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Foundation Funds Study of Salish Village Development

The National Science Foundation will fund research into the development of permanent Coast Salish villages on islands in the Salish Sea.

Colin Grier, an archaeologist and assistant professor at Washington State University, has been awarded a $188,065, three-year NSF grant to collect and analyze data that may identify what caused these changes.

Grier hopes to explain how and why Coast Salish peoples transitioned from a nomadic life of gathering and hunting to form a complex society where people lived together in permanent communities, jobs became specialized, and a social class system emerged.

“Through the NSF grant we will attempt to find out how all of these changes happen in a region,” Grier said in an announcement of the award. “It really connects with the big question in anthropology about how societies made fundamental transformations and leaps of scale and resource production …”

Grier and a group of WSU graduate and undergraduate students will study Dionisio Point on the north end of Galiano Island in southwestern British Columbia. This group, joined by colleagues from Canada and members of the Penelakut First Nation, will continue an excavation of a longhouse that was inhabited more than 1,500 years ago. Data is being collected from debris in refuse piles and fire pits, animal bones, plant remains and stone tools. Some of those materials will be analyzed using radiocarbon dating; others will be the subject of genetic and isotopic analysis.