Published In

Wapato Valley Archaeology Project Report #10; Cultural Resource Series Number 18.

Document Type

Technical Report

Publication Date



Excavations (Archaeology) -- Washington (State) -- Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Historic preservation -- Washington (State) -- Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Chinook Indians -- Antiquities, Ridgefield (Wash.) -- Antiquities


This report is one in a series on the archaeology of the Wapato Valley region of the Lower Columbia River. Most of the reports discuss aspects of the excavations and archaeology of two sites, the Meier site (35CO5) and Cathlapotle site (45CL1). Other related topics are also treated.

Attached supplemental files for this report: catalogs for glass, glass trade beads, non-cupreous metal, and ceramics found at both sites.

See Also: Preliminary Report and Catalogs: Archaeological Investigations at 45CL1 Cathlapotle (1991-1996) , Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Clark County, Washington (1999)

The issue of social status as it manifests in the archaeological record has long been a problematic one. Glass beads are often the most numerous class of historic artifacts recovered in protohistoric sites in the Pacific Northwest. Ethnohistoric accounts indicated that these beads might have functioned as prestige items and as a form of “primitive cash” among the aboriginal peoples of the Lower Columbia River in the early to mid 1800s. To what extent were glass beads indicative of status and can their spatial distribution within protohistoric sites be used to address this question? The purpose of the present study is to determine if glass beads were indeed wealth and prestige items along the Columbia River as suggested by the historic record. A distributional study of glass beads in three plankhouses in the Lower Columbia River area was used to address this question in the archaeological record. Seven hundred and four glass beads from the Cathlapotle (45CL1) site in Ridgefield, Washington and the Meier (35CO5) site near Scappose, Oregon were classified and their positions within the study sites plotted. Both visual and statistical analyses were used to determine if there were any significant differential distributions of glass beads within these sites. There were some statistically significant differences in bead distributions within and between both of the study sites. However, these differences could not be definitively correlated with social differences in the archaeological record. The differences in bead distribution within and between these sites can be linked to chronology and site formation processes. While the archaeological record does not agree with the historic record, glass beads in protohistoric sites can be used as chronological indicators as well as markers of European contact within archaeological sites.

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