The Waatch River flows in a low valley that connects Neah Bay across the Olympic Peninsula to Makah Bay. When sea levels were higher, it would flood with sea water and turn Cape Flattery into an island. Interesting, then, to see that an old raised beach site has been found on the Waatch River at an elevation of about 13 metres above, and 2 km away from, the modern shoreline.
The site has been preliminarily excavated by old Ozette hands Jeff Mauger and Dave Huelsbeck, under the general oversight of Gary Wessen from the Makah Cultural Centre. A series of radiocarbon dates puts most of the occupation between 3,000 and 4,000 radiocarbon years ago. The site report from 2006 by Wessen is available for online download (2 meg PDF), while there is a very short item here – the PDF is the best source of information. There is one date of 4,300, from a part of the site which has seen little other excavation. The majority of the deposits are shell-rich, but Wessen notes that most of the non-shell strata are also cultural.
A large faunal sample has been recovered (Shellfish NISP > 30,000, Fish NISP > 6,000). Shellfish are dominated by Butter and Horse clams. Among fish, greenling are, perhaps surprisingly, the most abundant, followed by salmon and herring. Mammals are much less common, and are mainly sea mammal with Northern Fur Seal dominant. Unfortunately, the fish and mammal bone tables are missing from the report – there are placeholders for them. Birds are well represented by Scoter, ducks, gulls and albatross.
Two unusual finds are a probable turtle bone, and a fossil univalve, which Wessen concludes was brought to the site by people. The artifact assemblage includes the usual bone as well as a flaked stone assemblage (n=245), indicating this is not part of the “West Coast Culture Type”. A prominent part of the flaked stone is a bipolar industry on water-worn quartz pebbles, as seen at the nearby Hoko River site The two flaked stone projectile points were surface finds and do not have associated dates.
All in all, this is an intriguing site which should be better known, especially in comparison to sites of similar age now being found on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The sea level history appears to be quite different in detail from Vancouver Island, and the fact that the oldest date is from the least investigated part of the site offers hope there might be older material still to be found.
Wessen, Gary 2006. ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE TESTING ACTIVITIES AT 45CA400, MAKAH INDIAN RESERVATION, WASHINGTON. PDF