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Paleoethnobotany at Wanuskewin Heritage Park: Plant Use at the Red Tail (FbNp-10) and Wolf Willow (FbNp-26) Sites and An Evaluation of Macrobotanical Flotation Techniques



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Plant use of mobile hunter-gatherers of the Northern Plains has been vastly understudied. The analysis of macrobotanical (seeds and charcoal) remains from archaeological sites, if they are conducted, are often an addendum to general site reports and subsistence research rather than being an integral part of the research design. Using Wanuskewin Heritage Park (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) as a case study, forty-one feature and non-feature sediment samples were collected from the Red Tail (FbNp-10) and Wolf Willow (FbNp-26) sites. The intent of this research is two-fold. First, to determine which method for extracting macrobotanicals from archaeological sediments produces the highest recovery rate. Second, to determine the nature and extent of plant use at these two sites, with a particular focus on the McKean complex (ca. 4750-3150 cal BP). For part one, 19 samples were subjected to a recovery rate test by adding known quantities of both buoyant and non-buoyant seeds prior to processing using Flote-Tech, IDOT, and wet-screening methods. The results indicated that the IDOT was the preferred method for this sample-set, while issues of contamination were discovered using the Flote-Tech, and issues of organic fragmentation were identified with the wet-screen method. For part two, the feature samples from the Red Tail and Wolf Willow sites indicated that plants were being used for food, medicines, and other uses such as fuel. The analysis of the non-feature results provided greater interpretative value regarding the nature and extent of plant use at the sites. Further, as the organics recovered from these samples evidenced food and medicinal plant use outside of known features and plant processing areas, they clearly document the need to sample all contexts and not just the more typical practice of just sampling feature contexts. This research denoted that the feature and non-feature results indicate that plant use was important to the different mobile hunter-gatherer groups that inhabited both the Red Tail and Wolf Willow sites. It also emphasised that it is important to have established research questions and an understanding of sediment matrix as the method chosen for extracting macrobotanicals is dependent on both.



Paleoethnobotany, Wanuskewin, Macrobotanicals, Wolf Willow, Red Tail



Master of Arts (M.A.)


Archaeology and Anthropology




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