Marpole metal: Contextualizing the evidence of pre-contact copper technology in the Salish Sea Basin

Garett David Hunt, Purdue University


The purpose of this thesis is to investigate the relationship between the appearance of native copper technologies and the emergent social complexity of the Marpole Phase (2000-1100 BP). By examining collections at the American Museum of Natural History, the Canadian Museum of History, the Royal British Columbian Museum, BC Archaeology Branch records and grey literature, this thesis provides a consolidated report of the earliest evidence for native copper working on the Central Northwest Coast. The prevalence of native copper artifacts that can be confidently associated with the Marpole Phase are extremely limited in number. The evidence suggests that native copper artifacts are not exclusive to the Marpole Phase and are too limited to be used as a diagnostic trait of Marpole cultural complexity. Rather, the uneven adoption of native copper technologies reflects a regional network of competing material narratives. The motivation for communities to adopt native copper technologies is argued to be dependent on the success of the material in communicating a socio-expressive goal. Traditional suggestions of an Alaska-Yukon origin for the technology are rejected through contextual and morphological comparison. However, the archaeological evidence presents a very narrow view into the life history of native copper artifacts within the Central Northwest Coast. This seems counter to the expectations of a local innovation.




Cooper, Purdue University.

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