A Preliminary Study of Methods for Identifying Archaeological Sea Urchin Remains in the Pacific Northwest

  • Greg Campbell


The remains of sea urchins are common at archaeological sites in the Pacific Northwest, providing valuable data for marine biologists and for archaeologists interested in the use of marine resources by early inhabitants of this region. However, archaeological urchin
remains are typically fragmentary, limiting the applicability of traditional identification techniques. Methods have been developed recently to identify northeast Atlantic urchin remains to genus, to quantify the numbers harvested, to examine the manner in which
they were prepared and to reconstruct their population structure. These methods are tested on three species of Pacific Northwest Strongylocentrotus urchins (the sole shallow-water echinoid genus) and are shown to be useful for species discrimination.
Features on auricles and jaw elements, as well as the geometry of the jaws, may be characteristic of a particular species. In addition to permitting the identification of archaeological urchin remains, these distinguishing features may also shed some light
on specialization and adaptation among these sea urchin species.

Feature Article/Compte-rendu