Tag Archives: Seattle

More on Puget Sound Clovis

From near Seattle, the Yukon Harbor Clovis Point. Source: LeTourneau 2010

Some time ago, I made a post illustrating that Clovis projectile points are known from a number of undated contexts in Puget Sound.  Most of these are surface finds, though a couple were buried in or under wetland deposits.  These were largely under the archaeological radar until Croes et al. briefly summarized the data within a book chapter on Puget Sound Projectile Points.  One of the wetland finds was from Yukon Harbor on the Kitsap Peninsula, across Puget Sound from Seattle, of which I previously posted a low-quality photo.  A short article describing this artifact has recently been published in the journal Current Research in the Pleistocene, and the author, Phil LeTourneau of Seattle’s Burke Museum, was kind enough to send me a copy.

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Mossback nails it . . .

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):

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Seattle waterfront archaeology

"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.

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D’Suq’Wub: Old Man House – a Poster

Old Man House: computer reconstruction of one end. Source: Suquamish Tribe.

“Old Man House” is on the Kitsap Peninsula just north of Bainbridge island, across Puget Sound from modern downtown Seattle.  The “house” was the subject of one of the earlier excavations on the NW Coast by Warren Snyder and team from the University of Washington.  The house formed the locus of a major village of the Suquamish Tribe, and its most famous historic resident was Chief Sealth, also known as Chief Seattle.  The Suquamish Tribe has a very nice poster on the history and archaeology of Old Man House which can be downloaded from their website – clicking here will start a moderately sized JPG file.

Interpretive sketch of Old Man House. Source: Suquamish Tribe.

It is a bit of misnomer to call this structure a “house” though.

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Salish Villages of Puget Sound

Overview map of Coast Salish Villages of Puget Sound. Click to go to the page of interactive maps at coastsalishmap.org

Tom Dailey has put together a large and very interesting site which documents the Coast Salish villages of Puget Sound.  The core of the site is a series of clickable maps (see the left hand side black/white map grid), each of which is marked with little village icons.  Clicking on these icons takes you to a master document with a synopsis of the settlement name and, usually, a couple of sentences about the village.  These are referenced to scholarly literature and other sources.  It is striking to see all these villages on one map, and notable how many are shown on rivers and lakes.

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Puget Sound Clovis

In Red: Surface Finds of Clovis Projectile Points. After Croes et al. 2008.

I posted yesterday about the Manis Mastodon site and its possible status as a pre-Clovis site on the Olympic Peninsula.  Clovis projectile points are so distinctive that most archaeologists have no problem assigning even an isolated find of such a point, lacking in any kind of stratigraphic context or any associated dates, to the Clovis archaeological culture.  We know from sites elsewhere in North America that Clovis dates to a pretty narrow window, perhaps only 13,200 to 12,800 calendar years ago.  It has always been very closely associated with the ice-free corridor route for the First Peopling of the Americas and is predominantly known from classic sites in places like Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. So it may come as a surprise to some that Clovis is pretty well represented in Puget Sound and north to Bellingham Bay, although only from surface or other finds without provenience.

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Ancient Basketry from the Biderbost Site

2,000 year old basketry from the Biderbost Site, Seattle. Source: Burke Museum.

The Biderbost site is on the Snoqualmie River near Seattle.   Since 1960, a series of excavations have revealed a remarkable set of artifacts made from organic materials, preserved because of the water-saturated, anaerobic conditions of deposition.  The Biderbost site was the first site of its kind to be excavated in the Northwest, at least to a professional standard.  The Burke Museum has an excellent page on this site, including a page of basket photos (reasonable resolution, yay), weaving techniques, and conservation of these delicate artifacts.  There are also three informative (if not exciting) videos on YouTube about:

These artifacts, which include a large number of basketry pieces, date about 2,000 years ago.  Since most archaeological sites in the Northwest preserve stone, shell and bone fairly well but not wood, bark or root, these sites (which also includes Ozette, Hoko River (pics now broken fixed), Pitt Polder, Qwu?gwes, Kilgii Gwaay, and others) offer remarkable insight into the organic technology.  Ordinarily, we don’t see this stuff at all archaeologically and yet it may be the majority of the traditional technology; it may be stylistically distinctive and different compared to stone and bone tools; and it may be disproportionately representative of the lives of women.

Why there aren’t more archaeologists focusing research questions on these sites is unclear to me: yes, they are awkward sites and expensive and time consuming, but then so are shell middens.  I suspect it boils down to the unfortunate fact that the key NW wet-site researchers in the last thirty years (Dale Croes and Kathryn Bernick) were never in the kind of academic position where they routinely supervised graduate students and hence they were never able to harness the energy and intellect of that backbone of NW Coast Archaeology: the Master’s student and their diverse and often excellent theses.

I would be remiss in not mentioning that the Burke Museum has a Biderbost “Adopt a Basket” program to help with long term conservation of this remarkable suite of artifacts.

Basket rim and body fragment from Biderbost. Note the mud embedded in the weave. Source: Burke Museum.

Fishing weight wrapped in basketry with sticks attached. At a normal site this would appear to be an unmodified pebble. Source: Burke Museum.