Marpole Midden National Historic Site of Canada
Vancouver, British Columbia
(© Parks Canada/Parcs Canada 2008.)
73rd Avenue at Cartier Street, Marpole, Vancouver, British Columbia
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1892 to 1892
1955 to 1955
Event, Person, Organization:
Great Fraser Midden
Research Report Number:
1957 U.325-10-68, 2006-CED-SDC-020
Existing plaque: Marpole Park 73rd Avenue at Cartier Street, British Columbia
The excavation of this extensive midden by Charles Hill-Tout in 1892 stimulated archaeological study of other such prehistoric refuse heaps on the Pacific slope. Composed mainly of mollusk shells, the midden also contained stone and bone artefacts and skeletal remains of inhabitants of this early site, once at the mouth of the Fraser River. The culture evidenced here was present in the Fraser Delta from about 400 BC to AD 450 . Maritime orientation and wood-working skills of this Marpole phase culture also characterized later Northwest Coast cultures. By 1955 urban expansion obliterated midden remains.
Description of Historic Place
Marpole Midden National Historic Site of Canada is situated near the northern end of the Arthur Laing Bridge, at the southern edge of the city of Vancouver, British Columbia. This massive midden site contains remains of a Coast Salish winter village dating from the Marpole phase culture, as well as shellfish remains and various artifacts from early inhabitants of the site found in an average depth of 1.5 metres and a maximum depth of 4.6 metres, dating from 1500 to 2900 years ago. Other undisturbed deposits lie beneath much of the urban fabric covering the site. The official recognition refers to all or part of 26 numbered lots comprise in an irregular ellipse in the broad surroundings of the rectangle formed by Montcalm and Milton Streets, Marine Drive and the Canadian Pacific Railway right-of-way.
Marpole Midden was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1933 because: it is the site of one of the largest pre-contact middens on the Pacific coast of Canada.
The scientific value of Marpole midden lies on its invaluable informative contribution concerning the early occupation of the Fraser Delta and, especially, the Marpole phase culture. A vast, pre-contact debris area, the midden is mainly composed of rich shellfish deposits, which stand as evidence of its original placement beside the Georgia Strait at the mouth of the Fraser River. Westward growth of the Fraser Delta, through natural deposition, has relocated the site.
The midden also contains numerous cultural remains from its early native inhabitants, in particular those associated with the Marpole phase culture corresponding with the about 400 BCE to 450 CE period. Bone and stone implements, utensils and ornaments have been recovered through various archeological excavations. They testify to the maritime orientation and the highly developed woodworking skills, which characterized the the Coast Salish people, and also other later Northwest Coast cultures, such as the Musqueam. The excavation of this extensive midden led by Charles Hill Tout, in 1892, has stimulated archaeological study of other such prehistoric refuse heaps on the Pacific slope. By 1955, urban expansion had significantly altered the landscape of Marpole Midden, covering the site in homes, infrastructure and other typical urban features.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, 1933, 1977, 2007.
Key elements that contribute to the heritage character of the site include: its location alongside the Fraser River, at the northern end of the Arthur Laing Bridge, which at the time of occupation lay beside the Georgia Strait at the mouth of the northern arm of the Fraser River, on the Pacific Coast; the integrity and materials of as yet unidentified pre-contact archaeological remains that may be found within the site in their original placement and extent; the continued association of the site with pre-contact archaeological artifacts removed for research, and those in storage and on display to the public, including artefacts from early inhabitants of the site, and especially those dating from the Marpole phase culture, includingbone and stone implements, utensils and ornaments and shellfish remains; viewscapes from the site to the Fraser Delta.