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SFU archaeology studies 2,000-year-old artefacts found in Comox Valley

An excavation of K’ómoks First Nations territory reveals “mystifying” stone tablets

The latest find is one of the few "well-preserved" archaeological sites in the Comox Valley area.
The latest find is one of the few "well-preserved" archaeological sites in the Comox Valley area.

The K’ómoks First Nations got more than they bargained for while holding a barbecue in the Comox Valley last year.
A midden containing ancient artefacts was discovered at the site, leading SFU archaeology professor Dr. Robert Muir to oversee a six-week field school excavating the area. During the excavation, Muir and his students discovered around 80 stone tablets, some as small as pebbles, estimated to be roughly 2,000 years old.
The field school, led by Muir, involved 21 third- and fourth-year students excavating a 100m by 120m exploration site on the K’ómoks First Nations’ traditional territory, and studying their findings. The excavation was conducted at the Puntledge RV Campground on Vancouver Island.
They have uncovered myriad artefacts: herring rakes; deer, dog, and elk bones; harpoon points; bone fishing needles; and, perhaps most excitingly, the flat stone tablets, each marked by symbols on one side.
According to an interview with Muir by the Comox Valley Record, the markings on the tablets could be seen as symbols for trees, feathers, or fertility. In the interview, he described the site as “very unusual,” referring to the tablets as “a little mystifying.”
The site was first discovered in 2015 when a group of the K’ómoks First Nations were digging a roasting pit for a celebratory barbecue.
During the celebration they uncovered an accumulation of shells, finding later that it was a midden containing numerous animal bones as well as other miscellaneous deposits.
According to Muir’s interview with the Record, “[the discoverers] thought, ‘Uh -oh, there’s a site here,’ and we figured out how large it really is.”
He claimed that in over 30 years as an archaeologist, he’s never studied a site like this.
He described the area as “well-preserved and pristine.” It’s one of only a few spots where these artefacts have been discovered in the Comox Valley.
The artefacts found in the excavation site are being taken to SFU to be photographed and studied. The students are currently helping with the analysis of these artefacts, after which Muir will take extra time to study them before returning them to the K’ómoks band.
The K’ómoks First Nations are an indigenous band from the eastern coast of Vancouver Island. They are currently comprised of around 330 individuals, including people of Puntledge, Ieeksun, Sathloot, Tat’poos, Cha’chae, and Sasitla ancestry.
Having suffered greatly because of European settlers, including the loss of over half their population due to a smallpox outbreak in 1862, the K’omoks people have worked hard to maintain their community. They are comprised of four reserves on the island, and regularly hold events and take part in business ventures and partnerships.

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