This Week in History: the fascinating Indigenous Archaeology collection at the Royal BC Museum

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WatchThe Royal BC Museum has more than 100,000 stone artifacts in its Indigenous Archaeology Collection. But where did the raw material come from to make these tools? That's what scientists are hoping to learn.

Grant Keddie is the Royal BC Museum’s Curator of Archaeology.

“When people think of archaeology, they think of spearheads, and arrowheads.  Much of what’s in our collection, it looks like broken bits and pieces of rock, but that’s important for studying the source [of the piece].

The Museum has more than 100,000 stone artifacts in its Indigenous Archaeology collection, dating back 14,000 years.

“Some of them, we know where they came from, because we can do special studies on these using x-ray fluorescence. It’s basically like a gun that shoots [the artifact], and looks at the minute chemical elements in it such as lithium, and creates a fingerprint. So we’re really creating a fingerprint of different stones.

“Let’s say I want to find out…’ok, there’s an arrowpoint from Cadboro Bay, where did they get the raw material?’  And by looking at the source of this material, we’ll be able to say ‘wow, this is the place where they got the raw material for making that arrowhead!’  And it may be that it’s not anywhere in that area.  It may be that it’s on the Gulf Islands somewhere, so it’s very important to find all this raw material, and get it properly put in the collection as a kind of source material, for identifying where artifacts came from.”

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