Analysis of archaeological settlement patterns in Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan
Friesen, Nathan Paul
The purpose of this study is to analyze archaeological settlement patterns within Grasslands National Park using Geographic Information Systems. Grasslands National Park is located in southwestern Saskatchewan along the international border and is split into West and East Blocks. The Park is primarily short grass prairie with the Frenchman River Valley running through the West Block and a system of north-south drainages running through the largely flatter grasslands of the East Block. Archaeological data for this study are derived from the results of an extensive survey of Grasslands National Park which recorded over 3000 surface sites. In addition to the survey, digital environmental data on topography, vegetation and soils were obtained from the Park for the purposes of analysis. Remote sensing data were used to conduct additional mapping of water sources. Analysis consisted of a statistical comparison of site and feature type distributions over classes of environmental data. Statistically significant results were interpreted within the framework of the archaeological context of southwestern Saskatchewan. The study found that specific feature types had particular relationships to topography and the environment. Sites with stone rings were often located in upland areas near seasonal water sources. An association between sites with stone rings and grasses which are preferred by bison for forage is particularly strong. As bison may have intensively occupied the Park area in the late spring to take advantage of late spring growth of some grasses, the Park may have been extensively used by people hunting bison in the spring and early summer. In general topography, distance from water, and vegetation type were all significant factors in the distribution of sites and feature types. It is hoped that this thesis has provided a case study for the use of Geographic Information Systems within the archaeology of the Northern Plains. The large body of survey data along with access to numerous environmental data sets has provided an excellent opportunity to analyse settlement patterns within the Canadian plains.