One of the largest and most important challenges faced by the
modern world is that of food security, which is having reliable access to a
sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. This is becoming
increasingly difficult to provide for everyone around the world as our
populations continues to grow to enormous numbers, as of writing the population
currently stands at 7,593,980,000; 200,000 more than yesterday. With
populations set to reach 10 billion by 2055, which is believed to be the
current carrying capacity of the planet more innovative solutions must be found
to produce more food in a sustainable way. In this essay I will be looking at
how archaeology can pull its weight in the modern world, by assessing the processes
and solutions which past human populations used to over come their own food challenges
using both coastal and oceanic ecosystems and how this can be used to inform
and tackle present day issues.

One example of a site in which past human civilisations have had
an impact on their local oceanic environment is that Kwakshua Channel, between
the islands of Calvert and Hecate, located on the central coast of British
Columbia in Canada. The channel is 12km long, mostly consisting of rocky intertidal zone and deep waters. There also a number
calm, sheltered inlets along the western end of the channel, these sheltered
inlets provide comparatively shallow water and soft sediment beaches which are
ideal clam habitat. This clam habitat enabled multiple species of clams to
thrive in the British Columbia area, such as butter clams, eastern soft-shell
clams, native littleneck clams, horse clams and heart cockles. Together with
this productive shellfish habitat, at the entrance to the inlet stretching up
to 1km out into the ocean is the rocky intertidal and the extremely productive
tidal kelp forest habitat, which was home to a large variety of fish such as lingcod,
rock fish and greenling. (Jackley
et al. 2016.) The archaeological context of the site is that past
societies have been living along the British Columbian coast continuously since
at least 10,000 B.P. These societies have been exploiting the abundant food
sources from both the variety of oceanic habitats and species, and the seasonal
terrestrial animals. (Jackley et al. 2016.) Evidence for this exploitation comes
through the use of faunal analysis of shell middens found along the Kwakshua
Channel, this analysis indicated that there was a large range of fish, marine
mammals and shellfish consumed by these societies. The shellfish found consisted
of mainly of butter clams, native littleneck
clams, horse clams, cockles, whelks, sea urchins, barnacles, limpest, mussels,
and chitons. (Jackley
et al. 2016.) From the faunal remains recovered there was a strong
indication that the clam harvest at Kwakshua Channel was seasonal, and varied
in number between the four larger village sites and the food processing sites,
meaning that the area was highly populated, and that the area had abundant
amounts of food available. Which may have been caused by the modifications
which were made to some beaches to create clam gardens, increasing the biomass
of the clams produced in these gardens.

Research conducted by (Jackley
et al. 2016.) shows the types of modifications which past human
societies of British Columbia undertook to improve the yield of food they were
able to achieve from the local clam species, through the use of clam gardens,
which from the faunal evidence gathered through excavating the shell middens
found around multiple sites along the Kwakshua channel we can tell was an
important seasonal resource for these peoples. Jackley recorded 8 clam gardens,
3 cleared clam beaches which did not have modified walls, and were in fact
altered by having the stones removed, as a result of which meant that there were
less favourable conditions on these beaches for clams than on the modified
walled clam gardens. 16 completely unmodified beaches were also recorded. There
were a number of physical differences found between walled and non-walled clam
beaches, the clam gardens were mostly found to be located at the edges and at
the mouth of the multiple inlets which come off the Kwakshua Channel, the
slopes were also different between the two types of clam habitat, with the walled
clam gardens having a gentler slope whilst the unwalled beaches were steeper.
The sediment composition was also different between the sites with the clam
gardens mostly containing shell hash mixed with gravel. The unaltered beaches
in contrast mostly consisted of silt and mud, with a steep gradient into the
water. (Jackley et al.
2016.)

 

 (Figure 3, Jackley et al. 2016.)

 

The modification which past
human societies made to create these clam gardens made a significant differece
to the availiablilty of food, which enabled them to live in greater numbers and
continuesouly at this site for over 10,000 years. Evidence collected by (Jackley et al. 2016.) shows that a greater biomass of
butter clams and littleneck clams were present in the walled clam gardens than
in the unaltered beaches, this was due to tidal stations being further up the
beaches in the walled clam gardens, than in those without walls. The extended rock wall meant that the optimum clam
growing habitat was extended beyond what would occur naturally, at the unaltered
beaches. The removal of the other habitats at the less suitable  beaches would mean that the clams would move
to the more suited managed clam gardens, meaning harvesting was easy,
increasing yields further. Jackley found
that the amount of biomass and the density of all clam species found at the sites
were higher in the walled clam gardens.

Ethnographic sources from the
native populations of the British Columbian coast suggests that past human
societies of the areas including Kwakshua Channel had territorial areas which
could only be fished/exploited at certain times and these areas would move to
allow stocks to replenish, this meant that no area was too heavily exploited to
the extent that the ecosystem could not recover. (Olson 1955, Jackley et al. 2016.) This sustainable practice is something which must be adopted by
present day societies, food security is a challenge which will continue to become
more important as the modern-day population continues to increase, with a net increase
of over 200,000 per day, hunger will begin to be the greatest problem faced by
the modern world. There are currently over 820,000,000 undernourished people in
the world, to combat this many people believe that mass farming is the
solution, however this is damaging to the environment in several ways, firstly
thousands of hectares of jungle is cut down daily to create farm land, this cause
loss of habitat for animal species whilst also reducing the amount of CO2 which
is taken in and removed from the atmosphere. Secondly, with intensive cattle
farming being used to provide protein for the increasing population large
amounts of CO2 are being produced, causing global temperatures to rise,
increasing the rate at which our icecaps are melting. These all have major implications
on present day society, which I believe by looking at ways in which past human
societies dealt with similar problems could be upscaled using modern technology
to both increase the amount of food yielded, but by also producing this food in
a more sustainable way.

The ways in which both the
terrestrial and oceanic resources on the central coast of British Columbia were
sustainably managed for prolonged human usage was through the systematic use of
territoriality and governance which has been in placed for generations. This
respect for regulated seasonal harvesting periods, and for allowing the land
and ocean to recover by moving on to other rested areas of the coast has meant
that large populations have been able to thrive in the central coast region for
10,000 years. This can also be seen in the species which are fished, as
different species would also be caught at different times, allowing populations
to re-stabilise, making sure than future generations would be able to continue
to hunt and fish the area. (Powell 2012).  The evidence from the increased biomass carried
out by Jackley shows that restricted usage, seasonal exploitation and the
modification and improvement of clam gardens meant that they could continue to
survive in large numbers. This could have implications for modern societies as
it shows that diversity in the food we produce can help to stop the
monocultures and monocrops which reduce biodiversity and cause species
depletion. Introducing heavier regulations, as indigenous people of British
Columbia have been doing for generations, on which fish/fishing areas could be
caught would allow fish stocks to replenish back to healthy levels, allowing
more fish to be caught and consumed in the future, reducing the amount of people
living without food security whilst increasing the sustainability of the
industry.