Archaeological Excavation

Tsimshian Society and Culture

Tsimshian Villages

From Time Immemorial:
Tsimshian Prehistory

Prince Rupert harbour View of Prince Rupert harbour.

This virtual exhibition presents findings of the North Coast Prehistory Project, carried out by the Museum to uncover archaeological information and tie it in with research done earlier by Harlan Smith, Marius Barbeau and William Beynon. Tsimshian prehistory is presented in a setting that includes an archaeological dig (reconstructed from a site near Prince Rupert harbour), an environment of forest and petroglyphs, and a display area rich in artifacts from the Tsimshian peoples of the north coast of British Columbia.

Harlan I. Smith conducted the first archaeological tests in the Prince Rupert area in 1910. Later, in 1915, Marius Barbeau, along with William Beynon, a Native scholar, began an ethnological research project, examining Tsimshian family histories and myths. Beynon continued his research up to 1957, and Barbeau until his death in 1967.

House Post - 70369 This house post figure is called "Whole-Being". He holds a fish club under his chin. Atop his head the large circular log once supported the roof structure.

Between 1966 and 1973, several of the roughly one hundred sites in the immediate area of Prince Rupert harbour were excavated under the leadership of Dr. George MacDonald.

The primary aim behind the reconstruction of an actual excavation at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec, was to demonstrate some of the methods and strategies used in field archaeology.

To provide a detailed picture of a prehistoric culture, the archaeologist must be able to interpret what he has found at the dig. This process of interpretation involves much more than merely examining what has been dug from the ground. The archaeologist reconstructs ancient cultures by interpreting what he has excavated in terms of what is known about living peoples.

Native oral history, artifacts, historical photos, and the archaeological excavation are woven together to tell the story of the Tsimshian people who have occupied Canada's north Pacific Coast for over 5,000 years.