A comprehensive faunal analysis of Bushfield West (FhNa-10), Nipawin, Saskatchewan
Bushfield West (FhNa-l0) is a late precontact habitation site situated on a lower terrace of the Saskatchewan River valley near the town of Nipawin, in east central Saskatchewan. The site was discovered in 1976 by archaeologists from the Saskatchewan Research Council during an extensive environmental study of the Saskatchewan River valley between Nipawin and Thompson Island. The study was commissioned by the Saskatchewan Power Corporation in preparation for the construction of a 252 megawatt hydroelectric dam on the Saskatchewan River adjacent to the town of Nipawin. Construction of the facility did not begin until 1981 and in compliance with the Saskatchewan Heritage Property Act, Bill No. 88, the Saskatchewan Power Corporation funded the mitigation of heritage resources located in the dam construction site area, the reservoir area, and a 200 m wide buffer zone. Mapping, initial assessment, and salvage excavation of Bushfield West began in 1981 since the site was in immediate danger due to gravel quarrying activities on the northern edge of the flat by the Saskatchewan Department of Highways. The research potential provided by the extensive, largely undisturbed cultural deposit quickly became evident and the site was recommended for large scale mitigation in the summers of 1982 to 1984. Mitigation of the Bushfield West entailed the excavation of 624m2, uncovering numerous pieces of debitage, stone tools, ceramic sherds, bone tools, and over 100 kg of bone, as well as cultural features such as hearths, ash dumps, and rock pits. The artifact assemblage, particularly the ceramics, small side-notched projectile points, adze blades, barbed bone harpoons, bone whistles, shell beads and pendants, is characteristic of the Pehonan complex of the Selkirk Composite. Radiocarbon dates suggest that the occupation of the river terrace occurred at approximately A.D. 1600. The focus of this thesis is the description and analysis of the faunal material recovered from the three largest excavation blocks at Bushfield West, representing 529.5 m2 of the site (this does not include the fine-screen microfauna). Both are requirements for the interpretation of subsistence strategies and resource exploitation procedures carried out by the people who occupied Bushfield West. Altogether 108,135 animal bones were examined and eventually separated into unidentifiable bone fragments (93,545 pieces weighing 42.5 kg) and identifiable specimens (14,590 bones weighing 128.0 kg). A wide variety of mammal, bird, and fish resources are represented in the identifiable faunal material: bison, moose, elk, bear, canids, lynx, marten, badger, striped skunk, snowshoe hare, white-tailed jackrabbit, beaver, muskrat, red squirrel, swans, geese, teal, mallard, grouse, crane, sturgeon, northern pike, suckers, silver redhorse, shorthead redhorse, and walleye. Several factors suggest that Bushfield West was occupied in the spring of the year: most of the bird species represented at the site are spring migrants to the Nipawin region; the presence of medullary bone in some of the grouse elements; the recovery of eggshell fragments; the majority of fish species represented at the site are spring spawners; the presence of foetal and/or newborn ungulate specimens and juvenile beaver elements; and the eruption schedules and wear patterns of the bison mandibles. These are all strong indicators that the site was occupied in April, May and possibly as late as early June. The gender profile of the bison represented at the site is established using Walde's step-wise discriminant function analysis for long bone portions and Morlan's bimodiality measurements of carpals and tarsals. Economic utilization indices are used to interpret bison processing decisions. Cut marks, bone fragmentation, articulation units, and burning and calcining of large ungulate, medium-sized mammal, small-sized mammal and bird bones are described in order to identify butchering and dismemberment patterns. The results of this detailed examination of the faunal material contributes valuable information concerning the day to day activities of the occupants of Bushfield West.