In Archaeology 102: The Science of Once and Future Things BC edition professor and neighbour Dr. Brian Hayden, archaeologist, takes us through thousands of years of human history and what it can tell us about the peoples of BC.
Archaeology, like all sciences, has those aspects of it which are certain, probable, and speculative Dr. Hayden tells us. Because archeology as a science has only been around for 150 years there are not a lot of certain things, such as that the first stone tools showed up 2 to 3 million years ago, that the first people came to North America 15 to 20,0000 years ago, and that both cultural and biological evolution of humans has occurred.
First people in BC
These things are known. Recent findings in BC, such as the 14,000 year old artifacts at Triquet Island, now compose the oldest artifacts found in North America. The artifacts were found just 500 km northwest of Victoria and included tools for lighting fires, fish hooks, and spears. They seem to confirm what many archeologists have speculated: that humans first came into North America along the coast of BC 20,000 to 15,000 years ago. Geologically at this time, the ice-sheets were parting. These ice-sheets covered the area and were covered by 1 kilometre-deep ice. This ice melted about 10,000 years ago in this area. It is probable that these first peoples were simple hunter gatherers that lived with no competition, where little or nothing was owned, and everyone lived in social equality without evidence of conflict, war, or hierarchies.
Around 4,000 to 5,000 years ago things changed. Much of Dr. Hayden’s particular research focuses on the complex hunter gather communities that began to develop around this time. These communities developed then technology to harvest and store food and are marked by more productivity and food storage capacity, more sedentary lifestyles (which in this case means that they stayed in particular areas for more of the time rather than always moving with game), larger living groups, more permanent structures, greater use of fish and other resources. The development of storage technologies had profound implications on all aspects of early human peoples. Storage meant preparing for spoilage, which meant overproduction and having more than was immediately needed. What do with the surplus? It seems to have been used for individual advantage and thus begins evidence of inequality.
Social structure, slavery etc
The evidence of inequality in archeological terms that began to develop around 4,000 years ago, includes:—human remains began to show signs of human trauma compatible with early weapons of the times— signs of adornment (like early lip rings) in human remains— a burial site with 350,000 stone beads and shell jewelry, representing thousands of hours of labor —and the linguistic origins of the word slavery in traditional languages suggests that the slavery originated in the BC region 2,000 to 3,000 years ago.
The Hayden project
Dr. Hayden also discussed the eponymously named Hayden Project at Keatley Creek an archeological site in B.C. with a great deal of evidence on how early people in advanced hunter-gather societies lived. This site also includes evidence of what Dr. Hayden refers to as early “secret societies.” He’s got an upcoming book out on the topic.
The Old World
Another possible example of early secret societies is the 12,000 year old archeological site Göbekli Tepe (UNESCO world heritage site). This is the oldest known temple yet discovered—carvings so advanced that they are not seen again until the Bronze Age (though they were created in the Stone Age)—and architecture. To put it in perspective, the Pyramids in Egypt are 4,5000 years old and Stonehenge is 7,000 years old.
To learn more about these projects and the archeology of the area, listen to the full podcast.
Top photo credit: Göbekli Tepe by Zhengan via Wikepedia (CC BY SA, 4.0 License)