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A History of the Native People of Canada
Volume I (10,000 to 1,000 B.C.)

Early Plateau Culture (Précis, Chapter 10)

In the first synthesis of the archaeology of a portion of the Southern Plateau (Sanger 1969; 1970) it was proposed that people with a Southwestern Coastal culture (Cordilleran) moved into the area from the south around 9,000 B.P. Their tool kit consisted of bipointed projectile points and knives, linear flakes, cobble core and spall tools, and distinctive concave-faced end scrapers. Microblade technology was absent. This initial occupation was then replaced by the Nesikep tradition (Early Plateau culture) with its microblade technology and notched projectile points. The Nesikep tradition was believed to have moved south from the central interior of British Columbia around 7,500 B.P. The evidence supporting an initial occupation by Southwestern Coastal culture was equivocal at the time of this first synthesis and still is. By 11,500 to 10,500 B.P. glacial ice had disappeared from the Southern Plateau and grasslands-sagebrush occupied the valley bottoms with trees on the uplands and valley sides. Warmer and drier conditions began by 10,500 B.P. and lasted until 6,500 B.P. (Stryd and Rousseau: In press). Evidence for even a limited occupation by Palaeo-Indian culture or the ambiguous Stemmed Point tradition at this time is still not convincing. Some evidence for a penetration by Plano culture from the east is apparent but it was weak and concentrated in the southeastern portion of the Plateau. As detailed archaeological reports become available it may develop that the Kootenai region of the southeastern Southern Plateau was closely affiliated with the Plains at this early time period. Others would argue for a pre-Mazama ash fall occupation by the Stemmed Point tradition (Goatfell complex) with origins in the Columbia Plateau and the Great Basin (Choquette 1987: 330).

Early Plateau Culture Implements - Drawing: David Laverie
Early Plateau Culture Implements

The thin, carefully flaked corner-notched and triangular points were associated with microblades in the 4,500 B.C. level of the Nesikep Creek site on the Fraser River. Below is an illustration of a microblade core and dorsal and lateral views of a microblade with their descriptive terms.

(Reproduced from Sanger 1970: Figures 24 and 26 with permission of Dr. David Sanger, University of Maine at Orono. Drawings by Mr. David W. Laverie.)

Microblade Core Terms - Drawing: David Laverie
Microblade Core Terms
1 Striking Platform | 2 Edge Chord | 3 Core Edge | 4 Fluted Surface | 5 Lateral Surfaces | 6 Keel | 7 Front | 8 Back
Microblade Terms - Drawing: David Laverie
Microblade Terms
1 Proximal End (Striking Platform) | 2 Area of Battering | 3 Bulb of Percussion | 4 Lateral Edge "Right" | 5 Arris | 6 Distal End | 7 Dorsal Surface | 8 Ventral Surface

In another synthesis (Fladmark 1982: 112) it is argued that there is no solid evidence for an initial occupation by Southwestern Coastal culture people and that the assemblage which had been earlier attributed to this culture actually dates to Period III (4,000 to 1,000 B.C.). Further, it is proposed that the earliest occupation actually was represented by people with a microblade technology who moved up the Fraser River from the coast rather than out of the central interior. "The prior occurrence of microblades on the Northern and Central Northwest Coast suggests that this technology may have originally penetrated the southern British Columbia Interior from the west, rather than southwards from the Yukon" (Fladmark 1982: 128). This hypothesized population movement has been correlated with the expansion of salmon spawning ranges into the interior (Carlson 1979: 222-223; 1990: 66). The most recent synthesis (Stryd and Rousseau: In press) proposes that the earliest occupation was by a number of different cultures represented by Palaeo-Indian, Stemmed Point, Northwestern Coastal (Early Coastal Microblade), and Southwestern Coastal (Cordilleran or Old Cordilleran) cultures. The phase regarded in Sanger's synthesis as the earliest occupation is now treated in Stryd and Rousseau as a late penetration from the coast into the interior beginning near the end of Period II (4,250 B.C.).

The problem faced by all of the preceding syntheses relative to the initial occupation of the Southern Plateau is that a human antiquity in the interior equivalent to that of other regions has generally not been demonstrated by either excavation or radiocarbon dating. In lieu of direct evidence, hypotheses have been supported by typological cross-dating using a number of tool varieties which are now known to have limited diagnostic value (Stryd and Rousseau: In press). Recent evidence (Rousseau 1991) indicates that the first significant occupation of the Southern Plateau probably came from the northern interior and involved a culture whose tool kit was dominated by a microblade technology. The earliest occupation of the multi-component Landels site by Early Plateau culture has been dated to 8,500 B.P. The date is contemporaneous with the Gore Creek human remains discovered a short distance to the east on the same drainage system. No artifacts were found with this adult male who died accidentally in a mudslide. Solid carbon isotope analysis, however, revealed that his consumption of marine foods, such as anadromous salmon and steelhead, was relatively insignificant. Such evidence compromises the proposition that microblade technology was introduced into the interior from the west by coastal people following the expanding spawning ranges of salmon. Further, evidence of a specialized microblade technology on the Southern Coast is absent (Fladmark 1982: 112). Thus, the chronology of syntheses relating to the earliest occupants appears to have come full circle and returned to an early hypothesis which stated that the microblade users who occupied the Southern Plateau originated in the northern interior (Borden 1975). This would imply a close relationship between Early Plateau culture and Early Northwest Interior culture. There is also no reason to assume that the 8,500 B.P. date from the Landels site represents the earliest evidence of the peopling of the Southern Plateau. Certainly prior to 9,000 B.P. the region was available for colonization (McAndrews et al. 1987).

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