Virtual Museum of Canada (VMC)

Wet Site

A wet site is an archaeological site under water. The Qithyil wet site lies along the shore of the Harrison River beside the ancient village site. During the spring, when the river is high, the rushing water washes away chunks of the muddy bank. It reveals the old belongings from the village. We rescued as many of these belongings as possible—before the river could wash them away forever.

Underwater sites preserve tools made from wood, roots, and other organic plant parts. At Qithyil, these include pieces of baskets, rope and string, fish hooks, and a wooden knife handle. These belongings date between 750 and 1200 years old. They would have been used in the daily lives of our ancestors.

The baskets, made from red cedar, are made in different styles. We found parts of the handles, rims, and pieces of baskets. The baskets may have been “utility” baskets for carrying things—like we use shopping bags today. Utility baskets were used to carry fish and gather many other foods.

The most exciting find was a kw’éts’tel fish knife. This knife blade is made of a thin stone called slate. It was sharpened using a sandstone abrader or grinding stone. The yew wood handle was glued onto the stone blade using pine pitch. Another artifact found was a fish hook with its tip broken off made of white pine wood. Our ancestors would have fished right at this site. Salmon swim upriver, resting near the shore. Once caught, the kw’éts’tel was used to cut and clean the fish for cooking or smoking for the winter.