Tag Archives: reservoirs

The Marmes Rockshelter Site

View out of the Marmes Rockshelter site.

View out of the Marmes Rockshelter site.

The Marmes rockshelter in eastern Washington State (map) is one of the oldest and most significant archaeological sites in NW North America. In its inundation by reservoir waters, it is also one of the sadder stories.  Washington State University has put a large amount of Marmes material online, including several photo galleries of work in progress.

The site was found in the early 1950s on land owned by Roland “Squirt” Marmes (pronounced “Mar-muss”)  a local rancher, but it wasn’t until 1962 that a large scale excavation commenced.

Shovel Bums of the Old School

Shovel Bums of the Old School

In soon order, there was a series of sensational finds of artifacts, fauna and human remains.  The oldest of these dated to 10,750 radiocarbon years ago, or, about 12,700 solar years ago.  At the time, these were the oldest human remains known from the Americas, and the artifacts represented one of the oldest known sites and one that was, interestingly, markedly different from the Clovis Culture type especially in the number and style of large, stemmed projectile points.  Among the other artifacts were distinctive crescentic stone blades, this exquisite bone needle, beads made of Olivella shell, which must have come from the Pacific Ocean.    HistoryLink.org, Washington State’s online encyclopedia, has a good summary article, and the WSU links above also give much more detail.  Indeed, WSU has been doing some wonderful digitization of old projects, which I will highlight in posts to come.  Things I have learned include the ubiquity of pipe smoking in the earlier days of Washington Archaeology.  My only criticism of this wonderful resource is the lack of captions on the photo galleries.  Who are these people, for example; who is under these splendid war bonnets?  Take a moment to tell us in a caption, or the file name.

The story of the inundation of the site by rising river impoundment is also of interest. Continue reading