David Pokotylo

Associate Professor

Relevant Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2019)
Exploring human dietary variation through stable isotope analysis of hair (2017)

This thesis explores the use of carbon, nitrogen and sulphur stable isotope analysis of modern and archaeological human hair as an indicator of human diets. The thesis is focused around three distinct research projects, two on modern, living humans and one on an archaeological population. The first project focuses on dietary variation among different populations in modern Ethiopia that share the same resource base but follow different economic and subsistence patterns. This research shows that economic and cultural patterns can cause very distinct and significant differences in diet among populations with access to the same resources. The second project uses data from modern Nicaraguan villagers to explore variability in isotopic signatures among demographic groups within one population. The data reveal significant differences among demographic groups, but the absolute differences are quite small, indicating that it is necessary to have a large sample size to determine isotopic differences within a population. The third project is an archaeological case study presenting the first serial isotopic analysis of human hair from the Basketmaker II (BMII) midden at the site of Turkey Pen Ruins on Cedar Mesa, in south-eastern Utah. These data show potential seasonality of diet at the site, with variations in the amount of C₄ protein being contributed to the diet. Together these projects contribute to our understanding of how different scales of dietary variation can be interpreted and approached through isotopic analysis of human hair. The studies also show the applicability of both intra-individual and inter-individual isotopic analysis of human hair to our understanding of modern and ancient diets.

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The political economy of stone celt exchange in pre-contact British Columbia : the Salish nephrite/jade industry (2012)

This study investigates patterns of trade and exchange in pre-contact British Columbia through spatial and mineralogical analyses of stone celts and celt production debris with specific focus on celts made of nephrite/jade. More specifically, I explore the hypothesis that emerging elites in British Columbia controlled or manipulated aspects of the production-exchange cycle of stone celts to gain profit and prestige. This research is framed according to concepts of political economy as applied to the study of archaeological remains, focusing on the social organization of labor and how wealth was generated and distributed within past societies. A sample of 2029 relevant artifacts were identified and analyzed using a near-infrared (NIR) spectrometer to determine their mineralogy, to statistically correlate those made of nephrite to their place of manufacture, and these results were analyzed spatially using GIS mapping techniques. Through these analyses 6 distinctive regions were identified based on unique reliance on celts made of particular raw materials and were interpreted as separate interaction spheres. I hypothesize that such interaction spheres were at least partially structured by integration of disparate groups at seasonal trade fairs where celts, among many other goods were exchanged. It was found that nearly all celts on the Salish Sea and the Canadian Plateau were made in two discrete localities along the Fraser River. While there was considerable potential for elites to intensify the production of stone celts, there is little archaeological evidence that they did so. The exchange of functional celts on the Salish Sea may have been mediated or directed by either elites or specialist woodworkers, but such evidence is equivocal. I hypothesized that the patterns celt distribution by site on the Salish Sea could be in part accounted for by the existence of high and low status winter villages – perhaps a two-tier settlement hierarchy. On the Canadian Plateau, large non-utilitarian celts appear to have had predominantly social, rather than functional roles, and were integrated into a widespread system of elite interaction.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
The Hummingbird Creek archaeological site : an ancient hunting camp in Alberta’s central Rockies, Canada. (2018)

This thesis focuses on the significance of the Hummingbird Creek site (FaPx-1), a pre-contact archaeological site occupied between ~2,500 to 1,000 years ago, in the Alberta Rocky Mountains. This site yielded approximately 1,400 stone artifacts, including throwing spear (atlatl) projectile points, hide scrapers, expedient knives and production debris. I use geochemical (Portable X-Ray Fluorescence, pXRF) and mineralogical (Raman Spectroscopy) analytical methods on artifacts and source samples. I compared samples from local rock, and material gathered from a nearby procurement area, Pineneedle Creek, with artifacts found at FaPx-1. Carbonate diagenesis, and silica (SiO2) content were key attributes of artifacts, and we successfully associated some artifacts from FaPx-1 with Pineneedle Creek material. I infer that the local rock around FaPx-1 was virtually ignored, perhaps because of very low silica content. Based on expectations made through ethnographic examples of other montane hunter-gatherers, the material culture from FaPx-1 likely represents a specialized hunting camp; intended for staging hunting expeditions to areas known to yield successful hunts. Local Stoney First Nation traditional place names and oral accounts corroborate the interpretations of archaeological data and emphasize the need for Indigenous perspectives in Rocky Mountain archaeology in Alberta. This thesis incorporates material culture and geological analysis with a land-use and traditional knowledge interpretation and emphasizes the need for Indigenous perspectives in archaeological research.

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Ethnographic perspectives on Laxyuup Gitxaala (2012)

No abstract available.

Delineation of site chronology and spatial components using macroscopic lithic analysis at DhRp-52 (2010)

This thesis summarizes the results of an analysis of stone tools from site DhRp-52 to determine differences and similarities between its spatial and temporal components. DhRp-52 was an inland/riverine settlement that spanned approximately 2,500 years of occupational history contemporaneous with the Old Cordilleran Culture to the Locarno Beach Phase. My research analyzed stone tools to distinguish site components and structural features through time and in space, assessed similarities and differences between structures and their associated non-structural areas, evaluated the presence of three temporal components at the site, interpreted site use through assemblage structure variation, and attempted to understand how the site fit within the regional chronology. These analyses demonstrated that in most cases, stone tool assemblages reflected differences between site components through time (stratigraphy) and space (inside and outside structures). Statistically significant differences were detected between the structural and non-structural zones in the most recent and upper-most component of the site and between the three temporal components, but not in the middle component between non-structural and structural zones. These findings suggested two conclusions: 1) spatial partitioning was more prominent in the Late Component than the Middle Component, and 2) three occupational components identified by stratigraphy and radiocarbon dates were substantiated by tool assemblage variation. A comparison between DhRp-52’s three temporal components and the Glenrose Cannery and Crescent Beach sites determined that although major hallmarks of lithic technological change relating to regional chronology were observed at both sites and their respective components, DhRp-52’s temporal deposits cannot be assigned to the Old Cordilleran Culture, Charles Culture or Locarno Beach Phase at this time. This research at DhRp-52 contributes to the overall understanding of early human settlement in the lower Fraser River Valley and to our understanding of regional chronology. It suggests how resources other than intensive salmon harvesting may have facilitated early intensive settlement in the region, monitors lithic technological change through time in the Fraser River Valley, and how lithic assemblage composition can vary at different locations within the Gulf of Georgia region.

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