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Management Plan for Development on Marpole Midden

The Vancouver Sun reports that the Musqueam First Nation (Coast Salish; Vancouver) and the BC Provincial Government are negotiating a plan to protect the Marpole Midden from damage by future development (alternate link). While the negotiations provide another example of the changing relationship between First Nations and the BC Government, Randy Shore’s article is much more interesting for the history it provides of archaeological sites in Greater Vancouver.

The Marpole Midden is a massive midden located in South Granville near the north end of the Arthur Laing Bridge. (It is mostly buried under the city.) Dating to 1000 to 4500 years before the present, the Marpole site has revealed thousands of artifacts including two particularly notable finds:

The first was a two-metre-high pyramid, or cairn, made from river rock and topped with a 20-kg stone statue. Inside the pyramid were human bone fragments packed with orange sand. Its straight-edged square base was aligned perfectly with the points of the compass.

The second find was the skeleton of a male encased in sheets of beaten copper, with a copper crown on his head. The remains of two women with smashed skulls were part of this elaborate grave.

Shore mentions in passing other archaeological sites in the Lower Mainland. Of interest to me is newly found evidence of plant cultivation:

Bridge construction in Pitt Meadows just last month uncovered broken digging sticks with wapato (Indian potato) bulbs more than 4,000 years old, the first evidence that local natives farmed that crop in antiquity, [according to Royal BC Museum archaeologist Grant] Keddie.

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