Archaeobotanical and soil chemistry investigation of a woodland site on Whitefish Lake, Northwestern Ontario
Barry, Jacqueline Kathleen
Master of Environmental Studies
DisciplineEnvironmental Studies : Northern Environments & Cultures
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Whitefish Lake is a large, shallow lake abundant in wild rice (Zizania palustris) that lies near the transitional zone between the Boreal Forest and Great Lakes-St. Lawrence forest regions of Northwestern Ontario. The lake exhibits extensive use during the Woodland period (150 BC- AD 1600) inferred from the lithic and pottery recoveries and the presence of burial mounds at several archaeological sites. The soils here are typical of those elsewhere in the Boreal Forest, characterized by poor organic preservation and disturbed, compacted stratigraphy thus limiting knowledge of plant use at many sites. On-going research from Whitefish Lake, particulary the Martin-Bird site (DbJm-5), is revealing aspects of paleoecology and human paleodiet in the absence of conventional lines of evidence through the analysis of plant microfossils, like starch and phytoliths. The objectives of this thesis are to further understand aspects of paleoecology and precontact land-use at the Martin-Bird site and to assess the utility of subtle lines of evidence at sites exhibiting poor organic preservation. A multi-proxy approach, combining the analysis of plant microfossils (starch, phytoliths, and charcoal) and soil chemistry (phosphorus) on soils from the site, is used to address these objectives. My thesis explores the information and land-use patterns that can be obtained from plant microfossils and soil chemistry analyses in the absence of organic lines of evidence, while providing a greater understanding of the Woodland period of the Eastern Woodlands culture history.