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Work begins at shíshálh site


A recent archeological discovery in shíshálh territory is being described as one of the most significant sites ever found in BC.

“It’s very important and very sensitive,” said Terence Clark, curator of western archeology at the Canadian Museum of History, now working near Sechelt. He dates the site as possibly being 2,000 years old at this location and with signs of a presence that may go back further.

Chief Calvin Craigan toured the dig site two weeks ago and in a video clip for the band’s website, he told the interviewer that the age of the site has not been established, but he knows of old stories that refer to a huge rockslide that may have forced the people to move from a bigger village to this area.

“Whether this was a village or a burial site, we don’t know,” he said. “But we have all these professional people to help us solve the jigsaw puzzle.”

On site are archeology students from the University of Toronto with supervision from several academic leaders, notably Gary Coup-land, coordinator of the shíshálh Archeological Research Project (SARP) – a collaborative initiative between the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the University of Toronto, and the shíshálh Nation.

Currently the archeologists are surveying, which allows them to find features visible on the surface without extensive excavations, making their work time- and cost-efficient, and offering the least invasive method of field work. The site is dense bush with sword ferns and wasp nests, making surveying difficult.

Over five days a group of workers has covered a width of around 30 metres and have surveyed about 100 metres in every direction. They have identified nearly 200 locations of possible historical human activity, and have confirmed the presence of about two dozen in the centre of the site, showing an intense human presence.

The SARP project was started in 2009 by Coupland and student crews have been coming to the area many of the years since. In 2012 and 2013, SARP ran a training program for shíshálh youth.