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Prehistoric cultural change at Kitselas Canyon

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Title: Prehistoric cultural change at Kitselas Canyon
Author: Coupland, Gary
Degree Doctor of Philosophy - PhD
Program Anthropology
Copyright Date: 1985
Abstract: This study investigates the prehistoric transition from egalitarian to ranked social structure at Kitselas Canyon, Skeena River, British Columbia. It contributes to archaeological theory by developing and testing a model of the evolution of cultural complexity. A culture historical contribution is also made in the development of a prehistoric local sequence for Kitselas Canyon. The theoretical model argues that cultural change at Kitselas Canyon occurred as a deviation amplifying process. Beginning with an initial condition of environmentally limited access to the critical salmon resource, the cultural response was to impose further access restriction by placing control of the resource in the hands of fewer and fewer individuals. An important stage in this process is the formation of corporate groups, initially organized along egalitarian lines. It is argued that ranked corporate groups emerged from egalitarian corporate groups, not as a response to subsistence-related stress, but rather as a means of consolidating control over the most productive resource locations. This model is tested against archaeological data from Kitselas Canyon. The historic period is described to elucidate the ethnographic model, which represents the comparative base for the study of prehistoric social change. Data from the Paul Mason Site at Kitselas Canyon is presented. Three cultural components at this site are identified through multivariate quantitative analysis. These results are then integrated with the existing sequence from the nearby Gitaus site to establish a five-phase prehistoric cultural sequence for Kitselas Canyon. This constitutes the temporal framework for the investigation of prehistoric social change. Social change is investigated in terms of a series of variables - residential permanency, storage, population aggregation, household variability, and status goods. Much of the investigation focusses on the Paul Mason Phase, dated at ca. 3000 B.P. This phase represents the development of salmon intensification, residential permanency, large-scale storage, and substantial population aggregation. However, there is no evidence of ascribed status differentiation, as seen historically among the Skeena River groups. This pattern is attributable to the formation of egalitarian corporate groups. This study demonstrates the importance of egalitarian corporate groups in the evolution of Northwest Coast society. Identification of such a group at Kitselas Canyon during the Paul Mason Phase supports the proposition that social ranking evolved as a deviation amplifying process with respect to resource access.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/27059
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]
Scholarly Level: Graduate

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