Nav: Home

3,500 years of shellfish farming by indigenous peoples on the Northwest coast

February 27, 2019

The Indigenous Peoples of British Columbia have been harvesting shellfish from specially-constructed clam gardens for at least 3500 years, according to a study released February 27, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Nicole Smith of the Hakai Institute, Dana Lepofsky of Simon Fraser University, and colleagues. This research offers new methods for tracking the history and development of mariculture.

Clam gardens are traditional mariculture structures consisting of a rock wall and flat terrace that serve as a sheltered habitat for clams in intertidal zones of beaches. It is known that these gardens increase clam productivity and abundance and have long been important food sources for coastal Indigenous cultures. However, since clam gardens often have complex formation histories, they can be difficult to date, and it is thus difficult to track mariculture trends through time.

In this study, Smith, Lepofsky, and colleagues surveyed nine ancient clam gardens on Quadra Island, British Columbia. At each site, they identified suitable samples for constraining the age of construction of the gardens, focusing on shell samples from within or beneath the garden walls and beneath the terraces. In total, they collected 35 radiocarbon dates on the shells of clams, snails, and barnacles ranging from at least 3,500 years ago to the 20th Century.

The authors also corroborated their dates with data on the regional history of sea level change, and with dates from other marine management features in the region. They provide a set of guidelines for determining accurate ages of three different forms of clam gardens, which they hope will allow for more detailed tracking of mariculture history in the Americas. They note, however, that their methods are only a start, and will likely require fine-tuning at clam gardens and other mariculture sites from different regions and ages.

The authors add: "By documenting that clam gardens are at least 3,500 years old, this study supports what coastal First Nations of the Pacific Northwest have always known: managing clams, in the form of clam gardens, is an age old practice and fundamental to long-term food security."
-end-
In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available article in PLOS ONE: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0211194

Citation: Smith NF, Lepofsky D, Toniello G, Holmes K, Wilson L, Neudorf CM, et al. (2019) 3500 years of shellfish mariculture on the Northwest Coast of North America. PLoS ONE 14(2): e0211194. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0211194

Funding: The Hakai Institute provided financial and logistical support to DL in support of this project (no grant number, https://www.hakai.org/), as well as a Hakai Postdoctoral Fellowship to CMN and a Hakai Masters Student Fellowship to GT (no grant numbers). KH is a full-time employee of the Hakai Institute while NS, LW and CR were hired on contract for parts of this project. The Hakai Institute is a branch of the Tula Foundation, which is run by Eric Peterson and Christina Munck. The work was also supported by grants from Wenner Gren (#8710, http://www.wennergren.org/), National Geographic Society (#8636-09, https://www.nationalgeographic.org/), Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (#31-639830, http://www.sshrc-crsh.gc.ca/home-accueil-eng.aspx), and a Simon Fraser University Small SSHRC grant (no grant number, http://www.sfu.ca/~ors/sshrc-list/msg02110.html), all awarded to DL. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

PLOS

Related Indigenous Peoples Articles:

Indigenous protection
The global reach of COVID-19 is unquestionable. Every day, news reports highlight the disease's increasing toll on countries and major cities around the world.
Voluntary collective isolation is best response to COVID-19 for indigenous populations
A team of anthropologists, physicians, tribal leaders and local government authorities developed and implemented a multi-phase COVID-19 prevention and containment plan among the Tsimane, an indigenous group in the Bolivian Amazon.
Health impacts of pollution upon indigenous peoples
A new study from the University of Helsinki presents the current state of knowledge on the exposure and vulnerability of Indigenous Peoples to environmental pollution, reviewing the innumerable impacts that pollution poses on Indigenous communities from all over the world.
Indigenous American ancestry may be associated with HER2-positive breast cancer
An increased proportion of Indigenous American (IA) ancestry was associated with a greater incidence of HER2-positive breast cancer, according to a study published in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
Commentary on an approach to Indigenous homelessness
Indigenous historian and York University professor Jesse Thistle and Dr.
Indigenous-led health care partnerships flourishing in Canada
Innovative, Indigenous-led health care partnerships and cultural healing practices have shown improved health outcomes and access to care, and have become important features of the medical landscape in Canada, according to a new analysis in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
Reporting the facts on indigenous STIs
Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are being discouraged from seeking medical help due to public assumptions that sexually transmissible infections (STIs) are the result of sexual abuse.
It's time to explain country in indigenous terms
It's time to write about Indigenous Australian place relationships in a new way -- in a language that speaks in Indigenous terms first, to convey a rich meaning of Country and best identify its deep ecological and social relevance to Aboriginal people.
Excellent mental health for 2/3 of Indigenous people off reserve
Two-thirds of Indigenous people living off reserve in Canada have excellent mental health, according to a nationally representative study conducted by the University of Toronto and Algoma University.
What we can learn from Indigenous land management
First Nations peoples' world view and connection to Country provide a rich source of knowledge and innovations for better land and water management policies when Indigenous decision-making is enacted, Australian researchers say.
More Indigenous Peoples News and Indigenous Peoples Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.