great River”) from the river’s gorge (near the present town of The Dalles, Oregon) downstream (west) to the river’s mouth, and along adjacent portions of the coasts, from Tillamook Head of present-day Oregon in the south, north to Willapa Bay in southwest Washington.” ref, ref

“The Chinookan peoples were relatively settled and occupied traditional tribal geographic areas, where they hunted and fished; salmon was a mainstay of their diet. The women also gathered and processed many nuts, seeds, roots and other foods. They had a society marked by social stratification, consisting of a number of distinct social castes of greater or lesser status. Upper castes included shamans, warriors, and successful traders. They composed a minority of the community population compared to common members. Members of the superior castes are said to have practiced social discrimination, limiting contact with commoners and forbidding play between the children of the different social groups.ref

“Some Chinookan peoples practiced slavery, a practice borrowed from the northernmost tribes of the Pacific Northwest. They took slaves as captives in warfare, and used them to practice thievery on behalf of their masters. The latter refrained from such practices as unworthy of high status. The elite of some tribes had the practice of head binding, flattening their children’s forehead and top of the skull as a mark of social status. They bound the infant’s head under pressure between boards when the infant was about 3 months old and continued until the child was about one year of age. This custom was a means of marking social hierarchy; flat-headed community members had a rank above those with round heads. Those with flattened skulls refused to enslave other persons who were similarly marked, thereby reinforcing the association of a round head with servility. The Chinook were known colloquially by early white explorers in the region as “Flathead Indians.ref

Penutian languages

Penutian is a proposed grouping of language families that includes many Native American languages of western North America, predominantly spoken at one time in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California. The existence of a Penutian stock or phylum has been the subject of debate among specialists. Even the unity of some of its component families has been disputed. Some of the problems in the comparative study of languages within the phylum are the result of their early extinction and limited documentation.” ref

“Some of the more recently proposed subgroupings of Penutian have been convincingly demonstrated. The Miwokan and the Costanoan languages have been grouped into a Utian language family by Catherine Callaghan. Callaghan has more recently provided evidence supporting a grouping of Utian and Yokutsan into a Yok-Utian family. There also seems to be convincing evidence for the Plateau Penutian grouping (originally named Shahapwailutan by J. N. B. Hewitt and John Wesley Powell in 1894) which would consist of Klamath–Modoc, Molala, and the Sahaptian languages (Nez Percé and Sahaptin).” ref

Penutian languages, proposed major grouping (phylum or superstock) of American Indian languages spoken along the west coast of North America from British Columbia to central California and central New Mexico. The phylum consists of 15 language families with about 20 languages; the families are Wintun (two languages), Miwok-Costanoan (perhaps five Miwokan languages, plus three extinct Costanoan languages), Sahaptin (two languages), Yakonan (two extinct languages), Yokutsan (three languages), and Maiduan (four languages)—plus Klamath-Modoc, Cayuse (extinct), Molale (extinct), Coos, Takelma (extinct), Kalapuya, Chinook (not to be confused with Chinook Jargon, a trade language or lingua franca), Tsimshian, and Zuni, each a family consisting of a single language.” ref

“Major languages in the phylum are Zuni, spoken in New Mexico; Tsimshian, spoken in British Columbia; and the Sahaptin dialects (Klikitat, Umatilla, Wallawalla, Warm Springs, and Yakima), spoken in north-central Oregon. The Penutian languages are sometimes grouped into a yet larger stock, called either Penutian or Macro-Penutian, that includes several Mesoamerican Indian languages. The Totonacan, Huave, and Mixe-Zoquean language families are often included, and some scholars suggest the inclusion of the large Mayan language family. The American linguist Benjamin L. Whorf proposed to include not only Mixe-Zoquean, Huave, Totonacan, and Mayan (including Huastec) but also Uto-Aztecan, another major North and Mesoamerican language family. This grouping has not been generally accepted.” ref

Athabaskan languages

Athabaskan (/ˌæθəˈbæskən/ ATH-ə-BASK-ən; also spelled AthabascanAthapaskan or Athapascan, and also known as Dene) is a large family of Indigenous languages of North America, located in western North America in three areal language groups: Northern, Pacific Coast and Southern (or Apachean). Kari and Potter place the total territory of the 53 Athabaskan languages at 4,022,000 square kilometers (1,553,000 sq mi). Chipewyan is spoken over the largest area of any North American native language, while Navajo is spoken by the largest number of people of any native language north of Mexico.” ref

“Na-Dene (/ˌnɑːdɪˈneɪ/ NAH-dih-NAY; also NadeneNa-DenéAthabaskan–Eyak–TlingitTlina–Dene) is a family of Native American languages that includes at least the Athabaskan languagesEyak, and Tlingit languages. Haida was formerly included, but is now considered doubtful. By far the most widely spoken Na-Dene language today is Navajo. In February 2008, a proposal connecting Na-Dene (excluding Haida) to the Yeniseian languages of central Siberia into a Dené–Yeniseian family was published and well-received by a number of linguists. It was proposed in a 2014 paper that the Na-Dene languages of North America and the Yeniseian languages of Siberia had a common origin in a language spoken in Beringia, between the two continents.” ref

“In its uncontroversial core, Na-Dene consists of two branches, Tlingit and Athabaskan–Eyak:

“The Tlingit language (English: /ˈklɪŋkɪt/  KLING-kitLingít Athapascan pronunciation: [ɬɪ̀nkɪ́tʰ]) is spoken by the Tlingit people of Southeast Alaska and Western Canada and is a branch of the Na-Dene language family. Extensive effort is being put into revitalization programs in Southeast Alaska to revive and preserve the Tlingit language and culture.” ref

Tlingit is divided into roughly five major dialects, all of which are essentially mutually intelligible:

  • The Northern dialect is also called the Yakutat (Yakhwdaat) dialect, after its principal town and is spoken in an area south from Lituya Bay (Litu.aa) to Frederick Sound.
  • The Transitional dialect, a two-tone dialect like the Northern dialect but has phonological features of the Southern, is historically spoken in the villages of Petersburg (Gántiyaakw Séedi “Steamboat Canyon”), Kake (Khéixh’ “Daylight”), and Wrangell (Khaachxhana.áak’w “Khaachxhan’s Little Lake”), and in the surrounding regions although it has almost disappeared.
  • The similarly-moribund Southern dialects of Sanya and Heinya are spoken from Sumner Strait south to the Alaska-Canada border, excepting Annette Island, which is the reservation of the Tsimshian, and the southern end of Prince of Wales Island, which is the land of the Kaigani Haida (K’aayk’aani).
  • The Inland Tlingit dialect is spoken in Canada around Atlin Lake and Teslin Lake.
  • The Tongass Tlingit dialect was once spoken in the Cape Fox area south of Ketchikan but recently died with its last speakers in the 1990s.” ref

“Tlingit history has been one of movement and mixing of peoples. Archeological evidence indicates occupation of the islands and mainland of southeastern Alaska for many centuries, even millennia. According to linguists, the Tlingit language may have split from common roots with Athapaskan about 5,000 years ago.” ref

Columbia Plateau

“The Columbia Plateau is a geologic and geographic region that lies across parts of the U.S. states of WashingtonOregon, and Idaho. It is a wide flood basalt plateau between the Cascade Range and the Rocky Mountains, cut through by the Columbia River.” ref

Columbia Plateau: Likely origin of Proto-Algic about 7,000 years ago

“Proto-Algic (sometimes abbreviated PAc) is the proto-language from which the Algic languages (Wiyot languageYurok language, and Proto-Algonquian) are descended. It is estimated to have been spoken about 7,000 years ago somewhere in the American Northwest, possibly around the Columbia Plateau. It is an example of a second-level proto-language (a proto-language whose reconstruction depends on data from another proto-language, namely its descendant language Proto-Algonquian) which is widely agreed to have existed.” ref 

“Wiyot (also Wishosk) or Soulatluk (lit. ‘your jaw’) is an Algic language spoken by the Wiyot people of Humboldt BayCalifornia. Wiyot, along with its geographical neighbor, the Yurok language, were first identified as relatives of the Algonquian languages by Edward Sapir in 1913, though this classification was disputed for decades in what came to be known as the Ritwan controversy. Due to the enormous geographical separation of Wiyot and Yurok from all other Algonquian languages, the validity of their genetic link was hotly contested by leading Americanist linguists; as Ives Goddard put it, the issue “has profound implications for the prehistory of North America”. However, by the 1950s, the genetic relationship between the Algonquian languages and Wiyot and Yurok had been established to the satisfaction of most, if not all, researchers, giving rise to the term Algic to refer to the Algonquian languages together with Wiyot and Yurok.” ref

Yurok (also ChillulaMitaPekwanRikwaSugonWeitspekWeitspekan) is an Algic language. It is the traditional language of the Yurok people of Del Norte County and Humboldt County on the far north coast of California.” ref

“The Algonquian languages (/ælˈɡɒŋk(w)iən/ al-GONG-k(w)ee-ən; also Algonkian) are a subfamily of the Indigenous languages of the Americas and most of the languages in the Algic language family are included in the group. The name of the Algonquian language family is distinguished from the orthographically similar Algonquin dialect of the Indigenous Ojibwe language (Chippewa), which is a senior member of the Algonquian language family. The term Algonquin has been suggested to derive from the Maliseet word elakómkwik (pronounced [ɛlæˈɡomoɡwik]), “they are our relatives/allies.” Speakers of Algonquian languages stretch from the east coast of North America to the Rocky Mountains. The proto-language from which all of the languages of the family descend, Proto-Algonquian, was spoken around 2,500 to 3,000 years ago. There is no scholarly consensus about where this language was spoken.” ref 

“Proto-Algonquian (commonly abbreviated PA) is the proto-language from which the various Algonquian languages are descended. It is generally estimated to have been spoken around 2,500 to 3,000 years ago, but there is less agreement on where it was spoken. The Algonquian family, which is a branch of the larger Algic language family, is usually divided into three subgroups: Eastern Algonquian, which is a genetic subgroup, and Central Algonquian and Plains Algonquian, both of which are areal groupings. In the historical linguistics of North America, Proto-Algonquian is one of the best studied, most thoroughly reconstructed proto-languages. It is descended from Proto-Algic. Research a generation later suggests that in fact it was spoken farther west than this, perhaps “somewhere immediately west of Lake Superior” or on the Columbia Plateau.” ref

Algonquian peoples

The Algonquians are one of the most populous and widespread North American native language groups. They historically were prominent along the Atlantic Coast and in the interior regions along Saint Lawrence River and around the Great Lakes. This grouping consists of the peoples who speak Algonquian languagesBefore Europeans came into contact, most Algonquian settlements lived by hunting and fishing, although many of them supplemented their diet by cultivating corn, beans, and squash (the “Three Sisters”). The Ojibwe cultivated wild rice.” ref

“At the time of the first European settlements in North America, Algonquian peoples resided in present-day Canada east of the Rocky MountainsNew EnglandNew Jersey, southeastern New YorkDelaware, and down the Atlantic Coast to the Upper South, and around the Great Lakes in present-day IllinoisIndianaIowaMichiganMinnesota, and Wisconsin. The precise homeland of the Algonquian peoples is not known. At the time of the European arrival, the hegemonic Iroquois Confederacy, based in present-day New York and Pennsylvania, was regularly at war with their Algonquian neighbors.” ref

Upper west related Algonquians 

“Ojibwe/Chippewa, Odawa, Potawatomi, and a variety of Cree groups lived in Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Western Ontario, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Canadian Prairies. The Arapaho, Blackfoot, and Cheyenne developed as indigenous to the Great Plains.” ref

“A totem (from Ojibwe: ᑑᑌᒼ or ᑑᑌᒻ doodem) is a spirit being, sacred object, or symbol that serves as an emblem of a group of people, such as a family, clan, lineage, or tribe, such as in the Anishinaabe clan systemWhile the word totem itself is an anglicisation of the Ojibwe term (and both the word and beliefs associated with it are part of the Ojibwe language and culture), belief in tutelary spirits and deities is not limited to the Ojibwe people. Similar concepts, under differing names and with variations in beliefs and practices, may be found in a number of cultures worldwide. The term has also been adopted, and at times redefined, by anthropologists and philosophers of different cultures.” ref

“The Anishinaabe peoples are divided into a number of doodeman (in syllabicsᑑᑌᒪᐣ or ᑑᑌᒪᓐ), or clans, (singular: doodem) named mainly for animal totems (or doodem, as an Ojibwe person would say this word). In Anishinaabemowinᐅᑌᐦ ode’ means heart. Doodem or clan literally would translate as ‘the expression of, or having to do with one’s heart’, with doodem referring to the extended family. In the Anishinaabe oral tradition, in prehistory the Anishinaabe were living along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean when the great Miigis beings appeared from the sea. These beings taught the Mide way of life to the Waabanakiing peoples. Six of the seven great Miigis beings that remained to teach established the odoodeman for the peoples in the east. The five original Anishinaabe totems were Wawaazisii (bullhead), Baswenaazhi (echo-maker, i.e., crane), Aan’aawenh (pintail duck), Nooke (tender, i.e., bear) and Moozwaanowe (“little” moose-tail).” ref

“The Ojibwe (syll.ᐅᒋᐺ; plural: Ojibweg ᐅᒋᐺᒃ) are an Anishinaabe people whose homeland (Ojibwewaki ᐅᒋᐺᐘᑭ) covers much of the Great Lakes region and the northern plains, extending into the subarctic and throughout the northeastern woodlands. Ojibweg, being Indigenous peoples of the Northeastern Woodlands and of the subarctic, are known by several names, including Ojibway or Chippewa. As a large ethnic group, several distinct nations also understand themselves to be Ojibwe as well, including the SaulteauxNipissings, and Oji-Cree. The Ojibwe language is Anishinaabemowin, a branch of the Algonquian language family.” ref

“The Ojibwe have traditionally organized themselves into groups known as bands. Most Ojibwe, except for the Great Plains bands, have historically lived a settled (as opposed to nomadic) lifestyle, relying on fishing and hunting to supplement the cultivation of numerous varieties of maize and squash, and the harvesting of manoomin (wild rice) for food. Historically their typical dwelling has been the wiigiwaam (wigwam), built either as a waginogaan (domed-lodge) or as a nasawa’ogaan (pointed-lodge), made of birch bark, juniper bark and willow saplings. In the contemporary era, most of the people live in modern housing, but traditional structures are still used for special sites and events.” ref

“They have a culturally-specific form of pictorial writing, used in the religious rites of the Midewiwin and recorded on birch bark scrolls and possibly on rock. The many complex pictures on the sacred scrolls communicate much historical, geometrical, and mathematical knowledge, as well as images from their spiritual pantheon. The use of petroforms, petroglyphs, and pictographs has been common throughout the Ojibwe traditional territories. Petroforms and medicine wheels have been used to teach important spiritual concepts, record astronomical events, and to use as a mnemonic device for certain stories and beliefs. The script is still in use, among traditional people as well as among youth on social media.ref

“Some ceremonies use the miigis shell (cowry shell), which is found naturally in distant coastal areas. Their use of such shells demonstrates there is a vast, longstanding trade network across the continent. The use and trade of copper across the continent has also been proof of a large trading network that took place for thousands of years, as far back as the Hopewell tradition. Certain types of rock used for spear and arrow heads have also been traded over large distances precontact. The Ojibwe bury their dead in burial mounds. Many erect a jiibegamig or a “spirit-house” over each mound. An historical burial mound would typically have a wooden marker, inscribed with the deceased’s doodem (clan sign). Because of the distinct features of these burials, Ojibwe graves have been often looted by grave robbers. In the United States, many Ojibwe communities safe-guard their burial mounds through the enforcement of the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.ref

“During the summer months, the people attend jiingotamog for the spiritual and niimi’idimaa for a social gathering (powwows) at various reservations in the Anishinaabe-Aki (Anishinaabe Country). Many people still follow the traditional ways of harvesting wild rice, picking berries, hunting, making medicines, and making maple sugar. The jingle dress that is typically worn by female pow wow dancers originated from the Ojibwe. Both Plains and Woodlands Ojibwe claim the earliest form of dark cloth dresses decorated with rows of tin cones – often made from the lids of tobacco cans- that make a jingling sound when worn by the dancer. This style of dress is now popular with all tribes and is a distinctly Ojibwe contribution to Pan-Indianism.ref

Ojibwe Kinship and clan system

“Traditionally, the Ojibwe had a patrilineal system, in which children were considered born to the father’s clan. For this reason, children with French or English fathers were considered outside the clan and Ojibwe society unless adopted by an Ojibwe male. They were sometimes referred to as “white” because of their fathers, regardless if their mothers were Ojibwe, as they had no official place in the Ojibwe society. The people would shelter the woman and her children, but they did not have the same place in the culture as children born to Ojibwe fathers.” ref

“The Ojibwe understanding of kinship is complex and includes the immediate family as well as extended family. It is considered a modified bifurcate merging kinship system. As with any bifurcate-merging kinship system, siblings generally share the same kinship term with parallel cousins because they are all part of the same clan. The modified system allows for younger siblings to share the same kinship term with younger cross-cousins. Complexity wanes further from the person’s immediate generation, but some complexity is retained with female relatives. For example, ninooshenh is “my mother’s sister” or “my father’s sister-in-law”—i.e., my parallel-aunt, but also “my parent’s female cross-cousin”. Great-grandparents and older generations, as well as great-grandchildren and younger generations, are collectively called aanikoobijigan. This system of kinship reflects the Anishinaabe philosophy of interconnectedness and balance among all living generations, as well as of all generations of the past and of the future.” ref

“The Ojibwe people were divided into a number of doodemag (clans; singular: doodem) named primarily for animals and birds totems (pronounced doodem). The word in the Ojibwe language means “my fellow clansman.” The five original totems were Wawaazisii (Bullhead), Baswenaazhi/”Ajiijaak” (“Echo-maker”, i.e., Crane), Aan’aawenh (Pintail Duck), Nooke (“Tender”, i.e., Bear) and Moozwaanowe (“Little” Moose-tail). The Crane totem was the most vocal among the Ojibwe, and the Bear was the largest – so large, that it was sub-divided into body parts such as the head, the ribs and the feet. Each clan had certain responsibilities among the people. People had to marry a spouse from a different clan.” ref

“Traditionally, each band had a self-regulating council consisting of leaders of the communities’ clans, or odoodemaan. The band was often identified by the principal doodem. In meeting others, the traditional greeting among the Ojibwe people is, “What is your ‘doodem’?” (“Aaniin gidoodem?” or “Awanen gidoodem?“) The response allows the parties to establish social conduct by identifying as family, friends or enemies. Today, the greeting has been shortened to “Aanii (pronounced “Ah-nee”).” ref

“The Ojibwe have spiritual beliefs that have been passed down by oral tradition under the Midewiwin teachings. These include a creation story and a recounting of the origins of ceremonies and rituals. Spiritual beliefs and rituals were very important to the Ojibwe because spirits guided them through life. Birch bark scrolls and petroforms were used to pass along knowledge and information, as well as for ceremonies. Pictographs were also used for ceremonies. The sweatlodge is still used during important ceremonies about the four directions, when oral history is recounted. Teaching lodges are common today to teach the next generations about the language and ancient ways of the past. The traditional ways, ideas, and teachings are preserved and practiced in such living ceremonies.” ref

“The modern dreamcatcher, adopted by the Pan-Indian Movement and New Age groups, originated in the Ojibwe “spider web charm,” a hoop with woven string or sinew meant to replicate a spider’s web, used as a protective charm for infants. According to Ojibwe legend, the protective charms originate with the Spider Woman, known as Asibikaashi; who takes care of the children and the people on the land; as the Ojibwe Nation spread to the corners of North America it became difficult for Asibikaashi to reach all the children, so the mothers and grandmothers wove webs for the children, which had an apotropaic purpose and were not explicitly connected with dreams.” ref

“In Ojibwe tradition, the main task after a death is to bury the body as soon as possible, the very next day or even on the day of death. This was important because it allowed the spirit of the dead to journey to its place of joy and happiness. The land of happiness, where the dead reside, is called Gaagige Minawaanigozigiwining. This was a journey that took four days. If burial preparations could not be completed the day of the death, guests and medicine men were required to stay with the deceased and the family in order to help mourn, while also singing songs and dancing throughout the night. Once preparations were complete, the body would be placed in an inflexed position with their knees towards their chest.” ref 

“Over the course of the four days it takes the spirit to journey to its place of joy, it is customary to have food kept alongside the grave at all times. A fire is set when the sun sets and is kept going throughout the night. The food is to help feed the spirit over the course of the journey, while the smoke from the fire is a directional guide. Once the four–day journey is over, a feast is held, which is led by the chief medicine man. At the feast, it is the chief medicine man’s duty to give away certain belongings of the deceased. Those who were chosen to receive items from the deceased are required to trade in a new piece of clothing, all of which would be turned into a bundle. The bundle of new cloths and a dish is then given to the closest relative. The recipient of the bundle must then find individuals that he or she believes to be worthy, and pass on one of the new pieces of clothing.” ref

“3,500 years of shellfish farming “Aquaculture” by Indigenous peoples on the Northwest coast.” ref

“The Indigenous Peoples of British Columbia have been harvesting shellfish from specially-constructed clam gardens for at least 3500 years, according to a study released February 27, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Nicole Smith of the Hakai Institute, Dana Lepofsky of Simon Fraser University, and colleagues. This research offers new methods for tracking the history and development of mariculture. Clam gardens are traditional mariculture structures consisting of a rock wall and flat terrace that serve as a sheltered habitat for clams in intertidal zones of beaches. It is known that these gardens increase clam productivity and abundance and have long been important food sources for coastal Indigenous cultures.” ref

“At each site, they identified suitable samples for constraining the age of construction of the gardens, focusing on shell samples from within or beneath the garden walls and beneath the terraces. In total, they collected 35 radiocarbon dates on the shells of clams, snails, and barnacles ranging from at least 3,500 years ago to the 20th Century. The authors add: “By documenting that clam gardens are at least 3,500 years old, this study supports what coastal First Nations of the Pacific Northwest have always known: managing clams, in the form of clam gardens, is an age old practice and fundamental to long-term food security.” ref

Aquaculture Holds Connection and Resilience Opportunities for Skokomish Tribal Communities

For the Skokomish Tribe, the river has always been the key for their subsistence lifestyle. Since time immemorial, it has provided transportation, fishing, and access to shellfish. Modern tribal aquaculture activity in the area includes:

  • Enhancing and managing beaches and marine resources
  • Producing hatchery fish for harvest
  • Farming shellfish on tribally controlled beaches” ref

Tribal Salmon Culture

“Salmon have long been the symbol and lifeblood of the people who call the Pacific Northwest home. Columbia Basin salmon play an important role in the ecosystem of the region, returning ocean nutrients to the rivers and streams where they were born, feeding wildlife, and even the forests with their bodies. For thousands of years, salmon also shaped the lives of the people who have lived here since time immemorial. The cultures, intertribal interactions, fishing technologies, and very religions of the Pacific Northwest tribes were all impacted and influenced by salmon. These fish have been an important part of the economies of the region for thousands of years, from the ancient Indian trade routes to modern commercial fishing.” ref

“The importance of the first salmon ceremony has to do with the celebration of life, of the salmon as subsistence, meaning that the Indians depend upon the salmon for their living. And the annual celebration is just that – it’s an appreciation that the salmon are coming back. It is again the natural law; the cycle of life. It’s the way things are and if there was no water, there would be no salmon, there would be no cycle, no food. And the Indian people respect it accordingly.
—Antone Minthorn, Umatilla

My strength is from the fish; my blood is from the fish, from the roots and berries. The fish and game are the essence of my life. I was not brought from a foreign country and did not come here. I was put here by the Creator.
—Chief Meninock, Yakama, 1915″ ref


“Salmon play an integral part of tribal religion, culture, and physical sustenance. Below is a short list of the many ways in which salmon are sacred to the Columbia River Basin tribes of the Pacific Northwest:

  • Salmon are part of our spiritual and cultural identity.
  • Over a dozen longhouses and churches on the reservations and in ceded areas still use salmon for their religious services.
  • The annual salmon return and its celebration by the tribes assure the renewal and continuation of human and all other life.
  • Historically, we were wealthy peoples because of a flourishing trade economy based on salmon.
  • For many tribal members, fishing is still the preferred livelihood.
  • Salmon and the rivers they use are part of our sense of place. The Creator put us here where the salmon return. We are obliged to remain and to protect this place.
  • Salmon are indicator species: As water becomes degraded and fish populations decline, so too will the elk, deer, roots, berries and medicines that sustain us.
  • As a primary food source for thousands of years, salmon continue to be an essential aspect of our nutritional health.
  • Because our tribal populations are growing (returning to pre-1855 levels), the needs for salmon are more important than ever.
  • The annual salmon harvest allows the transfer of traditional values from generation to generation.
  • Without salmon returning to our rivers and streams, we would cease to be Indian people.” ref

Native Americans in Ancient Florida Developed Pre-electricity Fish Storage

“Archaeologists deduce the purpose of huge walled fish ponds on an artificial island built by the powerful Calusa kingdom over 1,000 years ago. Fish farming of a sort goes back to the beginnings of human civilization, and much like the advent of agriculture itself, it seems to have developed independently in different places around the world. Now, evidence of early aquaculture of a sort has been discovered in ancient Florida.” ref

Stories and Ceremonies: The Cultural Context of Native Fisheries

“In a story traditionally told by Wishram Indians, who lived on the north banks of the mid-Columbia River, the Swallow Sisters built a dam that trapped all of the river’s salmon, leaving none for human communities upriver. Coyote infiltrated the Swallow Sisters’ camp by pretending to be a baby, who they found adorable. When the sisters left their camp to pick huckleberries, Coyote turned himself into a powerful animal and broke their dam apart, releasing the salmon so they could travel upstream. Upriver communities celebrated the return of the salmon runs and learned an important lesson about hoarding food.” ref

“Native Americans harvested fish from Pacific Northwest rivers, streams, lakes, and coastal waters within a cultural context in which salmon and other fish were much more than simply food or economic resources. Native ceremonies and stories suggest a reciprocal relationship between people and salmon. Salmon sacrificed their lives to human beings to ensure the survival of human communities. In return, humans were obligated to care for and honor salmon and adhere to various regulations that governed the fishery. This relationship is reflected in oral tradition and in rituals such as the First Foods ceremonies practiced throughout the region.” ref

“Columbia Plateau and Pacific Coast Native people held First Foods ceremonies to herald the harvest of roots and berries, celebrate the hunt, and mark the return of the salmon runs. They practiced variations of the First Salmon Ceremony, but key elements remained largely consistent: celebrants cooked and ate the first spring salmon that had been caught ceremonially, after which the bones and sometimes the blood of the fish were returned to the river.” ref

“Wherever salmon could be harvested, people practiced a form of the First Salmon Ceremony. Although the geographic range of the custom has diminished as a result of reduced salmon runs, it persists within many modern Indian communities. Contemporary residents of the Pacific Northwest participate in First Salmon ceremonies at universities, powwows, and other cultural gatherings. Celilo Village, about twelve miles east of The Dalles, holds a First Salmon Ceremony each April that is open to the public. Stories articulated the cultural context of the indigenous fishery, ceremonies honored the reciprocal relationship between humans and their foods, and regulations ensured that human communities could harvest the foods they required for survival into the future.” ref

The Anthropology of Aquaculture

Aquaculture is nothing new. It has a long, fascinating history that stretches from antiquity at least 8,000 years ago. What is new is the evolution of aquaculture in modern times into highly intensive monocultures which arose in the 1970–1980’s. Modern aquaculture production has grown worldwide but remains concentrated in Asia due to the: (1) increased demands for aquatic foods as explosive population growth occurred in coastal cities with increasing affluence, (2) expansion of scientific and engineering breakthroughs, (3) high export values of aquatic foods, and (4) sharp decline of costs of global to local transport/shipping. The pioneering anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss brought the idea of “structuralism” to anthropology: the concept that societies throughout history followed universal patterns of behavior. A qualitative document analysis of the key anthropological literature to assess aquaculture developments from antiquity to the beginning of the modern era was conducted to evaluate if there was adequate evidence to support a theory of anthropological “structuralism” for aquaculture in human history. Seven case studies of the cultural/environmental history of aquaculture were reviewed in diverse parts of the world (China, Australia, Egypt, Europe, South America, Canada/USA, Hawai’i).” ref

“Analysis supports the structural theory that whenever the demands of aquatic/seafood-eating peoples exceeded the abilities of their indigenous fishery ecosystems to provide for them, they developed aquaculture. Modern aquaculture concepts and new communities of practice in “restoration aquaculture” have beginnings in Indigenous anthropology and archeology in aquaculture and point the way for Indigenous nations to engage as leaders of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) ecosystem approach to aquaculture worldwide. Bringing ancient knowledge of Indigenous aquaculture into the modern context is an essential part of an alternative, “radical transformation” of modern aquaculture. There is an urgent need to develop and promote locally designed and culturally appropriate aquaculture systems that fit into the livelihoods of communities as part of a larger, diverse portfolio of food security.” ref

“Cultures practicing aquaculture in antiquity have been little examined comprehensively in the anthropological literature. As a result, no unifying theories exist to explain how aquaculture develops, evolves, and fits into human development. Cross cultural analysis tools such as the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample (SCCS) of Murdock and White (1969) and the EthnoAtlas (Gray, 1998) examine over 180 societies anthropologically using many variables but do not classify societies as aquaculture or mariculture-centric rather focus on hunting, gathering, fishing, and animal husbandry, reinforcing this lack of examination.ref

“As aquaculture has grown to be one of the most important protein systems in the world (FAO, 2020) it is vital to examine its ancient environmental/cultural history. Understanding the ancient past will allow a modern appreciation of aquaculture as nothing “new” but as an important part of historical food production. Connections to the ancient past will allow a better appreciation of the diversity of development pathways possible for the future of aquaculture and the divergence of intensive aquaculture in modern times, especially to aquaculture development in the post-World War II era that is believed to be the beginning of the Anthropocene (Waters, 2016).ref

“Modern, industrial, export-driven aquaculture is technologically complex as are its interactions with modern societies (Indigenous, urban, rural, rich, poor, etc.). Communities can either embrace change, develop new values, ceremonies and rituals, and accommodate social transformations, or reject these and continue their social, cultural, and economic evolutions without such disruptive interventions in society such as the rise of aquaculture. Nahuelhual et al. (2019) point to the recent feature of aquaculture in discussions of a “Blue Transition” especially how aquaculture has featured in policy discussions as relieving pressure on wild capture fisheries and contributing to food security and employment of the world’s poor. International discussions incorporating aquaculture development as a “blue revolution” place aquaculture into foundational documents on the very nature of the future of food.ref

“In these reports aquaculture is connected strongly to the blue economy, blue growth, and blue carbon (Gentry et al., 2017; Hoegh-Guldberg et al., 2019; Willett et al., 2019; Costello et al., 2020). Nahuelhual et al. (2019) point out that a “Blue Transition” is akin to other environmental transitions and emphasize the need for such a transition to include social-ecological feedbacks citing Berkes and Folke (1998) who state that “a social-ecological feedback refers to a situation in which the ecological and the social systems (or components of the two) are connected together such that each system influences the other and their dynamics are thus strongly coupled.” In the case of aquaculture, Krause et al. (2015) point to cases of aquaculture development that are a “blue revolution without people.ref

“Many cultures that have relied historically on aquatic foods as their primary source of proteins. Recovering trajectories of Indigenous aquaculture development from antiquity and making connections to modernity opens the full social-ecological panoply of traditional knowledge to evolve alternative developmental pathways for aquaculture. Indigenous communities recovering their pasts are evolving new aquaculture communities of practice that have clear connections from ancestors to modernity. No matter the sources of knowledge used to chart alternative developmental pathways for aquaculture, whether traditional knowledge, scientific, corporate, or some blend, well-planned, transparent, participatory processes are required. Such development alternatives may drag out for longer than both Indigenous and other decision-makers want but, in the end, will lead to shared visions of more sustainable futures.ref

“Since the Cultural Revolution China is recognized as the world’s aquaculture leader in production for all forms of aquaculture from ocean to freshwater aquaculture, integrated and non-integrated systems, and for all fed to non-fed typologies (FAO, 2020). China is one of the only nations today where aquaculture production exceeds production from capture fisheries at a scale that is transformative of protein foods on Earth (Naylor et al., 2021). The evolution of aquaculture in China has occurred over thousands of years. China’s historical scientific/cultural knowledge systems have contributed directly not only to its modern ascendancy in industrial and scientific areas but also more fundamentally to the adoption of aquaculture as culture.ref

“Too many proposals for modern aquaculture developments post WWII, especially in the “new geographies for aquaculture” outside its traditional places in Asia (Costa-Pierce and Chopin, 2021) have been marketed to societies neglecting their anthropological and environmental histories and without considerations of their allied, cultural, and spiritual backgrounds. The modern case study of industrial aquaculture in Chile by Nahuelhual et al. (2019) demonstrates clearly that the promised blue transition in that country has not occurred as planned and advertised.ref

“Without such knowledge of past cultural advances, societies worldwide will lose one of their greatest opportunities for more socially and environmentally sound forms of food production. The aquaculture profession will continue to limp along, especially in areas with great potential outside of Asia, losing opportunities for aggregating and delivering teachable moments due to the tiresome constraints repeated over and over about a lack of “social license” for aquaculture (Costa-Pierce, 2010; Zajicek et al., 2021). Cultural studies and historical backgrounds can serve as local, place-based ecological and social baselines to evolve the “blue revolution.” A “culture of aquaculture” needs to be built on historical foundations so that informed politicians, investors, and communities can make better decisions based upon complete information and timelines of this historically important food innovation that has arisen multiple times in antiquity.ref

Historical Evolution of Aquatic Species Management

“It is widely accepted that aquaculture arose multiple times in societies as an evolution from capturing and trapping fish (Atlas et al., 2020), to holding and keeping fish, to reproducing, growing, and domesticating fish (Balon, 1995; Beveridge and Little, 2002; Nash, 2011). There are numerous anthropological and archeological studies of capture fisheries from antiquity (O’Connor et al., 2011). Hu et al. (2009) found freshwater fish were a part of the diet of ancient people near Beijing China 40,000 years ago. Steneck and Pauly (2019) describe the “kelp highway hypothesis” for colonizing the Americas from Northeast Asia. The hypothesis states that “saltwater people” (as defined by McNiven, 2003) from east Asia advanced north along western Pacific coasts then east across the sea to rapidly colonize the entire eastern Pacific coast. Archeological findings in Monte Verde in the south of Chile date to 14,500 years ago are “more consistent with the idea of a coastal rather than a land-based migration” (Steneck and Pauly, 2019).ref

“The kelp highway hypothesis adds an ocean food systems component to accepted archeological findings on the importance of the “maritime highway” for human migrations in antiquity in Asia/Pacific. The oldest accepted evidence for open ocean crossings by modern humans is the migration to “Sahul,” the combined continent of Australia and New Guinea, 47,000 years B.P. (Davidson, 2013; Clarkson et al., 2017; O’Connell et al., 2018). Coastal cultures in the north Pacific relied primarily on the abundant marine resources of kelp ecosystems for their primary sustenance. In the south, Steneck and Pauly (2019) theorized that rich mangrove ecosystems could have sustained similar large-scale coastal colonization’s in the Tropics. Erlandson and Braje (2015) assessed if mangrove ecosystems could have facilitated a larger scale maritime colonization of people from East Africa to Oceania.ref

“These hypotheses are intriguing from an evolutionary perspective of ancient aquaculture development from wild capture fisheries, to fish trapping and holding, and onwards to “proto-aquaculture” (Beveridge and Little, 2002). Archeological and anthropological evidence of complex Indigenous knowledge of extensive fish traps, fish holding and onwards to “proto-aquaculture” exists from Taiwan, Japan, and the Ryukyu Islands, Japan, 35,000–17,000 years B.P. (Kaifu, 2015; Fujita et al., 2016). Kaifu et al. (2020) reported evidence that difficult maritime crossings from the north (via Kyushu) and south (via Taiwan) to the Ryukyu Islands of southwestern Japan occurred some 35,000–30,000 years B.P. They state that “migration to the Ryukyus is difficult because it requires navigation across one of the world’s strongest currents, the Kuroshio, toward an island that lay invisible beyond the horizon.” Furthermore, “this suggests that the Paleolithic Island colonization occurred in a wide area of the western Pacific was a result of human’s active and continued exploration, backed up by technological advancement.ref

“Capture fisheries are the capture and harvest of wild aquatic organisms where no interventions are made to manage or otherwise influence captured organisms by containment, feeding, or application of any aquaculture techniques. Historical fish trapping is the capture of wild aquatic organisms for direct harvest using sedentary, non-mobile gears. Beveridge and Little (2002) defined “proto-aquaculture” as “activities designed to extract more food from aquatic environments, such as: the transplantation of fertilized eggs, entrapment of fish in areas where they could thrive and be harvested as required, environmental enhancements, such as development of spawning areas, enhancement of food, exclusion of competitors or predators, etc., and the holding of fish and shellfish in systems (ponds, cages, pens) until they had increased in biomass or until their value had improved.” They distinguished “proto-aquaculture” from aquaculture due to the small degree of control over the life cycle of an aquatic species and the low impact of the intervention on aquatic production.ref

“One example cited is the “bundhs” of West Bengal India which are seasonal ponds that fill with water in during the Indian Ocean monsoon first rains and were used to stimulate spawning of Indian major carps over a 100 years ago (Sharma and Rana, 1986). Klinger et al. (2013) pointed out that even in the modern context it is difficult to separate fisheries and aquaculture or to define the various typologies noting there are ancient and modern practices of capture-based aquaculture (Lovatelli and Holthus, 2008). They state that “Numerous seafood species are produced for the global marketplace using a spectrum of methods and cannot be cleanly ascribed as either fisheries or aquaculture.ref

“Aquaculture is defined as the farming of aquatic species in water. Farming implies intervention in the rearing process to enhance production, such as the regular stocking, feeding, protection from predators, etc., plus the individual, community, organization, or corporate ownership of the stock being farmed (Rana, 1998). Modern aquaculture systems are remarkably diverse and comprise the farming of hundreds of species in fed or unfed systems growing domesticated and non-domesticated species with hatcheries having little to no connections to wild genetics. Domestication of plants and animals dates from the Neolithic about 14,000 years B.P. (Zeuner, 1963). Domestication of aquatic species to the level of their separation from wild ancestors, with selection and breeding to create “synthetic species” similar to those produced throughout millennia on land, and in closed aquaculture production networks, is “true” aquaculture (Costa-Pierce, 2003).ref

“Live capture of aquatic organisms in traps for direct harvest is present throughout the ancient and modern world. Nelson (2017) describes the extensive knowledge of tides and fish behavior used to design sophisticated fish traps and weirs over large portion of coastal Taiwan. Traps incorporated curves to incorporate knowledge of the tendency of fish to turn when they hit a curve. At high tides, trap walls were submerged allowing fish to swim over them. At low tides fish were trapped and gathered and people scooped out thousands of anchovies, herrings and other species using simple gears. Hawaiian fish traps (loko ‘umeiki) are good historical examples as similar designs are present throughout Oceania. They are stone structures built into the sea with low, semi-circular walls that were partially or wholly submerged at high tide and contained numerous openings (lanes) leading into or out of the trap (Kikuchi, 1973, 1976).ref

“Siting of fish traps was done by knowledge of longshore currents that transported fish along the shore. The Hawaiian island of Moloka’i had many fish traps owing to the favorable orientation of the island with regard to longshore currents. Lanes in the walls of traps connecting to the sea were used to catch fish migrating down the coastline who were attracted to the surge of water at the lane entrances. Nets laid facing the sea across the opening of the lane captured fish flowing into the trap on an incoming tide. When the tide reversed fishermen faced their nets toward the traps capturing fish as they swam out to sea. It was reported that the right to fish during different portions of the tidal cycle was divided among family groups. Timoteo Keaweiwi in 1853 stated, “Such was the case of Mikiawa Pond at Ka’amola, Moloka’i. When the tide was coming in, the people of Keawanui could set the lanes. When the sea ebbed, the fish belong to Ka’amola” (Summers, 1964).ref

“The next evolution in aquatic species management involved short- to long-term live storage of catches as a form of food storage/banking. Social drivers of development were the provision of sufficient aquatic foods for consumption, ceremonies, increase reliability of supplies, and/or trade to markets which are common strategies found throughout antiquity and are common strategies today. Trapping and holding to ensure fish supplies dates to the Neolithic about 6,000 years B.P. in Europe (European Commission, 2018). Modified fish traps connected to excavated ponds, netted off or channelized shallow areas of lakes, bamboo cages in rivers and irrigation ditches (Costa-Pierce and Effendi, 1988) and traditional floating cages as used in Tonal Sap, Cambodia (Beveridge, 1996) remain worldwide. Detailed traditional knowledge of fish behaviors and tides to trap fish in cages and weirs is preserved in the knowledge systems and literatures of Indigenous cultures and island communities worldwide from the Americas (for salmon, Atlas et al., 2020), Europe to East Africa and throughout Oceania. In modern times, a capture fishery that live harvests wild organisms at early stages in their life cycle, then transports them to aquaculture systems for growout under confinement and management to mature, harvestable adults is referred to as “capture-based aquaculture” (Lovatelli and Holthus, 2008). FAO (2016) estimated that 20% of global aquaculture production today is CBA.ref

Tlingit cuisine

The food of the Tlingit people, an indigenous group of people from AlaskaBritish Columbia, and the Yukon, is a central part of Tlingit culture, and the land is an abundant provider. A saying amongst the Tlingit is that “When the tide goes out the table is set.” This refers to the richness of intertidal life found on the beaches of Southeast Alaska, most of which can  be harvested for food. Another saying is that “in Lingít Aaní you have to be an idiot to starve”. Since food is so easy to gather from the beaches, a person who cannot feed himself at least enough to stay alive is considered a fool, perhaps mentally incompetent or suffering from very bad luck. Though eating off the beach could provide a fairly healthy and varied diet, eating nothing but “beach food” is considered contemptible among the Tlingit, and a sign of poverty. Shamans and their families were required to abstain from all food gathered from the beach, and men might avoid eating beach food before battles or strenuous activities in the belief that it would weaken them spiritually and perhaps physically as well. Thus for both spiritual reasons as well as to add some variety to the diet, the Tlingit harvest many other resources for food besides what they easily find outside their front doors. No other food resource receives as much emphasis as salmon; however, seal and game are both close seconds.” ref

“The Tlingit gather razor clams, clams, oysters, mussels, crabs, seaweed, limpets and other sea plants on the beach and they are normally cooked over an open fire or boiled. The primary staple of the Tlingit diet, salmon was traditionally caught using a variety of methods. The most common was the fishing weir or trap to restrict movement upstream. These traps allowed hunters to easily spear a good amount of fish with little effort. It did, however, required extensive cooperation between the men fishing and the women on the shore doing the cleaning. Tlingit constructed fish traps in a few ways, depending on the type of river or stream. At the mouth of a smaller stream, they drove rows of wooden stakes into the mud in the tidal zone. The stakes supported a weir of flexible branches. Outside the harvest, the weir was removed but the stakes left. Archaeological work has uncovered a number of sites where long rows of sharpened stakes were hammered into the gravel and mud.ref

“Another trap for smaller streams was made using rocks piled to form long, low walls. These walls submerged at high tide, and the salmon swam over them. Adults and children threw rocks beyond the wall when the tide began receding, scaring the fish into staying inside the wall. Once the tide went down enough to expose the wall, men walked out on the wall to spear the schooling salmon. The remnants of these walls are still visible at the mouths of many streams; although none are in use today. Elders recall them being used in the early twentieth century. On larger rivers, Tlingit built a weir that either spanned the entire river or merely crossed a channel known for salmon. These weirs followed the pattern above, but instead of depending on the tide to fill them, they had small gaps in the weir with platforms above them. Since salmon were restricted to passage through these small gaps they were easy targets for the spearmen who plucked them from their platforms above the gaps.ref

Fishwheels, though not traditional, came into use in the late nineteenth century. The mechanism was based on a floating platform tied to a tree on the bank of a river. The wheel consisted of two or four large baskets arranged around an axle. The force of the river’s current rotated the baskets as with a conventional waterwheel, and salmon resting in the current were caught in the basket. The basket spilled its contents as it came over the top of the wheel, and the fish dropped into a large pen or container. Fishwheels are still used in some locations, particularly the Copper and Chilkat Rivers.ref

“They have the particular advantage of working without constant attendance, and harvesters can come by a few times a day to remove the caught fish and process them. Their disadvantage is that they are slow, and depend largely on luck to catch salmon being pushed downstream by the current; placement in well-known channels increases the recovery, but still does not compare to more active means of harvest. None of the traditional means of trapping salmon severely decreased the salmon population, and once the Tlingit harvested enough fish in a particular area they moved to other locations. This left the remaining run to spawn and guarantee future harvests. This is in contrast to commercial fish traps used in Alaska in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which devastated runs, and in some cases completely destroyed spawning populations.ref

“With the advent of gasoline motors, winter trolling has become a common practice, and provides fresh fish in the cold months that traditionally depended on stored fish. Trolling poles are similar to those used in sport fishing, but are much heavier and stronger with correspondingly heavier tackle and longer lines. They are set in the stern and along the side gunwales of a boat, baited or strung with flashing spoons or spinners. The boat then slowly motors around areas where salmon, usually kings, are known to school during the winter, aided by ultrasonic fish-finders.ref

“Periodically the lines are checked and brought in to remove fish. The same techniques are used for halibut as well. The harvest by this method is fairly small as it depends more on luck; salmon are not guaranteed to bite at lures and bait, unlike the certainty in catching them while spawning. Because of this limited take, trolling is usually avoided during spawning season and only used to bring home fresh fish in the winter. Trolling is often a family event done on the weekends, and often includes overnights on board. Because of the relative inactivity in trolling, the poles are not always well-minded. This occasionally results in seals or sea lions snatching hooked fish still on the line and making off with them.ref

Processing and storage

“Salmon are roasted fresh over a fire, frozen, or dried and smoked for preservation. All species of salmon are harvested, and the Tlingit language clearly differentiates them. Certain species are considered more suited for a particular use, such as for hard smoking, canning, or baking. The most common storage methods today are vacuum-sealed freezing of raw fish, and either hard or soft smoking, the latter often followed by canning. Canning may be professionally done at local canneries or at home in mason jars. Smoking itself is done over alder wood either in small modern smoke houses near the family’s dwelling or in larger ones at the harvesting sites maintained by particular families. For the former the fish are kept on ice after harvest and until they are brought home, however for the latter the processing is all performed on site.ref

“Tlingit still practice traditional methods of harvesting and processing salmon to some extent, though often alongside more modern methods that require less effort. Salmon are cleaned as soon as they are harvested from the stream or river, and split along the back and left to hang dry on large racks for a few days. This allows the fish’s slime to evaporate and makes the flesh easier to work. Some claim it is best to let the salmon soak in salt water overnight before drying, to further reduce the slime and soften the flesh. Drying racks must be watched continuously due to the threat of bears and birds poaching. Once dry, the fish are further cut apart from head to tail and belly to back, then placed in a smokehouse for some period of time. When the fish are taken down, the fillets are further split and slashed or crosshatched to allow more surface area for smoking. Once fully cured, the fish are cut into strips and are ready to eat or store. Traditionally, they were stored in bentwood boxes filled with seal oil. The oil protected the fish from mold and bacteria, and provided a secure method of long-term storage for not only fish, but most other foodstuffs as well. Though some Tlingit can identify the preparer of smoked salmon by the knife patterns in it, this skill is dying out and specific cutting patterns are dispensed with in favor of the simplest slashing or crosshatching.ref

“During the summer harvesting season most people lived in their smokehouses, transporting the walls and floors from their winter houses to their summer locations, where the frame for the house stood. Besides living in smokehouses, other summer residences were little more than hovels built from blankets and bark set up near the smokehouse. In the years following the introduction of European trade, canvas tents with wood stoves came into fashion. Since this was merely a temporary location, and since the primary purpose of the residence was not for living but for smoking fish, the Tlingit cared little for the summer house’s habitability, as noted by early European explorers, and in stark contrast to the remarkable cleanliness maintained in winter houses.ref

Commercial and subsistence fishing

“Many Tlingit are involved in the Alaskan commercial salmon fisheries. Alaskan law provides for commercial fishermen to set aside a portion of their commercial salmon catch for subsistence or personal use, and today many families no longer fish extensively but depend on a few relatives in the commercial fishery to provide the bulk of their salmon store. Despite this, subsistence fishing is still widely practiced, particularly during weekend family outings.” ref 

Herring (Clupea pallasii) and hooligan (Thaleichthys pacificus) both provide important foods in the Tlingit diet. They are small fish that return in enormous schools to spawn near the mouths of freshwater rivers and streams. Herring are traditionally harvested with herring rakes, long poles with spikes that are swirled around in the schooling fish. An experienced herring raker can bring up ten or more fish with each swing, and deftly flick the fish from the rake into the bottom of the boat. Raking can be enhanced with pens, weirs, and other techniques of condensing the large schools. More modern methods usually involve small aperture nets and purse seining. Herring are usually processed like salmon, dried and smoked whole. Cleaning and removal of the viscera is optional, and if being frozen whole many do not bother due to the diminutive size of the fish. They are traditionally stored by submerging in seal oil (the “Tlingit refrigerator”), but in modern times may be canned, salted, or frozen, the latter usually in vacuum sealed bags.ref

“Herring eggs are also harvested, and are considered a delicacy, sometimes called “Tlingit caviar”. Either ribbon kelp or (preferably) hemlock branches are submerged in an area where herring are known to spawn, and are marked with a buoy. They may be unattended during spawning, or the herring may be herded into the area and penned with nets to force them to spawn on the kelp or hemlock. Once enough eggs are deposited the herring are released from the pen to spawn further, thus ensuring future harvests. The branches or kelp are removed and boiled in large cauldrons or fifty-five gallon drums on the beach, often as part of a family or community event. Children are often tasked with stirring the water with large paddles, and this provides many fond memories for adults. The cooked eggs may be salted, frozen, dried in cakes, or submerged in seal oil to preserve them for use throughout the year. Bringing herring eggs to a gathering always results in oohs and aahs as people sample them, and frequently induces an elder to relate herring stories. Some Tlingit are connoisseurs, knowing certain regions by their flavor or texture, and good harvest grounds are often jealously guarded secrets.ref

“Hooligans are harvested by similar means as herring; however, they are valued more for their oil than for their flesh. Instead of smoking, they are usually tried for their oil by boiling and mashing in large cauldrons or drums (traditionally old canoes and hot rocks were used), the oil skimmed off the surface with spoons and then strained and stored in bentwood boxes (today in commercial containers, e.g., glass jars). Hooligan oil was a valuable trade commodity, and enriched khwáan such as the Chilkat who saw regular hooligan runs every year in their territory. Today hooligan are, when not tried for their oil, most often vacuum-sealed and frozen, kept in large freezers found outside many Tlingit households.ref

“When cooked, both herring and hooligan are usually served whole with heads still attached. Some people eat the entire fish, others strip the meat and viscera off with their teeth and leave the skeleton; eating of the viscera is very common, in contrast with the universal disposal of salmon viscera. Methods of preparation often involve deep-frying or pan frying, although baking is also common and is more traditional. As with salmon, they may be pierced with a stick and set over a fire to roast; this is a particularly common practice during the harvest when overnighting at a remote location, or at a beach party or picnic.ref

“Halibut, cod, bullhead, flounder, shark, salmon, etc. Halibut were eaten frequently, as were herring and lingcod. Halibut were killed by spear or by club depending on size and weight, or caught with specialized halibut hooks. Unlike almost all other north Pacific coast peoples, the Tlingit do not hunt whale. Various explanations have been offered, but the most common reason given is that since a significant portion of the society relates itself with either the killer whale or other whale species via clan crest and hence as a spiritual member of the family, eating whale was tantamount to cannibalism. A more practical explanation follows from the tendency of the Tlingit to harvest and eat in moderation despite the surrounding abundance of foodstuffs.ref

“Thus whale is treated similarly to shellfish—as a second class food, only eaten when other food sources have failed, and whose consumption indicates poverty. A whale provides a large amount of food that spoils easily, and distribution of food outside the household requires elaborate and expensive potlatching. Whale hunting is also a large cooperative endeavor, and requires extensive interaction between clans for success. Such interactions can produce obligations that are difficult to repay. Thus the Tlingit avoided the whale harvest for sociopolitical and socioeconomic reasons. The Gulf Coast Tlingit around Yakutat are the exception to the rule, hunting whale occasionally.ref

“Many Tlingit explain the Gulf Coast whale hunt as an areal influence of the Eyak and the Alutiiq Eskimos of Prince William Sound further north. However, all Tlingit eat beached whales, considering this a gift that should not be wasted. A story in the Raven Cycle relates how Raven was swallowed by a whale and then ate it from inside out, eventually killing and beaching it; this is considered to justify Tlingit harvests of beached whales. However, beached whales are fairly uncommon in Southeast Alaska since the beaches are very rocky and often nearly nonexistent, thus whale forms only a very small part of the Tlingit diet. Game forms a sizable component of the traditional Tlingit diet, and the majority of food that is not derived from the sea. Major game animals hunted for food are Sitka deerrabbitmountain goat in mountainous regions, black bear and brown bearbeaver, and, on the mainland, moose.” ref

Foods of Northwest Tribes

Those living along the Northwest coast such as the Bella Bella, Bella Coola, Chinook, Coosans, Haida, Kwakiutls, Makah, Nootkans, Quileutes, Salish, Tillamook, Tlingit, and Upper Umpqua were supported by a vast amount of foods from the ocean and the lush land. Salmon was a major source of food, along with other fish such as trout, halibut, and herring, followed by acorns, hundreds of different plants, marine mammals (whales, otters, seals), bears, beavers, lynx, deer, and small game like rabbits and hares.” ref

Chinookan peoples

Chinookan peoples include several groups of Indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest in the United States who speak the Chinookan languages. Since at least 4000 BCE or around 6,000 years ago, Chinookan peoples have resided along the upper and Middle Columbia River (Wimahl) (“Great River”) from the river’s gorge (near the present town of The Dalles, Oregon) downstream (west) to the river’s mouth, and along adjacent portions of the coasts, from Tillamook Head of present-day Oregon in the south, north to Willapa Bay in southwest Washington.” ref

“The Chinookan peoples were relatively settled and occupied traditional tribal geographic areas, where they hunted and fished; salmon was a mainstay of their diet. The women also gathered and processed many nuts, seeds, roots and other foods. They had a society marked by social stratification, consisting of a number of distinct social castes of greater or lesser status. Upper castes included shamanswarriors, and successful traders. They composed a minority of the community population compared to common members. Members of the superior castes are said to have practiced social discrimination, limiting contact with commoners and forbidding play between the children of the different social groups. Some Chinookan peoples practiced slavery, a practice borrowed from the northernmost tribes of the Pacific Northwest.” ref 

“They took slaves as captives in warfare, and used them to practice thievery on behalf of their masters. The latter refrained from such practices as unworthy of high status. The elite of some tribes had the practice of head binding, flattening their children’s forehead and top of the skull as a mark of social status. They bound the infant’s head under pressure between boards when the infant was about 3 months old and continued until the child was about one year of age. This custom was a means of marking social hierarchy; flat-headed community members had a rank above those with round heads. Those with flattened skulls refused to enslave other persons who were similarly marked, thereby reinforcing the association of a round head with servility. The Chinook were known colloquially by early white explorers in the region as “Flathead Indians.” ref

“Living near the coast of the Pacific Ocean, the Chinook were skilled elk hunters and fishermen. The most popular fish was salmon. Owing partly to their settled living patterns, the Chinook and other coastal tribes had relatively little conflict over land, as they did not migrate through each other’s territories and they had rich resources in the natural environment. In the manner of numerous settled tribes, the Chinook resided in longhouses. More than fifty people, related through extended kinship, often resided in one longhouse. Their longhouses were made of planks made from red cedar trees. The houses were about 20–60 feet wide and 50–150 feet long.” ref

Kwalhioqua–Clatskanie people

“The Willapa or Willoopah, also known as Kwalhioqua / Kwalhiokwa, were a Northern Athapaskan-speaking people in southwestern WashingtonUnited States. Their territory was the valley of the Willapa River and the prairie between the headwaters of the Chehalis and Cowlitz Rivers. Together with the Clatskanie people (also: Tlatskanai / Klatskanai, according to tradition originally part of the “Suwal/Swaal” subgroup) in the upper Nehalem River Valley and along the headwaters of the Klaskanine and Clatskanie River in northwestern Oregon they spoke dialects of the now extinct Kwalhioqua-Clatskanie (Kwalhioqua–Tlatskanai) language, the Willapa dialect was the most divergent. The Kwalhioqua lived north of the lower Columbia River, the Clatskanie (Tlatskanai) to the south, separated by the territory of the Lower Chinook-speaking Shoalwater Bay Chinook (or Willapa Chinook) or Clatsop and the Kathlamet (Cathlamet), who spoke another Chinookan variant.” ref 

Tillamook people

“The Tillamook are a Native American tribe from coastal Oregon of the Salish linguistic group. The name “Tillamook” is a Chinook language term meaning “people of [the village] Nekelim (or Nehalem)”, sometimes it is given as a Coast Salish term, meaning “Land of Many Waters”. The Tillamook initially spoke Tillamook, a Salishan language. The name Tillamook was derived from Chinook people’s references to them, referring to their place of settlement. It meant the people of Nekelim (pronounced Ne-elim). The latter name means the place Elim, or, in the Cathlamet dialect, the place Kelim. This dialect differed from the northern dialects in its peculiar phonetics. Boas noted that the culture of the Tillamook seemed to have differed quite considerably from that of the northern Coast Salish, and has evidently been influenced by the culture of the tribes of northern California.” ref

“According to the work of Franz Boas, the culture of the Tillamook tribe was significantly different from that of their Salish neighbors, evidently influenced by the tribes of northern California. The Tillamook were skilled basket-weavers, and had a detailed mythology with links to existing events; the Story of the Thunderbird and Whale, for example, reflects the large earthquake in that region in 1700. The Tillamook divided their mythology into three categories; the earliest was the Myth Age, followed by the Age of Transformation, when the “South Wind” remade the land. The third age is the “period of true happenings”, or events that happened in what the Tillamook considered recent history. Despite this, stories from the third age were considered just as much of a myth as those from the first or second.” ref

“The Tillamook exercised gender roles in numerous ways. During infancy, children were named at an ear-piercing ceremony where boys had their nasal septa pierced. If the infant had older siblings, they were required to stay away for at least a week for fear that their presence would swell the ear of the infant and cause its death. Throughout childhood, boys and girls were rarely punished. Certain activities were emphasized depending on the person’s sex. A boy’s first food kill and a girl’s first gathered food were reserved for the elderly. At the onset of puberty, girls were secluded and underwent a series of ritual behaviors and food taboos. One such ritual was an all-night guardian spirit vigil in the woods, during which the girl repeatedly bathed in a cold stream in an attempt to gain guardian spirits.” ref

“For boys, fasting and guardian spirit quests that included bathing became important. A boy’s power and adult occupation were equated with the spirit he obtained through the quest. Boys and girls activated spirit powers acquired from their guardian only at middle age. Tillamook adults distinguished themselves further with fashion as both sexes painted their central hair part red, but men wore their hair in a single braid, while women would have two braids. Men and women also had tattoos and wore ear pendants according to their preference. Marriages among the Tillamook were arranged with services being exchanged between the two families according to their status. Initial residence was in the groom’s parents’ village. If men acquired high status, they might have sought more than one wife. Illegitimate births were a common result of the arranged marriage process and led to a high occurrence of infanticide.” ref

Salish peoples

“The Salish peoples are indigenous peoples of the American and Canadian Pacific Northwest, identified by their use of the Salish languages which diversified out of Proto-Salish between 3,000 and 6,000 years ago. The Salish (or Salishan) people are in four major groups: Bella Coola (Nuxalk)Coast SalishInterior Salish, and Tsamosan, who each speak one of the Salishan languages. The Tsamosan group is usually considered a subset of the broader Coast Salish peoples. Salish peoples located in the Pacific Northwest and parts of Southern Alaska were known to build totem poles that were meant to symbolize a tribe member’s spirit animal or family crest. They continue on this legacy today by selling hand carved totem poles formed in the same fashion.” ref

“Plentiful in the Pacific Northwest, the Western Red Cedar was a vital resource in Coast Salish peoples’ lives. Canoes, longhouses, totem poles, baskets, mats, clothing, and more were all made using cedar. Totem poles were less common in Coast Salish culture than with neighboring non-Salish Pacific Northwest Coast peoples such as the HaidaTsimshianTlingit, and Kwakiutl tribes. It wasn’t until the twentieth century that the totem pole tradition was adopted by the northern Coast Salish peoples including the Cowichan, Comox, Pentlatch, Musqueam, and Lummi tribes. These tribes created fewer free-standing totem poles, but are known for carving house posts in the interior and exterior of longhouses.” ref 

“Traditional Salish religious beliefs focused chiefly on guardian spirits. In the years just prior to puberty, boys undertook isolated nightly vigils, hoping for visions that would reveal their spirit-guide; some girls did likewise. Flathead, North American Indian tribe of what is now western Montana, U.S., whose original territory extended from the crest of the Bitterroot Range to the Continental Divide of the Rocky Mountains and centred on the upper reaches of the Clark Fork of the Columbia River. Although early accounts referred to all Salish-speaking tribes as “Flathead,” the people now known by this name never engaged in head flattening. To further complicate the name issue, in the 21st century most individuals belonging to this tribe refer to themselves simply as Salish, though from a linguistic perspective “Salish” refers to a much larger grouping of peoples.” ref

“The Flathead were the easternmost of the Plateau Indians. Like other tribes that regularly traversed the Rocky Mountains, they shared many traits with nomadic Plains Indians. The Flathead acquired horses in great numbers and mounted annual fall expeditions to hunt bison on the Plains, often warring with tribes that were permanent residents of the area. Traditional Flathead culture also emphasized Plains-type warfare and its honours, including staging war dances, killing enemies, counting coups (touching enemies to shame or insult them), kidnapping women and children, and stealing horses. Before colonization, the Flathead usually lived in tepees; the A-framed mat-covered lodge, a typical Plateau structure, was also used. Western Flathead groups used bark canoes, while eastern groups preferred the round bison-skin vessels known as bullboats that were typical of the Plains. Fishing was important among the Flathead, as it was among other Plateau tribes.” ref

“On the fringes of the Plateau culture area, however, conditions were different. The westernmost Salish groups, such as the Lillooet and western Shuswap, traded with the Northwest Coast Indians and adopted some of their customs. The Lillooet, for instance, had a well-organized clan system similar to those used by Coast Salish peoples, and the western Shuswap had both clans and castes of nobles, commoners, and slaves, forms of social organization similar to those found on the coast. The easternmost Salish, such as the Flathead, who were horsemen, bison hunters, and warriors, had a relatively well-developed system of tribal chiefs and councils, much in the manner of the Plains Indians with whom they traded.” ref

“Although a typical Salish group had either dugout or bark canoes, the rivers were so full of rapids that traveling was more often accomplished on foot. The typical dwelling was an earth- or mat-covered lodge, sometimes semisubterranean. As with other customs, however, the Flathead used a Plains architectural form, the tepee, and the Lillooet built coastal-style houses of poles and planks. Most Salish wore clothing made of dressed skins: breechclouts (breechcloths) for men, tunics for women, and leggings and moccasins for all. Shamanism was also important, and shamans and medicine men and women could cure, and in some cases cause, disease or social strife. The winter guardian spirit dance, involving dances, feasts, and prayers in propitiation of guardian spirits, was the most important community ritual for the Salish.” ref 

Coast Salish

“The Coast Salish are a group of ethnically and linguistically related Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast, living in the Canadian province of British Columbia and the U.S. states of Washington and Oregon. They speak one of the Coast Salish languages. The Nuxalk (Bella Coola) nation are usually included in the group, although their language is more closely related to Interior Salish languages. Coast Salish cultures differ considerably from those of their northern neighbours. They have a patrilineal and matrilineal kinship system, with inheritance and descent passed through the male and female line.” ref

“Evidence has been found from c. 3000 BCE or 5,000 years ago of an established settlement at X̱á:ytem (Hatzic Rock) near Mission, British Columbia. Early occupancy of c̓əsnaʔəm (Marpole Midden) is evident from c. 2000 BCE – 450 CE, and lasted at least until around the late 1800s, when smallpox and other diseases affected the inhabitants. Other notable early settlements that record has been found of include prominent villages along the Duwamish River estuary dating back to the 6th century CE, which remained continuously inhabited until sometime in the later 18th century.” ref

“Neighboring peoples, whether villages or adjacent tribes, were related by marriage, feasting, ceremonies, and common or shared territory. Ties were especially strong within the same waterway or watershed. There existed no breaks throughout the south Coast Salish culture area and beyond. There were no formal political institutions. External relations were extensive throughout most of the Puget SoundGeorgia Basin and east to the Sahaptin-speaking lands of Chelan, Kittitas and Yakama in what is now Eastern Washington. Similarly in Canada there were ties between the Squamish people and Sto:lo with Interior Salish neighbours, i.e. the Lil’wat/St’at’imcNlaka’pamux and Syilx.” ref

“There was little political organization. No formal political office existed. Warfare for the southern Coast Salish was primarily defensive, with occasional raiding into territory where there were no relatives. No institutions existed for mobilizing or maintaining a standing force. The common enemies of all the Coast Salish for most of the first half of the 19th century were the Lekwiltok aka Southern Kwakiutl, commonly known in historical writings as the Euclataws or Yucultas. Regular raids by northern tribes, particularly warriors of an alliance among the HaidaTongass, and one group of Tsimshian, are also notable. Having gained superiority by earlier access to European guns through the fur trade, these warriors raided the southern Salish tribes for slaves and loot. Their victims organized retaliatory raids several times, attacking the Lekwiltok.” ref

“The highest-ranking male assumed the role of ceremonial leader but rank could vary and was determined by different standards. Villages were linked through intermarriage among members; the wife usually went to live at the husband’s village, in a patrilocal pattern. Society was divided into upper class, lower class and slaves, all largely hereditary. Nobility was based on genealogy, intertribal kinship, wise use of resources, and possession of esoteric knowledge about the workings of spirits and the world — making an effective marriage of class, secular, religious, and economic power. Many Coast Salish mothers altered the appearance of their free-born by carefully shaping the heads of their babies, binding them with cradle boards just long enough to produce a steep sloping forehead.” ref

Unlike hunter-gatherer societies widespread in North America, but similar to other Pacific Northwest coastal cultures, Coast Salish society was complex, hierarchical and oriented toward property and status. Slavery was practiced, although its extent is a matter of debate. The Coast Salish held slaves as simple property; they were not members of the tribe. The children of slaves were born into slavery. The staple of their diet was typically salmon, supplemented with a rich variety of other seafoods and forage. This was particularly the case for the southern Coast Salish, where the climate of their territories was even more temperate. The art of the Coast Salish has been interpreted and incorporated into contemporary art in British Columbia and the Puget Sound area.” ref

Bilateral kinship within the Skagit people is the most important system being defined as a carefully knit, and sacred bond within the society. When both adult siblings die, their children would be brought under the protection of surviving brothers and sisters, out of fear of mistreatment by stepparents. The Salish Sea region of the Northwest coast has produced ancient pieces of art appearing by 4500 years ago that feature various Salish styles recognizable in more recent historical works. A seated human feature bowl was used in a female puberty ritual in Secwépemc territory; it was believed to aid women in giving birth. Salish-made bowls in the Northwest have different artistic designs and features. Numerous bowls have basic designs with animal features on the surface. Similar bowls will have more decorations including a head, body, wings, and limbs.” ref

“A seated figure bowl is more complex in design, depicting humans being intertwined with animals. For thousands of years, Northwest coast Salish people demonstrated valuing material possessions. They believe that material wealth included land, food resources, household items, and adornments. Material wealth not only improved one’s life but it enhanced other qualities such as those needed to acquire high status. Wealth was required to enhance their status as elite born, or through practical skills, and ritual knowledge. An individual could not buy status or power, but wealth could be used to enhance them. Wealth was not meant to be hidden. It has been publicly displayed through ceremony. Games often involved gambling on a sleight-of-hand game known as slahal, as well as athletic contests. Games that are similar to modern day lacrosserugby, and forms of martial arts also existed.” ref

“Belief in guardian spirits and shapeshifting or transformation between human and animal spirits were widely shared in many forms. The relations of soul or souls, and conceptions of the lands of the living and the dead were complex and mutable. Vision quest journeys involving other states of consciousness were varied and widely practiced. The Duwamish had a soul recovery and journey ceremony. The Quileute Salish people near Port Townsend had their own beliefs about where souls of all living things go. The shamans of these people believed everything had five components to its spirit; the body, an inner and outer soul, its life force, and its ghost. They believed that an individual becomes ill when their soul is removed from their body, and this is followed by death when the soul reaches the underworld. It is the job of the shaman to travel to the underworld to save the individual by recovering the soul while it is traveling between the two worlds. ” ref

“The shamans believed that once an individual’s body was dead, it was able to connect with its soul and shade in the underworld. It is believed that the spirits are able to come back amongst the living and cause family members to die of sickness and join them in the afterlife. Living individuals were terrified of the intentions of spirits. who only appear at night, prompting Salish people to travel only during the day and stay close to others for protection. Coastal Salish beliefs describe the journey to the underworld as a two-day adventure. The individual must walk along a trail passing through bushes and a lake to reach a valley that is divided by a river where they will reside. Salish beliefs about the afterlife very closely resemble the past life they lived, and they often assign themselves to jobs to keep busy, hunt for animals and game, and live with their families.” ref

“Coastal Salish people believe that through dances, masks, or ceremonies, they express themselves the spiritual powers that they are given. Spirit powers define a community’s success through leadership, bravery, healing, or artistry. Spirit dancing ceremonies are common gatherings in the winter for members of the community to show their spirit powers through song, or dance. The powers they acquired were sought after individually after going through trials of isolation where their powers related to spirit animals such as a raven, woodpecker, bear, or seal. Oftentimes members of the community get together to show their powers on the longhouse floor, where the spiritual powers are for the individual alone for each member to share and display various songs.” ref

“Villages of the Coast Salish typically consisted of northwest coast longhouses made with western red cedar split planks and with an earthen floor. They provided habitation for forty or more people, usually a related extended family. Also used by many groups were pit-houses, known in the Chinook Jargon as kekuli (see quiggly holes). The villages were typically located near navigable water for easy transportation by dugout canoe. Houses that were part of the same village sometimes stretched for several miles along a river or watercourse.” ref

“The interior walls of longhouses were typically lined with sleeping platforms. Storage shelves above the platforms held baskets, tools, clothing, and other items. Firewood was stored below