Bryn Letham

Research Key Words:

Northwest Coast archaeology and anthropology; geoarchaeology; landscape and settlement archaeology; coastal archaeology; paleoenvironmental reconstruction; sea level change; hunter-gather studies; archaeological survey methods; political theory; identity and border studies; Middle Eastern and Central Asian history and geopolitics


PhD Research:

My current research focuses on the intersections of human settlement and shoreline change, both ‘naturally-‘ and ‘culturally-‘ driven, since the end of the Pleistocene in the Prince Rupert Harbour region, British Columbia.  This work involves reconstructing the relative sea level history of the area using a range of geological and geoarchaeological methods in order to survey for archaeological sites associated with paleoshorelines to understand how people occupied a dynamic coastal landscape of shifting shore elevations.  I also explore massive village sites from the latter half of the Holocene that are large mounds of human-deposited marine shells as being monumental constructions that are themselves dramatic modifications of shoreline landforms.

I also conduct research on the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia, where I look at settlement patterns, mortuary archaeology, the production and exchange of hundreds of thousands of very tiny ground stone disc beads…

I have also volunteered with colleagues working in Jordan for several years on a major excavation of an Epipaleolithic site of Kharaneh IV in the eastern desert of the country and a survey for early Neolithic settlements in the wadis of the northwestern portion of the country.


B.A. Honour’s, Anthropology, University of British Columbia, 2008
Using Percussion Coring to Explore the Developmental Sequence of a Large Norther Northwest Coast Village
An in-depth study of a large shell-bearing village site on the Dundas Islands (GcTr-8) through the use of intensive percussion coring to mat the stratigraphy and sub-surface of the entire site.  A model for the 7000+ year occupation of the space of the site is proposed.
M.Sc., Anthropology, University of Toronto, 2011
The results and analysis of a two year survey project in Salmon and Narrows inlets, north of the town of Sechelt on the Sunshine Coast, BC.  The overall settlement system of sites in the inlets is discussed in terms of the ecological, economic, ritual, and political factors that shapes it.  Specifically, it is argued that the inlets were used for spring-fall habitation in formalized settlements that were spatially limited by the sparse amount of habitable landforms in the steep inlets, but that clustered around the narrow ‘access points’ into the inlet system in order to control the flow of people, goods, and information through the region.  A second preference for site clustering was in sheltered bays with extensive tidal flats and around limited communally controlled resource patches.  It is suggested that this system produced a multi-layered inlet community identity that was partly negotiated and maintained through the controllability offered by the narrow inlet landscape.
PhD Supervisor: Andrew Martindale

Coupland, Gary, David Bilton, Terence Clark, Jerome S. Cybulski, Gay Frederick, Alyson Holland, Bryn Letham, and Gretchen Williams. 2016. A Wealth of Beads: Evidence for Material Wealth-Based Inequality in the Salish Sea Region, 4000-3500 Cal. B.P.. American Antiquity 81(2): 294-315.

Letham, Bryn. 2014. Settlement and Shell-Bearing Site Diversity in the Seschelt Inlet System, British Columbia.  Canadian Journal of Archaeology 38(1):280-328.

Letham, Bryn, Andrew Martindale, Duncan McLaren, Thomas Brown, Kenneth M. Ames, David J.W. Archer, and Susan Marsden. 2015. Holocene Settlement History of the Dundas Islands Archipelago, Northern British Columbia. BC Studies 187:51-84.

Martindale, Andrew and Bryn Letham. 2011. Causalities and Models within the Archaeological Construction of Political Order on the Northwest Coast of North America. In The Archaeology of Politics: The Materiality of Political Practice and Action in the Past, edited by P.G. Johansen and A.M. Bauer, pp. 323-353. Cambridge Scholars Press, Cambridge.
Martindale, Andrew, Bryn Letham, Duncan McLaren, David Archer, Meghan Burchell, and Bernd Schone. 2009. Subsurface Mapping of Shell Midden Components through Percussion Coring: Examples from the Dundas Islands. Journal of Archaeological Science. 36:1565-1575.
Conference Presentations:
Bilton, David, and Bryn Letham.  2011.  Beyond the River: A Look at the Intersections of Lansacape and Culture in shíshálh Prehistory.  Paper presented at the Society for American Archaeology Annual Meeting in Sacramento, California, April.
Letham, Bryn.  2008.  Shifting Lanscapes, Shifting Habitations: Exploring the Developmental Sequence of a Shell Midden Using Percussion Coring.  Paper presetned at the Northwest Anthropology conference in Victoria, British Columbia, April.
—.  2010.  What Happened Here Before: Remembering and Imagining the Significance of Places on the Northwest Coast of British Columbia.  Paper presented at the Canadian Archaeological Association 43rd Annual Meeting in Calgary, Alberta April 28-May 2.
—. 2015.  A Refined Relative Sea Level Curve and Paleoshoreline Modelling for the Prince Rupert Harbour Region.  Paper presented at the Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting in San Francisco, April 15-19.
Letham, Bryn, and David Bilton.  2013.  Settlement History and the Cultural Landscape of shíshálh Territory, Northern Salish Sea.  Paper presented at the Society of American Archaeology 78th Annual Meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii, April 3-7.
Martindale, Andrew, and Bryn Letham.  2008a.  Subsurface Mapping of Shell Midden Components through Percussion Coring: Examples from the Dundas Islands.  Paper presented at the Society of American Archaeology 73rd Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, March 26-28.
—2008b.  Regional Patterning and Cultural History on the Dundas Islands.  Paper presented at the Society of American Archaeology 73rd Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, March 26-28.
Conference Posters:
Letham, Bryn.  2008.  Using Percussion Coring to Explore the Developmental Sequences of a Northwest Coast Shell Midden.  Poster presented at the Canadian Archaeological Association 41st Annual Meeting in Peterbourough, Ontario, May 7-11.
Letham, Bryn, Andrew Martindale, Kenneth Ames, and Kisha Supernant.  2014.  Kitandach (GbTo-34) Revisited: Using Percussion Coring to Explore an Large Shell-Bearing Site in the Prince Rupert Harbour, British Columbia, Canada.  Poster Presented at the Society for American Archaeology 79th Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas, April 23-27.