Archaeological Science on Haida Gwaii.
So I’ve never posted job ads here before and I may never do so again, but there are two ones posted right now with a lot of potential for readers of this blog: one is an archaeological position with the Council of the Haida Nation (PDF), the other a tenure track position in archaeological sciences at Washington State University.
Posted in Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, First Nations, Haida Gwaii, Northwest Interior, Northwest Coast, Teaching, Uncategorized, Washington State
Tagged Archaeology, CHN, Council of the Haida Nation, CRM, Cultural Resource Management, Haida Gwaii, jobs, Washington State University, WSU
Duwamish composite stone anchor. Source: UW.
I was talking the other day about how under-represented organic technology is in archaeology generally, and especially on the Northwest Coast, where the old adage is that 95% of the technology was made out of plants (trees, wood, bark, roots, grasses, seaweeds). A classic example of this phenomenon are anchor stones and sinker stones. While some of these stones had grooves or perforated holes (and are thereby very visible and durable in the archaeological record), many may have been made by the more simple, subtle and expedient method of simply wrapping line or basketry around an unmodified rock. When the organic component rots away, as it will most of the time, then the archaeologist has, well, an unmodified rock.
Anyway, it was a lucky stroke for my current interest that I came across the above photo from the University of Washington Digital Archives.
Posted in Archaeology, Northwest Coast, Technology, Washington State
Tagged Archaeology, Duwamish, Hoko River, organic technology, reef netting, Technology, underwater archaeology, waterlogged sites, wet sites
CT slice through Mastodon rib exposing bone point profile. Source: Waters et al. 2011.
For a long time, the Manis Mastodon site near Sequim, Washington was the elephant in the room of the Northwest Coast early period. The apparent bone point embedded in a mastodon rib was seemingly hard to explain by any non-cultural means, yet maddeningly short of definitive proof, and so was politely ignored. The point has always been a thorn in my side too, which is why I have posted on it three times, once over a year ago, and twice recently.
Maybe I am a bit obsessed with it because if I rise gently from my sofa in Blog World Headquarters, being careful not to spill fine single malt on my pyjamas, then through my window I can see Sequim in the extreme distance, seemingly mocking me.
So all the more cathartic that today, with the publication of a convincing re-analysis of the mastodon rib by Michael Waters et al. in the respected journal Science, we can say that the site is, indeed, evidence of humans hunting Mastodon on the Northwest Coast 13,800 years ago. That’s about eight hundred years pre-Clovis. Like I said before: it’s real. It’s old. It’s on the coast. Wow.
Posted in Archaeology, Northwest Coast, palaeontology, Washington State
Tagged Archaeology, clovis, coastal route, first peopling, Manis, Manis Mastodon, paleoindian, pre-clovis
Image from the Mammoth Trumpet. Source: CSFA. Click to enlarge somewhat.
While we wait patiently for the definitive word on the rumoured exciting new developments regarding the 14,000 year old, pre-Clovis Manis Mastodon site near Sequim, Washington, I thought it was worth a new post to pass on an article a regular reader of this blog brought to my attention.
The Center for the Study of the First Americans, the same organization who is now re-analysing Manis Mastodon, have for many years published a very informative newsletter they call the Mammoth Trumpet. Some of the early issues are online, including one which has a 1987 report on the Manis site(PDF). I had not seen this before (the whole archives are worth a post on their own) and the article has some interesting information, including the picture above.
Screenshot of Manis news from the website of the Center for the Study of First Americans. Click to go to page.
[October 20 edit: Manis article now out in Science, my post here.]
Quite a while ago I posted about some of the frustrations I felt about the Manis Mastodon site, near Sequim on the Olympic peninsula. This 1970s find of a Mastodon skeleton had one singularly enigmatic feature: there appeared to be the broken tip of a bone point embedded in one of its ribs. As I wrote before: yank that sucker out! – so we can determine for sure if this is a human made artifact dating to the same age as the Mastodon – about 14,000 years ago. Being well pre-Clovis and right near the coast, this find would be of profound importance to our archaeological understanding of the first arrival of people into the Americas. Now, as you can read above, there is an intriguing hint that Manis has finally been re-examined, and found to be a legitimate Pleistocene archaeological site. It’s real. Wow.
Posted in Archaeology, Northwest Coast, palaeontology, Washington State
Tagged bone technology, clovis, first peopling, Manis, mastodons, pre-clovis, Sequim, zooarchaeology
The Aldergrove Glacial Erratic. source: geocaching.com
This is something a little different, leading to something cool: the NW Geology Blog has assembled quite a few self-guided geological fieldtrips, mostly in the Seattle to Vancouver corridor. There are two in the Fraser Valley: the Aldergrove glacial erratic, and the Shasta erratic in Coquitlam. The other BC field trip is to the recent, massive debris flow at Capricorn Creek.
But it was one of the Washington State trips which caught my eye though: a trip to a formation of Stilpnomelane at Blanchard Mountain, Skagit County, near Bellingham Washington. The reason this caught my eye: the formation is intersected by massive, green chert beds.
The Skagit River Atlatl. Image © UBC Museum of Anthropology, Photographed by Derek Tan. CC Licenced.
, or spear thrower, is a device used to increase the velocity, and hence range or striking power, of a projectile. These are usually made of wood or other organic material, and hence they seldom survive in the archaeological record. Some years ago though, one was dragged up in a fishing net from waterlogged conditions in the Skagit River estuary in northern Washington State near Anacortes. As the UBC Museum of Anthropology describes
Made of yew, a hard yet flexible wood, the weapon survived 1,700 years buried in alluvium in the Skagit estuary until it was dredged from these silts by a seine fisher’s net in 1939 in the Lower Skagit between Townhead Island and Bald Head Island. It is believed that it hung in a fish shed, perhaps to dry slowly thus preventing some deterioration, until archaeologists became aware of it in the 1950’s.
Rather incongruously, the Southwest Archaeology blog Gambler’s House has had two in-depth posts about this artifact, here and here. It’s worth reading both as they give excellent background and tons of links.
Mossback's column at Crosscut.com
Some time ago I mentioned Seattle’s reporter on the “Heritage Beat”, Knute Berger, who posts by the name Mossback. Over the summer, while I was gone, mossback produced a really to-the-point column on heritage preservation: Help wanted: A ‘Sierra Club’ for historic preservation to fight development. Unusually for heritage conservation advocates, Mossback cares as much about indigenous archaeology as about historic buildings, and he does a terrific job writing about both. Take for example, the following quote, from the above article, which speaks to many of the same issues currently plaguing the Glenrose Cannery site (it’s long, so you’ll have to click below):
One of the East Wenatchee Clovis Points. Source: Washington State Historical Society.
A few months ago I posted about the surface finds, or other finds without archaeological context, of the Clovis archaeological culture in Puget Sound, noting that this shouldn’t be all that surprising considering the well-known East Wenatchee (Richey-Roberts) Clovis Cache from just east of the Cascades. Clovis, as you may know, is an archaeological culture type long associated with the first peopling of the Americas, although a decreasing number of archaeologists think it reflects that series of events.
Anyway, you can review that other post for more details. What I’ve subsequently found is that the Washington State Historical Society has a colour gallery of all 49 of the artifacts from East Wenatchee. The pictures are not particularly high resolution but they are well-taken and well-lit and better than most you’ll find on the web. You can match the projectile points up to this diagram if you are feeling keen, or compare to the pictures at the lithic casting lab, some of which have hands and other useful sizing aids in them.
Even so, since they were scanned from 4 X 5 inch format negatives, it’s disappointing there is no higher resolution downloadable. For a fringe interest like this, and considering that bandwidth is practically free, let’s make this stuff available. You can click on the view options to, for example, see both sides of the artifact displayed at once. It’s also very surprising that there is no photo scale and dimensions are not given.
"Native American encampment on landfill, circa 1900, south of South Royal Brougham Way and east of First Avenue South." Source: crosscut.com
At the ASBC talk last night it was clear that major industrial development can still leave substantial and highly significant archaeological materials interspersed even within the boundaries of heavy impact – in this case within a few dozen metres of a major hydroelectric dam. This reminded me of a recent story I read about downtown Seattle archaeology. Due mainly to concerns about what would happen in even a moderate earthquake comparable to the Nisqually event of 2001, Seattle is planning to replace the Alaska Way viaduct – that multi-level highway which blocks the city from its own waterfront. You can watch a video of a simulation of the collapse of the viaduct here – I am sure most Seattlers would like to be done with that uncivic monstrosity, but not, perhaps, so suddenly. Ironically, the ASBC talk on Ruskin Dam was also a seismic upgrade project.
Anyway, the current plan in Seattle is to put a cut-and-cover tunnel in its place – similar to some of the tunnels recently built in Vancouver’s new Canada Line LRT. Crosscut.com’s Archaeology-savvy reporter “Mossback” (Knute Berger) has two excellent articles on the problems likely to arise when you dig such a large ditch through dense pre-contact and historic archaeology. The first article ran on May 11th, with the followup article on May 12th. If you are truly dedicated, there is a 200 page overview (6 meg PDF) of cultural resource management for the project, though it largely focuses on historic buildings and it relatively vague.
Posted in Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, history, Northwest Coast, Washington State
Tagged Archaeology, Duwamish, historical archaeology, history, industrial archaeology, Puget Sound, Seattle, Suquamish, Urban archaeology, Washington State