From where did our ancient ancestors procure exotic/foreign lithic resources?

Indigenous histories and archaeological evidence both support the presence of extensive trade and exchange networks in ancient western North America. Information linking lithic belongings (artifacts) back to their natural sources across long distances provides additional insight into the characteristics of ancient landscape use by Indigenous peoples. Such sourcing studies can involve comparisons of the chemical (e.g., strontium, rubidium, zirconium), structural (e.g., atomic bonds and the structure of molecules), and isotopic (e.g., radiogenic strontium and lead) characteristics of lithic belongings with those of potential quarry locations.

Research in collaboration with xʷməθkʷəy̓əm will investigate best practices for applying sophisticated analytical techniques to collect multiple lines of evidence that are useful for identifying the most likely geological sources of their belongings, as retrieved from provincial repositories, cultural resource management projects, and from the community. Techniques include the following:

  • split-stream laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (SS-LA-ICP-MS), to collect elemental concentrations and radiogenic isotope ratios,
  • energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence (ED-XRF), to collect major, minor, and trace elemental concentrations, and
  • Raman spectroscopy, to collect structural and molecular characteristics.

By intensively exploring the range of source locations documented in xʷməθkʷəy̓əm belongings, we aim to support the transformation of the notion that xʷməθkʷəy̓əm is just a ‘dot on a map’ into the web of interactions that is known to have existed, as is documented in xʷməθkʷəy̓əm history.

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