Prehistoric exploitation of wetland habitats in North American boreal forests
The thesis begins with an overview of hunter-gatherers from an historical perspective and insights from the ethnographic and ethno-ecological literature. Then the prehistoric cultural sequence of the northern boreal forest is examined against the environmental contexts of the research area, specifically a number of Initial Woodland through Terminal Woodland archaeological sites in Northwestern Ontario. Faunal data from the study sites, along with published data from other archaeological sites in NE Ontario and observations from the ethnographic literature, contribute to this section. Analysis and interpretation includes the logistics of site location and observations on possible indications of fire in prehistoric sites from NW Ontario. The faunal data from these sites is in microfiche in the Appendix A. Within the context of TEK (Traditional Ecological Knowledge) and WSK (Western Scientific Knowledge), fieldwork in modern boreal environments, undertaken in Saskatchewan in 1995, is reported. The assessment of sites follows from their initial selection from infra-red satellite images to their ground-based examination. Soil development, fire history of several areas and observations on fire regimes are explored. The character of patchwork habitat development, and the place of fire regimes and beaver colonisation in this development, are examined. Taphonomic losses at various ecological and cultural levels (Taphonomies I-IV) are considered in the context of theoretical constructs, leading to an interpretative model. Habitat utilisation by prehistoric Northern Boreal forest hunter-gatherers is considered in the final chapter. The role of Beaver as 'keystone species' and the nature of interlinked resources are explored. Fire regimes, and the subsequent development of first stage regrowth patterns as integral parts of the economic system, leads to a model for the management of resources by prehistoric boreal hunters-gatherers. The philosophical implications for the interpretation of hunter-gatherers as effective shapers of an exploited landscape, along with the problematic areas in the research, are outlined in the concluding part of the work.