Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Anthropology

Committee Chair

Anna Marie Prentiss

Commitee Members

Ashley McKeown, David Dyer


Bridge River Site, complex hunter-gatherers, inequality, Mid-Fraser, subsistence


University of Montana


ABSTRACT Carlson, Eric S., M.A., Spring 2010 Anthropology Subsistence Change and Emergent Social Inequality in an Early Complex Hunter-Gatherer Winter Village: A Zooarchaeological Assessment of the Bridge River Site (EeRl4), Middle Fraser B.C. Chairperson: Dr. Anna Marie Prentiss Analyses of faunal material from the 2008 excavations at the Bridge River Site (EeRl4) show that reliance on stored anadromous salmon (Oncorhynchus sp.) remains the primary food staple from early occupations of the village (1550bp) until its abandonment (1100bp), and indeed intensifies through time. Second, taxonomic diversity in food resources declines through time, signifying a diachronic process of resource specialization. The presence of large mammals in the diet, notably deer (Odocoileus sp.), declines through time. Also, while equal distributions of cranial and post-cranial carcass elements are present during early phases of the village, through time they shift to primarily post-cranial elements by the late Bridge River 3 Period. Inferences of local resource depression of such secondarily-ranked resources can be drawn from the data, a plausible outcome for fragile ecosystems supporting a large semi-sedentary human population. It is proposed that by utilizing mass harvesting technology, processing and storage of salmon, and supplemented with roots and deer and a diversity of other food resources, inhabitants of the Bridge River village flourished over their early history. However, the gradual overexploitation of secondary food resources such as deer left the community susceptible when salmon runs failed or fluctuated during a markedly dry period beginning around 1100bp. In contrast, the more productive ecosystem of the Keatley Creek village area, a contemporaneous site in the region, allowed for that community to withstand a decline in salmon numbers by resorting to extensification of secondarily ranked food items, such as deer, other ungulates, medium-sized mammals, and roots. This signifies that each community may have had a different response to shifting ecological conditions, a response determined by their own unique histories. Additionally, results of increasing variation in the spatial distribution of deer specimens across the Bridge River site suggest late-emerging socioeconomic differentiation (late Bridge River 3 Period). Further, the association of scarce deer elements in the later phases with prestige artifacts suggests the emergence of deer as a prestige food, though not before 1275bp. The growing scarcity of deer coupled with the availability of surplus salmon may be mechanisms through which deer meat may have emerged as a prestige food during the late phases of Bridge River 3 Period, which continued into the ethnographic period, initiating the emergence of a sociocultural institution which associated deer meat and deer hunting with the elite. Deer is the main prestige food during potlatch ceremonies in ethnographic accounts of the Interior Plateau and Coastal groups, and deer hunters and deer stewards exhibited elevated occupational prestige.



© Copyright 2010 Eric S. Carlson