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Advancing Boreal Forest Archaeology: Intrasite Spatial Analysis of the Eaglenest Portage Site



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This thesis presents the results of an intrasite spatial analysis study of an archaeological assemblage from the Eaglenest Portage site in the Birch Mountains of northern Alberta. In this region, many sites consist of a seemingly random accumulation of stratigraphically mixed artifacts created through repeated occupations. Challenges arise for archaeologists who work in the region, due in part to physical and biological processes that move artifacts from where they were initially deposited, resulting in a general lack of stratified sites. These challenges make it difficult to understand both the vertical and horizontal spatial relationships between artifacts. Research in northern Alberta has primarily been conducted by consulting firms to make way for new industrial developments. Due to the perceived mixing of artifact assemblages, consulting archaeologists do not map all artifacts found in situ; instead, it is common to shovel-shave excavation units in arbitrary levels. Ives (1985) attempted to overcome the challenges of the boreal forest environment by collecting three-point provenience measurements (north, east, and depth below datum measurements) for each artifact collected from the Eaglenest Portage site and subsequently conducting a spatial study on the distribution of finished artifacts. The research presented in this thesis shows that carefully controlled excavations, with emphasis on three-point provenience measurements and spatial analysis (surface interpolation, nearest neighbour analysis, kernel density, k-means, and hot spot analysis) of an entire artifact assemblage, offer an objective method by which to identify temporally related clusters of artifacts and potential features that otherwise would be missed using the typical excavation practices in place today. A total of 25 clusters were identified in the four blocks that were excavated at the Eaglenest Portage site. The clusters allowed a range of discrete activities and potential features to be identified. This study and the study of Ives (1985) before it emphasize the importance of three-point provenience data in the interpretation of sites with limited stratigraphy. With this in mind, archaeologists and archaeological regulatory bodies should rethink what are deemed to be adequate excavation practices in the boreal forest.



Boreal Forest, Spatial Analysis, Archaeology, Eaglenest Portage, GIS, Intrasite analysis, Kernel Density, K-means, Nearest Neighbour, Optimal Hot Spot



Master of Arts (M.A.)


Archaeology and Anthropology




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