Graduate Theses & Dissertations

Socio-Ecology and the Sacred
Within the complex socio-ecological systems of South and Southeast Asia, ancient sacred natural sites were created by, and imbued with, cultural and ideological values. These landscapes are liminal spaces or threshold environments between cultivated areas and wilder spaces; the practice of creating and maintaining them persists from ancient to modern times. This thesis examines sacred natural sites in three early state formations from 800 – 1400 CE: the Khmer (Cambodia), the Sinhalese (Sri Lanka) and the Chola (South India), why they persisted over time, and what significance they held. Several ancient sacred natural sites are active parts of societies today, and the ones chosen for this study span several categories: mountains, rivers, forests/groves, and caves. Using the paradigm of entanglement theory in a comparative context, this thesis analyzes sacred natural sites acting as key socio-ecological nodes enmeshed in complex dependent relationships within the landscapes of the South and Southeast Asia. Author Keywords: Comparative study, Entanglement theory, Sacred natural sites, Socio-ecological systems, South Asia, Tropical Societies
From Foraging to Farming
This study examines foraging strategies during the Middle Woodland Period’s Sandbanks Phase (A.D. 700–1000) on Boyd Island, Pigeon Lake, Ontario. The faunal remains analyzed in this study were recovered from a site associated with the procurement of aquatic and terrestrial taxa. Detailed taphonomic analyses have revealed that the Boyd Island faunal remains were affected by weathering and human transport decisions. White-tailed deer was the most frequently acquired prey at Boyd Island, followed by black bear. Using the central place forager prey choice model as a framework, the analysis of diet breadth and carcass transport patterns suggests that most animal resources were acquired from both aquatic and terrestrial habitats, at moderate distances from the site. Incomplete carcasses of large game appear to have been transported away from the site, where they were subsequently processed for provisioning or consumption. Comparisons with other Sandbanks faunal assemblages and those dating to later periods indicate significant differences in terms of taxonomic composition, while continuing to emphasize the use of fish. It is suggested that the Middle Woodland foragers adopted subsistence strategies focusing on the exploitation of local habitats in which productivity may have been enhanced through niche construction associated with the low-level food production activities. Author Keywords: animal resource exploitation, archaeozoology, foraging theory, Middle Woodland, niche construction theory, southcentral Ontario
Historical Ecology and Shifting Baseline Syndrome in the Kawartha Lakes, Ontario
Archaeological faunal data, historic records and documents and recent biological data are used to construct a historical ecology for Pigeon Lake, Ontario, focusing on fish exploitation. The faunal collections of twelve archaeological sites in the Kawartha Lakes are reviewed to examine pre-contact Indigenous fishing trends and comment on the historic presence, abundance and range of a number of indigenous fish species. A review of historic documents outlines environmental, industrial, and social changes that have played a role in changing the community structure of fish species in Pigeon Lake since the arrival of European settlers in the area. Additionally, interviews were undertaken with local anglers to explore evidence of shifting baseline syndrome (SBS) in modern populations. Finally, statistical tests were performed on the interview data to explore evidence of SBS, and found that SBS is effecting modern anglers perception of ecological change in Pigeon Lake. Author Keywords: Archaeology, Canadian History, Faunal Analysis, Fish, Historical Ecology, Shifting Baseline Syndrome
Agriculture as Niche Construction
The Neolithic Period (c. 6200 – 4900 BC) in the Struma River Valley led to numerous episodes of cultural diversification. When compared with the neighbouring regions, the ecological characteristics of the Struma River Valley are particularly heterogeneous and the Neolithic populations must have adapted to this distinctive and localized ecological setting. It then becomes reasonable to ask if the evolution of cultural variability in the Struma River Valley was at least partially driven by the ecological setting and differentiation in the evolution of the early agricultural niche. In this thesis, I apply an approach based on niche construction theory and Maxent species distribution modeling in order to characterize the relationship between culture and ecology during each stage of the Neolithic Period and to assess diachronic change. An interpretation of the results demonstrates that the continuous reconstruction of the early agricultural niche allowed for settlement expansion into new eco-cultural niches presenting different natural selection pressures and that cultural change followed. I also found that cultural and historical contingencies played an equally important role on the evolution of populations and that ecological factors alone cannot account for the numerous episodes of cultural diversification that occurred throughout the region. Author Keywords: Agriculture, Bulgaria, Eco-cultural Niche Modeling, Greece, Neolithic, Niche Construction
Cemeteries and Hunter-Gatherer Land-Use Patterns
The principle aim of this thesis is to evaluate the applicability of the Goldstein/Kelly hypothesis, which proposes that hunter-gatherer cemeteries emerge as a product of resource competition, and function to confirm and maintain ancestral ties to critical resources. My evaluation centres on a case study of the earliest known cemeteries of the middle Trent Valley, Ontario. To determine whether these predictions are true, I investigated the ecological context of local wetland-based foraging, and undertook a locational analysis to determine if the placement of cemeteries correlates with environmental characteristics that reflect the presence of valuable resources that are unique to these locations. The analysis reveals that ancient cemeteries in the middle Trent Valley were located near seasonal riparian wetlands, possibly to secure wild rice and the variety of fauna it attracts. Through the integration of paleoecological, archaeological, and ethnographic information for the region, this research finds support for the Goldstein/Kelly hypothesis. Author Keywords: Cemeteries, Hunter-Gatherers, Landscape Archaeology, Late Archaic, Middle Woodland, Ontario

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2011 - 2021
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