VICTORIA -- Update Sept. 13, 2022: Royal B.C. Museum apologizes after 2017 carving declared ancient Indigenous artifact

Update Jan. 29, 2021: A local carver is questioning the authenticity of the discovery. A follow-up story can be found here.

The Royal B.C. Museum says it has confirmed a carved stone pillar found at low tide on a beach in Victoria last summer is an Indigenous artifact.

The museum says in a news release it will work with the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations to determine the most suitable home for the pillar carved with the features of a face.

Archeology curator Grant Keddie says a local resident walking along the beach below Victoria's Beacon Hill Park found the stone last July and shared photos with Keddie, who brought it back to the museum.

The museum says conservation staff worked to protect the integrity of the stone, which was covered in algae and weighs about 100 kilograms, while members of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations were invited to assess it.

There is more to learn, but Keddie says it's likely a very special ritual stone pillar and could be the same one mentioned by Lekwungen elders to German-American anthropologist Franz Boas in the late 1880s.

Keddie says the location of the discovery matches Boas' description of that stone as being “not far” from the military gun batteries once found nearby.

Songhees Nation Chief Ron Sam says in the release that he's looking forward to learning much more about the exciting find, which is a “clear reminder of the long history of our people living in this region.”

Keddie speculates the pillar once stood near the edge of a cliff above the beach where it was found, until parts of the cliff came down in a landslide.

“It's very possible some of the recent winter storms may have moved (the stone) or at least exposed the carved section. Also, being covered in seaweed and only exposed on the lowest tide of the year it may have gone unnoticed for many decades,” Keddie says in a blog post on Wednesday.

Radio-carbon dating can only be done on organic items, he added, though oral and written histories can provide insight into the carved stone.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021.