Cartographies of Deep Time: Archaeology in Prince Rupert Harbour, BC

In the past, archaeologists have failed to include Indigenous knowledge and worldviews when reconstructing Indigenous histories. Cartographies of Deep Time expands on previous years of partnership with the Northern Tsimshian First Nations and aims to treat Indigenous claims on par with archaeological logic to propose a restructuring of data. Specifically, the project hopes to evaluate different Indigenous and non-indigenous views of history in Prince Rupert Harbour, BC, including how each negotiates social, economic, political, and legal relations, and how synthesizing the different epistemologies and disciplines allows this research to bridge divisions. 

Using multiple lines of evidence (oral historical, archaeological/material, and ecological/geological), the project grapples with reassessing all of Tsimshian history. Specifically, the researchers seek to add material culture evidence to three periods spanning over 10,000 years of history during which time the Tsimshian: 1) lived in small communities of extended family villages (wilnat’aał) distributed across their territories, 2) consolidated into multi-lineage tribal villages (galts’ap) which increased trade and ceremonial interaction, and 3) formed a defensive alliance in response to invasion from the Tlingit, which resulted  in the integration of the Northern Tsimshian into the alliance of Nine Tribes that today are represented by the Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla First Nations. This work builds on decades of previous projects that have achieved a similar ambition (testing and confirming the accuracy of Tsimshian oral records with archaeology) for shorter periods of time (6000-1000 years ago) and in focused areas. This research has implications for the study of archaeological and oral records in academic and legal contexts, for the interpretation of Indigenous history, and for the explanation of transformation dynamics and stability in the human past.

This research has been funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Principle and Co-investigators: Andrew Martindale (PI), Kisha Supernant (Link to IPIA Director page), Bryn Letham, Eric Guiry

Collaborators: Katherine Patton, Gary Coupland, Kevan Edinborough, Susan Marsden, Colin Grier, Adam Kanatakis, Iain McKechnie, Erin Murtrie

Recent Publications:

Gustas, Robert, and Kisha Supernant. "Coastal migration into the Americas and least cost path analysis." Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 54 (2019): 192-206.

Martindale, Andrew, Bryn Letham, Kisha Supernant, Thomas J. Brown, Kevan Edinborough, Jonathan Duelks, and Kenneth M. Ames. "Urbanism in northern Tsimshian archaeology." Hunter Gatherer Research 3, no. 1 (2017): 133-163.

Letham, Bryn, Andrew Martindale, Kisha Supernant, Thomas J. Brown, Jerome S. Cybulski, and Kenneth M. Ames. "Assessing the scale and pace of large shell-bearing site occupation in the Prince Rupert harbour area, British Columbia." The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology 14, no. 2 (2017): 163-197.


A great way to get to work! Some of the field crew during the summer of 2019.