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2015/2016 Lecture Series

Lectures take place this year in the archaeology lab of Grant MacEwan downtown campus (Room 7-333).

The Strathcona Archaeological Society Annual winter lecture series begins Thursday, September 17th with a presentation by Madeline Holder of Tree Time Services presenting: 

"Animal Conceptualization In Punic, Neo-Punic, and Roman North Africa: A Reinterpretation of Offerings Found in Sanctuaries Dedicated to Ba’al Hammon and Tanit."


The Carthaginian worship of Ba’al Hammon, and his counterpart, Tanit, is widely known as a worship that may have involved the practice of child sacrifice due to the thousands of child remains found in  sanctuaries. However, research often seems so focused on child sacrifice that it fails to see how much more these sanctuaries can tell us about the people that worshipped here, and the cultural changes they     experienced. These foreign gods, brought to North Africa by the Phoenicians, later the Punic people, spread across the territories and was adopted by the indigenous groups.Later, as the Roman occupation spread throughout North Africa, worship continued and was also adopted by these new populations. By reexamining the images of animals on stelae and the presence or absence of animal remains, we can trace changes and regional variations on how people viewed and related to animals. These, in turn, reflect more subtle changes that the Punic, indigenous and Roman cultures experienced as they interacted directly and indirectly for over 800 years

October 15, 2016: Rachel Lindemann & Rob Wondrasek present "Unending Shovel Testing Lines and Coring for Paleo-Indians: Proving Up Marginal Sites in Hardisty, AB."


What started as a four month excavation at 3 previously-recorded sites turned into a two year long saga of excavation and shovel testing just south of Hardisty, Alberta. Throughout the process both traditional, random shovel testing methodology was employed, as well as a series of systematic shovel testing lines, which included over 1000 tests and spanned over a kilometre. We'll look at the results of the traditional testing, as well as some of our surprising results from the standardized testing. Introducing coring into the excavation methodology also gave us a startling look at some of the sites we may be overlooking due to their depth and the limitations of shovel testing. 

November 19, 2016: Gregory Kwiecien of Taiga Archaeology presents "Stories from the Ground: Digging into Dene Tha’ History and Prehistory."


In 2013 Dene Tha’ First Nation initiated a unique project, “Stories from the Ground: Digging into Dene Tha’ History and Prehistory”, to recover and rediscover the historic and traditional aspects of Dene Tha’ culture and find evidence of precontact human occupation within northwestern Alberta. Dene Tha’ students and Elders with Taiga Heritage Consulting Ltd. archaeologists participated in two seasons of archaeological surveys and brief reconnaissance in the Dene Tha’ traditional territory in northwestern Alberta and southern NW Territories. While only a few areas were surveyed, what was found exceeded everyone’s expectations. Over 70 historical resources including precontact, historic and, traditional use sites were recorded. This presentation briefly summarize the results of the project. 

December 17, 2016: Kurtis Blaikie et. al. of the Strathcona Archaeological Society present the 2015 SAS Field Project results.

January 21, 2016: Heinz Pyszyck of the Royal Alberta Museum presents "Last Fort Standing: Excavations of the NWC/HBC Fort Vermilion and the Northern Fur Trade."


  “...they are well loaded with provisions - they come down in Mooseskin canoes” (From the Journal of Colin Campbell, HBC, Fort Vermilion, October 6th, 1827)

The year is 1799. The Canadian based North West Company (NWC) had already established a line of fur trade posts from Lake Athabasca up the Peace River to today’s Fort St. John, British Columbia. For the next 22 years they would dominate the trade along the river and LaFleur’s Post, later to become Fort Vermilion, was an integral part of that trade network. With the deaths of traders at Fort St. John’s in 1823 by the hands of local Beaver Indians, many posts along the Peace River were closed and by 1826 Fort Vermilion was the last fort standing.

Since its closure in 1830, Fort Vermilion was quickly swallowed up by Alberta’s northern forests and soon forgotten. In 1998 the post was discovered by the author and over the next 16 years was periodically  excavated. In this talk I will share our experiences discovering and investigating this fur trade post and unravelling the fascinating history of the northern fur trade in Alberta. This project was more than merely excavating, recording and publishing on another fur trade post. It was about community and public involvement, about connecting the descendants of its founder Jean Baptiste Lafleur with their history, and about the sometimes challenging logistics faced when searching for and excavating these remote northern fur trade posts.

February 18, 2016:  Reid Graham of Tree Time Services presents "Breathing New Life into Old Records: Analysis of the Muhlbach and Stelzer sites on the Northern Plains."


In the early to mid-1960s, two important excavations of major Besant archaeological sites were carried out on the northern Plains. In Alberta, Ruth Gruhn uncovered the Muhlbach site beneath a farmer’s yard, revealing a large bison kill site with a lithic assemblage dominated by Knife River Flint projectile points, a material that could only be found in North Dakota. Concurrently, Robert Neuman was completing his excavations of the Stelzer site in South Dakota, an enormous encampment with copious amounts of Knife River Flint, surrounded by contemporary burial mound complexes; he would ultimately use this material to define the Sonota Complex, a regional variant within the Besant phase. These two sites would form a foundation in the archaeological literature, and continue to shape the discussion surrounding the relationship between Besant, Sonota, and the Hopewellian Interaction Sphere. Since the initial publications and preliminary reports for these sites, little attention has been dedicated to the original source material. Given the importance these two sites have in the Besant/Sonota discussion, it is imperative that we return to further explore these assemblages in order to illuminate broad-scale interactions occurring on the northern Plains. Advances in radiocarbon dating allow us to firmly fix the temporal duration of these sites, to help explore questions regarding length of occupation, and relations to other dated archaeological assemblages. Developments with spatial analytical methods and technologies also provide further inferences about the Muhlbach and Stelzer occupations. High frequency Knife River Flint sites on the northwestern Plains are rare, despite their prominence in the literature. Their very uniqueness warrants careful exploration to assess their significance with respect to a broader Hopewell Interaction Sphere. In these terms, I will explore Muhlbach as reflecting a prestige-based acquisition pattern involving both bison products and Knife River Flint, and suggest that Muhlbach may have been linked to the Sonota burial mounds as part of a broader regional interaction focused upon ceremonial life, and mortuary ritual in particular.

March 17, 2016:  Grant MacEwan Students Robyn, Ben and Zain, presenting on their experiences in Public Archaeology through the Bodo Program.

April 21, 2016:  Kim Jankuta presents "Recycling Data: Reanalysis of the Late Dorset to Thule Transition."


Approximately 2000 years ago in the northern Arctic a material culture shift occurred, one that has been captured by the archaeological record and studied by numerous researchers since. It has been hypothesized, and generally accepted, that this 'shift' represents the emergence of a new group in the area; the Thule, ancestors of the modern day Inuit who migrated across the Arctic region, replacing the existing Late Dorset groups. However, this hypothesis had never been subject to quantitative or statistical analysis. In order to test the hypothesis of a Thule migration, and to further explore a migration route or pattern, causal factors for the migration, and the timing and duration of the migration, a reanalysis of existing radiocarbon dated archaeological sites for each group was undertaken. This reanalysis utilized spatial analysis and statistical methods to reassess old data in order to provide new interpretations and understanding of an old theory.