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Contingency and Agency in the Growth of Northwest Coast Maritime Economies

Aubrey Cannon
Arctic Anthropology
Vol. 35, No. 1, North Pacific and Bering Sea Maritime Societies: The Archaeology of Prehistoric and Early Historic Coastal Peoples (1998), pp. 57-67
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40316456
Page Count: 11
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Contingency and Agency in the Growth of Northwest Coast Maritime Economies
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Abstract

Zooarchaeological data suggest that the inception and apparent intensification of Northwest Coast fishing economies were not the result of simple necessity arising from population growth and environmental depletion, or of enhanced opportunity based on resource productivity. Faunal evidence from the site of Namu, British Columbia, indicates that sedentary settlement, intensive salmon production, and shell midden formation were independent developments, not directly associated with increased salmon productivity or human population growth. Increased storage capacity, contingent on development of plank housing, and social feasting and competition are considered as alternative explanations for the intensification of salmon fishing. The possibility that increased shellfish collection might have been the result of reduction in the incidence of paralytic shellfish poisoning, enhanced storage capacity, and competition in collection activities is also considered. Discussion of research priorities for the investigation of maritime adaptations suggests a need to focus on local and regional environmental opportunities ahead of the global concerns of material necessity or the particular effects of human agency.

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