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Fisheries Archaeology Research Centre (FARC)

Research into long-term trends in fisheries production

The Fisheries Archaeology Research Centre supports research into long-term trends in fisheries production resulting from environmental change and human exploitation of fish and shellfish populations. The work helps to address current concerns with global climate and environmental change and the effects of over-fishing in many different parts of the world.

The facilities

The facilities comprise a regionally diverse comparative collection of fish osteological specimens, as well as all the equipment needed to undertake the processing of archaeological samples and the detailed microscopic analysis of bone and shell specimens. Soils analysis, bone and shell sectioning, and microscopy labs are in place to enable identification and comprehensive analysis of fish and shellfish remains from the west and east coasts of Canada, the Great Lakes region, and the South Pacific.


Research Areas

Research in British Columbia

The facilities support two major ongoing research programs. One is monitoring the history of settlement and fish and shellfish use on the coast of British Columbia through an innovative field program based on limited core and auger sampling of coastal shell midden sites. These sites, which represent the remains of habitation and resource extraction activity of ancestral First Nations populations, date from as early as 10,000 years ago up to and including the European contact era. These midden sites, which number in the thousands on the coast, provide a continuous record of the history of settlement and marine resource utilization in the region. Results of a recent SSHRC sponsored project undertaken by Aubrey Cannon on the central coast of British Columbia, in the traditional territory of the Heiltsuk First Nation, showed a clear pattern of expansion in the range of site locations and resource extraction activities over time, which may be linked to a decline in the salmon fishery at the site of Namu.

Research in Polynesia

A second major area of ongoing research concerns the effect of human colonization in Polynesia on the production and productivity of reef fisheries. This work is being carried out in collaboration with Dr. David Burley of Simon Fraser University and other researchers, who are conducting SSHRC sponsored research in the South Pacific Kingdom of Tonga. The ongoing analysis of archaeologically recovered fish remains being undertaken by Aubrey Cannon and Debbi Yee Cannon shows that early colonizing populations had a deleterious effect on the productivity of desirable fish species, which forced local populations to turn increasingly to the utilization of smaller and less desirable species to compensate. This program of research into the archaeological history of Polynesian reef fisheries is scheduled to continue with further projects in Tonga and Fiji.



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PhD Students

Natalie Brewster, PhD Candidate Thesis: Here for a Reason: An Archaeological History of Local and Regional Fish Resource Use on the Northern Coast of British Columbia

Meghan Burchell, PhD Candidate Thesis: Cultural and Environmental Histories of Hunter-Gatherer Resource Management on the Coast of British Columbia

Shari Prowse, PhD Student Thesis:  Fishing Strategies in the Development of the Late Woodland Village Cultural Patterns within Central Ontario

Past Theses, Dissertations and Post-Doctoral Research

Nadia Densmore
2010 Human Impact on Marine Resources and Fisheries in Vava’u,Tonga. MA Thesis. Department of Anthropology, McMaster University.

Trevor Orchard
2007-2009 Environmental Archaeology of the late Pre-contact/Early Contact Period in Gwaii Haanas. Post-Doctoral Fellow. Department of Anthropology, McMaster University.

Paul Ewonus
2006 The Social Economy of a Northwest Coast Plank House in Perspective . MA Thesis, Department of Anthropology, McMaster University.

Rhonda Bathurst
2005 Health and Settlement Implications of Parasites from Pacific Northwest Coast Archaeological Sites . PhD Thesis. Department of Anthropology, McMaster University.

Christine Cluney
2005 Patterns of Marine Fauna Use in Ceramic Age Antigua, West Indies. MA Thesis, Department of Anthropology, McMaster University.


Recent Publications:

Cannon, Aubrey
2012 Revealing the Hidden Dimensions of Pacific Northwest Coast Shell Middens. In Shell Energy: Prehistoric Coastal Resource Strategies, edited by G. N. Bailey and Karen Hardy. In Press.

Burchell, Meghan, Nadine Hallmann, Bernd Schöne, Aubrey Cannon and Henry Schwarcz
2012 Biogeochemical Signatures of Archaeological Shells: Implications for Interpreting Seasonality at Shell Midden Sites. In The Cultural Dynamics of Shell Middens and Shell Mounds: A Worldwide Perspective, edited by M. Roksandic, S. Mendonça, S. Eggers, M. Burchell and D. Klokler. Santa Fe: University of New Mexico Press. In Press.

Burchell, Meghan, Aubrey Cannon, Nadine Hallmann, Henry Schwarcz and Bernd Schöne
2012 Refining Estimates for the Season of Shellfish Collection on the Pacific Northwest Coast: Applying High-Resolution Stable Oxygen Isotope Analysis and Sclerochronology. Archaeometry. In Press.

Moss, Madonna L. and Aubrey Cannon (Editors)
2011 The Archaeology of North Pacific Fisheries. Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press.

Cannon, Aubrey, Dongya Yang and Camilla Speller
2011 Site-Specific Salmon Fisheries on the Central Coast of British Columbia. In The Archaeology of North Pacific Fisheries, edited by Madonna L. Moss and Aubrey Cannon, pp. 57-74. Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press.

Cannon, Aubrey and Dongya Y. Yang
2011 Pushing Limits and Finding Interpretive Balance: A Reply to Monks and Orchard. American Antiquity 76:585-595.

Ewonus, Paul A., Aubrey Cannon and Dongya Y. Yang
2011 Addressing Seasonal Site Use through Ancient DNA Species Identification of Pacific Salmon at Dionisio Point, Galiano Island, British Columbia. Journal of Archaeological Science 38:2536-2546.

Cannon, Aubrey, and Burchell, Meghan
2009 Clam growth-stage profiles as a measure of harvest intensity and resource management on the Central Coast of British Columbia. Journal of Archaeological Science. 36(4): 1050-1060.

Cannon, Aubrey, and Densmore, Nadia
2008 A Revised Assessment of Later Period (AD 1 – European Contact) Fisheries at Namu, British Columbia. Canadian Zooarchaeology. 25:3-14.

Cannon, A., and Yong, Donya
2006 Early Storage and Sedentism on the Pacific Northwest Coast: Ancient DNA Analysis of Salmon Remains from Namu, British Columbia. American Antiquity. 71:123-140.

Cannon, Aubrey, Burchell, Meghan, Bathurst, Rhonda
2008 Trends and strategies in shellfish gathering on the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America. In: Early Human Impact on Megamolluscs. A. Antczak and R. Cipriani Eds. Pp. 7-22. British Archaeological Reports International Series 1865.

Hallmann, Nadine, Burchell, Meghan, Schöne, B.R., Irvine, G., Maxwell, D.
2009 High-resolution sclerochronological analysis of the bivalve mollusk Saxidomus giganteus from Alaska and British Columbia: Techniques for revealing environmental archives and archaeological seasonality. Journal of Archaeological Science. 36: 2353-2364

Martindale, Andrew, Letham, B., McLaren, D., Archer, D., Burchell, Meghan, Schöne, Bernd
2009 Mapping of subsurface shell midden components through percussion coring: Examples from the Dundas Islands. Journal of Archaeological Science. 36:1565-1575.

Bathurst, Rhonda
2005 Archaeological evidence of intestinal parasites from coastal shell middens. Journal of Archaeological Science. 31:11-123.