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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Campbell, Sarah K.

Second Advisor

Koetje, Todd A.

Third Advisor

Stevenson, Joan C.


Although archaeologists have long discussed the evolution of the social stratification and complex group interactions of the hunter-gatherer-fishers of the Northwest Coast (e.g. Matson and Coupland 1994; Ames 1994), few have examined the implied interactions between material culture and the development of complexity in the Gulf of Georgia postulated to have occurred approximately 2600 years ago. When viewed from a Darwinian perspective, specifically Boyd and Richerson's (1985) dual inheritance theory, the development of social stratification and systems of deference may influence the contexts of social learning. I hypothesize that prestige bias (Henrich and Henrich 2007) emerged as a factor in the social learning of technologies tied to systems of resource procurement and prestige-based status, as complexity developed. Barbed bone and antler points are examined in this analysis as a technology tied to these resource systems and prestige-based status. A total of 593 artifacts were examined from 56 archaeological sites from the collections at Western Washington University, the Burke Museum, the Royal British Columbia Museum, and Simon Fraser University. McMurdo's (1972) typology was used as a basis for the examination of attributes. Cladistics was employed using models developed by Eerkens and his coauthors. (2006) in order to detect prestige bias, represented by a branching phylogeny of descent with modification as opposed to a stochastic pattern. Dunnell's (1978) definition of stylistic and functional traits coupled with cluster analyses were utilized in the examination of attributes to select traits that would not result in a 'false' phylogenetic signal due to artifact functional constraints. In addition to examining the cultural transmission of barbed bone and antler points, the data set was also used to assess previous interpretations of artifact function (e.g. Carlson 1954). Four functional classes (retrievable points, fixed points, leisters, fish hooks) were constructed for this purpose and to determine if there were distinctions in metric attributes between classes. Variation within fixed points was also examined to determine if there were detectable distinctions in attributes hypothesized to be linked to functions such as a fish spears or arrow points (e.g. Carlson 1954, Clark 1975) such as barb morphology, crosssection, and base length. The cultural-historical significance of attributes such as the transition from bilateral to unilateral barb application and line attachments through time and the trend towards squared, enclosed, barbs in later periods were also assessed (Drucker 1943; McMurdo 1972). Cladistics analysis, using geographically and chronologically outlying assemblages as an outgroup, revealed a stochastic pattern of cultural transmission, implying highly individualized (guided variation) or peer based learning (horizontal transmission) rather than prestige bias. Cluster analyses demonstrate considerable geographic homogeneity in the morphological attributes of barbed points, indicating that similar barbed point styles were present throughout the Gulf of Georgia over the past 3500 years. Barb morphological attributes, as indicated by the frequencies of barb paradigmatic classes, also demonstrate considerable continuity over the past 3500 years. Clear distinctions were detected in the metric attributes of morphologically defined functional classes. Variation in the morphology of fixed points, indicative of possible function as a fish spear or bird arrow was also detected. Attributes McMurdo (1972) argued had culture-historic significance, with the exception of those tied to barb morphology, were found to be chronologically sensitive.




Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Digital Format


Geographic Coverage

Georgia, Strait of (B.C. and Wash.)


Academic theses




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