Dig-It: #YKASTRONG trending since time immemorial

As most archaeologists can confirm, when shown an artifact, people are usually polite, but often I can see one question on their face: Why should I care?

Archaeology is more than just (super cool) pointy rocks. Archaeology is the study of humans and human behaviour through the material culture left behind.

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Often what tells us much about human behaviour is what is not left behind.

Carbon dating tells us that approximately 6,850 years before present (BP), Mount Mazama in Oregon erupted, creating what we know today as Crater Lake.

Volcanic deposition (or tephra) was flung across North America, including 1,211 kilometres northward to Kamloops.

This tephra can be clearly seen as a pinkish-white, approximate 10-centimetre thick layer, mostly in river valleys in the Kamloops area.

We have identified archaeological sites that display human occupation many years before and after this eruption. We have seen a lack of archaeological evidence within the tephra layer and immediately after the event.

What does this mean?

Not a lot is currently known about the impacts this falling, ashy layer would have had on the people who lived here at the time.

Based on other eruptions, such as the 1980 Mount St. Helen’s event, we can ascertain the rapid deposition of this volcanic tephra could have caused chemical changes in the soil and water, resulting in disruption of localized vegetation, wildlife and aquatic life.

There is evidence of mass landslides, as well as re-routing of creeks and streams, as a result of this volcanic-ash deposition.

With all these possible variables combined, one starts to imagine the overall stress to the local ecosystem.

In terms of resource procurement, if food and other resources declined in a particular area, people would have had to go elsewhere to get what they needed.

It is easy to imagine what this type of stress would have looked like.

Take into consideration how your behavioural patterns change when a staple item in your household is not available at your usual grocery store.

Do you drive around town, stopping in different stores trying to track it down, or just

go without?

A more recent example of massive environmental stress we have undergone locally, were the 2017 wildfires in B.C.

Although the fires did not burn within the City of Kamloops, they were close enough for most of us to consider them local. The short-term implications for people living in evacuation zones meant a loss of home and ensuing temporary relocation to a safe zone.

Resource procurement came differently to evacuees — many people had no choice but to rely on charitable donations to meet their basic survival needs. Human kindness at the time was palpable as everyone wanted to help.

In following years, the forestry and logging sector made massive adaptations to preserve the industry.

Why? Because the harvesting of resources puts money in pockets and food on tables. People gotta eat.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic is not really an environmental change, it has resulted in a mass disruption to everday life to which we all can relate.

We, like the people living in this valley 7,000 years ago, cannot gather in the spots we used to, in the ways we used to, with the people we used to.

Our supply chain has massively changed, from shortages (the 2020 toilet paper crisis) to shopping patterns (locally or online).

The challenge of adapting to resource shortages is a struggle humans have faced since the existence of our species. Kamloops has been here before and we have adapted — the archaeological record shows us that.

I am honoured to record and interpret a piece of history, to learn from unwritten records and tell the stories of past peoples.

The “mundane” daily struggles are at the foundation of what makes us human; it’s the day-to-day that defines humanity.

I am not going to finish this column by explaining why you should care about archaeology.

I want you to think of how you should care about archaeology.

What parts of your life can be bettered by the knowledge of past peoples?

I guarantee you, there is something archaeology can offer to which you can relate.

Heleana Moore is a Kamloops-based archaeologist. Interested in more? Go online to republicofarchaeology.ca. Dig It is KTW’s regularly published column on the history beneath our feet in the Kamloops region. A group of nine archaeologists working in the area contribute columns to KTW’s print edition and online at kamloopsthisweek.com.

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