Call Before You Dig.
"Call Before You Dig"
Archaeological texts claim that, with the pace of global development, in 50 years there
will be no undisturbed archaeological sites left. While I tell my introductory students
this, I never really believed it applied to us in British Columbia.
After spending the past two years in the Fraser Valley searching out known ancient
village sites, and observing how impacted even the most remote of them are, I realize that
this statistic is very much about our home.
Here on Lasqueti, where we are lucky to have an abundance of archaeological sites, our
heritage record is also threatened. I have seen a variety of sites across the island and
there are none that are not at least somewhat altered by past and current land use. Many
have been largely destroyed. This destruction is on-going at the same exponential rate
that is happening in the rest of B.C. and world-wide. We continue to build on
archaeological sites without trying to minimize the disturbance to the sites -- and some of
us even dig local sites to augment our personal collection of artifacts.
Archaeology sites are more than a collection of artifacts – they are a detailed history of
the lives lived in one spot. The spatial relationship of the artifacts to each other and to
the layers of sediment are an essential part of telling that story. Without these details, the
artifacts become little more than curios – isolated, incomprehensible fragments of a once
I have some suggestions to encourage the preservation of the archaeological heritage on
1. If at all possible, avoid any disturbance to an archaeological site. If a project can be
moved or altered to avoid a site, do so. Perhaps we could train some community
members to recognize different kinds of archaeological sites and form a sort of
community archaeological team that could be called upon for advice.
2. In cases where disturbance to a site is unavoidable, it is important to salvage as much
information from the site as possible. Though it is more problematic, perhaps the
community archaeological team could be trained to do basic archaeological
excavation (including taking appropriate notes). Then, when people want to do a
building project on Lasqueti, they could call the archaeological team in before they
3. Several people have asked me about conducting an archaeological excavation on
Lasqueti, for instance, in the context of my SFU Archaeology field school. I hope to
do this in the next few years—perhaps we could think about excavating parts of
already damaged sites or ones that will be disturbed in the future.
4. I encourage Islanders to call me to see your sites if you are planning to dig/develop in
them. If at all possible, I will try and come by and we can figure out a game plan to
To me, a defining thing about being a Lasquetian is knowing that we are privileged to
live here and that it is our responsibility to look after this magical place. I am eager to
discuss with people about how we might best take care of our archaeological heritage.
Please call or email anytime.
Dana (333-8860, 604 929-6678, dlepofsk [at] sfu [dot] ca)