The functional interpretation of quartz and amethyst artefacts from the Mackenzie I site (DdJf-9)
Bouchard, Stefan R.
Master of Environmental Studies
DisciplineEnvironmental Studies : Northern Environments & Cultures
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Mackenzie I is the largest excavated archaeological site that is attributed to the Lakehead Complex, the first known occupants of the area surrounding modern day Thunder Bay, Ontario. As such, it has garnered much academic interest, including the following research, which analyzes a specific portion of the lithic assemblage to identify the function of quartz and amethyst implements. The methodological approach follows a multi-analytical framework which relies on the strengths of various residue and use-wear techniques to compose the most well-rounded functional interpretations. These techniques include: low power incident light microscopy, high power incident light microscopy, solvent removal designed to capture a wide range of molecules, a variety of biochemical tests, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, high power transmitted light microscopy, and scanning electron microcopy. Since archaeological residue is often in a degraded state, in situ analysis was critical for describing and characterizing residue prior to removal to account for the likelihood that chemical analysis may not produce interpretable results for all artefacts. Despite the observed presence of residue, negative results are possible because the quantity and quality of the residue will differ between samples. In addition, the boreal forest is a harsh environment for the survival of organic material and thus all precautions must be taken to increase the chance that interpretable results are produced. The results from residue analysis were almost exclusively animal, indicating that animal processing was an important function at this site. Use-wear analysis confirmed that many of the analyzed artefacts were used and that functions were quite varied, even when morphological similarities were present. The artefacts themselves proved to be either expedient or informal, which was expected based on the presence of quartz at Lakehead Complex sites adjacent to known sources. Overall, this research proved that quartz and amethyst artefacts were used more frequently than previously understood, and this research is the first indication that amethyst could be used as a tool material by this culture. However, analysis concluded that there was no specific purpose behind the material’s use (i.e. the material was used for a variety of tasks), and thus it was likely not sought after for a specific task.