The Mass Grave at Kulleet Bay: Bioarchaeological Evidence of Human Catastrophe

Author(s): Colleen Parsley

Year: 2017


A mass grave of cremated individuals representing 15,353 comingled bone fragments representing 65 individuals was uncovered from the ancient Northwest Coast archaeological site of DgRw-17, a continuously occupied Stz’uminus First Nation village in Kulleet Bay. Cremation of multiple individuals buried in a mass grave is not an established burial tradition or mortuary practice of any Coast Salish community. Mass graves of comingled and cremated human remains may represent ossuaries or episodic catastrophic events.

Throughout time mass graves have had associations with disease outbreak, natural disaster, warfare, or genocide and invoke a transcendent icon of human catastrophe. A bioarchaeological study of the Kulleet Bay mass grave included the recording of all skeletal elements, pathologies, individual age, fragmentation and burn patterns to determine the MNI and whether any internal patterning of the placement of individuals in the grave was detectable. The results of the mortuary profile and radiocarbon dates of 2,400 CAL BP situated within the archaeological context suggest a major catastrophe occurred in Kulleet Bay at the transition from Locarno to Marpole cultural sequences.

This research was undertaken and funded by Stz’uminus First Nation and with funding contributions by a University of British Columbia Hampton Research Grant F15-01298

Cite this Record

The Mass Grave at Kulleet Bay: Bioarchaeological Evidence of Human Catastrophe. Colleen Parsley. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430620)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: -169.717; min lat: 42.553 ; max long: -122.607; max lat: 71.301 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17421