Historic ceremonial pillar may be modern art

Last year, Canadian walkers discovered an interesting object along the shore of a lake in British Columbia. The object was so interesting, they contacted an archaeologist. Soon, more archaeologists and experts studied the fascinating discovery.

After consulting many experts, the Royal British Columbia Museum proudly announced the discovery was a lucky find. It was “an Indigenous artefact once used in rituals by the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations”. In a blogpost now removed, the carved stone was called “… a remarkable find with a remarkable story” and of “cultural significance”.

The museum mentioned the object must have played a role in ceremonies. It thought such ceremonies might have been say catching the first salmon, or rituals surrounding puberty. Perhaps the pillar might even have played a role in ceremonies having to do with feeding the dead.

Lekwungen pillar or carving by Ray Boudreau

Historical ceremonial pillar or modern work of art?

Mind: the object was a remarkable find.
Mind: the object remains of cultural significance.

However, when the story hit the headlines, local artist Ray Boudreau thought he recognized the object. It was one of his carvings. He stated he had created it roughly three years ago. He even had photos. Moreover other carvings he created are apparently gracing local shorelines.

The UK’s Observer mentions a fierce debate erupted. The paper found the artist was unavailable for comment, but a museum expert-artist was. It seems she told the Observer “We don’t know if the stone is in its original shape. We don’t know if Mr Boudreau started working on a stone that already had a carving on it. I think there’s a lot of questions and things I’d like to talk to him about.”

The good news is, that archaeologists will continue to examine the object with the help of the sculptor and First Nation representatives. For during the 19th century, there was a large settlement nearby. Stones carved by Lekwungen could be found in the area; though not around the lake in British Columbia, where the object was found.

It seems carved stones were used by the Lekwungen to ­influence the weather, ensure safety during food expeditions, or to create bad luck for enemies. The carving of stones seems to have continued well into the 20th century. Moreover, a carved pillar was “mentioned by Indigenous elders to an anthropologist in the late 1870s or 1880s”.

The jury remains out on this case. After all: the object was discovered last summer. The results of studying the object for the first time were announced in January this year. Likely, the experts will now be extra careful before drawing and announcing conclusions.

  1. Times Colonist, 27 January 2021, Darron Kloster: Stone pillar
  2. Times Colonist, 31 January 2021, Louise Dickson: Provenance of stone pillar in question
  3. Volkskrant Bart Dirks, 2 February 2021: Gevonden zandstenen kop
  4. Guardian,Leyland Cecco, 6 February 2021: Canadian museum’s ancient carving is one I made earlier.

Image used by Times Colonist; Volkskrant & other media shows the recovered object on the left and on the right “Boudreau’s photographs, with the date stamp Jan. 23, 2017”,


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