Ancient Shellfish Mariculture on the Northwest Coast of North America Journal Article uri icon



  • While there is increasing recognition among archaeologists of the extent to which non-agricultural societies have managed their terrestrial ecosystems, the traditional management of marine ecosystems has largely been ignored. In this paper, we bring together Indigenous ecological knowledge, coastal geomorphological observations, and archaeological data to document how Northwest Coast First Nations cultivated clams to maintain and increase productivity. We focus on “clam gardens,” walled intertidal terraces constructed to increase bivalve habitat and productivity. Our survey and excavations of clam gardens in four locations in British Columbia provide insights into the ecological and social context, morphology, construction, and first reported ages of these features. These data demonstrate the extent of traditional maricultural systems among coastal First Nations and, coupled with previously collected information on terrestrial management, challenge us to broaden our definition of “forager” as applied to Northwest Coast peoples. This study also highlights the value of combining diverse kinds of knowledge, including archaeological data, to understand the social and ecological contexts of traditional management systems.

publication date

  • April 1, 2015

has restriction

  • closed

Date in CU Experts

  • January 23, 2021 3:48 AM

Full Author List

  • Lepofsky D; Smith NF; Cardinal N; Harper J; Morris M; (Elroy White) G; Bouchard R; Kennedy DID; Salomon AK; Puckett M

author count

  • 11

Other Profiles

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0002-7316

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2325-5064

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 236

end page

  • 259


  • 80


  • 2