Published In

Wapato Valley Archaeology Project Report #11; Cultural Resource Series Number 19.

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: analytical catalogs for light and heavy chipped stone, ground and pecked and osseous artifacts at both sites. There is also a file (Meier Cathlapotle LIT_COMB_ALL data) that includes summary listing and measurements for all analyzed lithic tools at both sites.

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

This report explore the technological role of bone and antler artifacts from two contact period southern Northwest coast archaeological sites, the Cathlapotle site (45CL1) and the Meier site (35CO5). Technological measures of sedentism are based on lithics, and predict residential sedentism promotes technological expediency in hunter-gatherers (Parry and Kelley 1987). Cathlapotle and Meier lithic assemblages consist of expedient and opportunistic assemblages and raw material stockpiles, with the exception of highly curated projectile points and endscrapers (Hamilton 1994). The expectation that residential sedentism promotes technological expediency in hunter-gatherers was tested on the Cathlapotle and Meier bone and antler artifact assemblages in two ways. First, curation and expediency were recorded for each artifact by measuring level of energy investment in manufacture or degree of working. Second, a spatial analysis was used to explore methods of artifact storage and disposal.

Results revealed both Cathlapotle and Meier osseous assemblages are highly curated, except for expedient awls and flakers. Specifically, artifact classes related to subsistence procurement, modification including woodworking, and ornamentation were highly curated. Both sites contain stockpiles of unmodified bone and antler. The spatial analysis showed level of curation did not affect artifact disposal method. Despite this, some patterns were evident. At Cathlapotle, curated procurement and modification artifacts, expedient awls as well as worked fragments were concentrated outside the houses, specifically in Sheet Midden. Broken modification artifacts, ornaments, and detritus were randomly distributed. At the Meier site, curated procurement and modification artifacts, as well as expedient awls were randomly distributed. Broken modification artifacts, detritus and worked fragments were concentrated outside the houses. Ornaments were concentrated in the northern segment (elite area) of the house. There were also significantly more curated complete tools recovered from the cellar facility, while significantly fewer curated complete tools were recovered from the midden facility at Meier.

In this report, the effects of contact on osseous assemblages were examined. It is an assumption of North American archaeologists that European-introduced metals replace and/or change the character of traditional technologies such as lithic and osseous technologies. Few quantitative studies comparing pre and postcontact artifact assemblages exist (Bamforth 1993, Cobb 2003). In some parts of northeast North America, European contact is followed by a proliferation of osseous tool working, and over time osseous artifacts drop out of the archaeological record (Snow 1995, 1996).

Cathlapotle and Meier were occupied from AD 1400 to AD 1830, spanning European contact. People at Cathlapotle were in direct contact with Europeans and Euro-Americans since 1792 (Boyd 2011). Previously, it was assumed Cathlapotle was more involved in the fur trade than Meier, because Cathlapotle was mentioned several times in ethnohistoric accounts, while Meier was never mentioned. Also Cathlapotle contains far more historic trade items than Meier (Ames 2011). The assumption that European-introduced metals replace and/or change the character of traditional technologies is tested on the Cathlapotle and Meier assemblages by comparing artifact frequency, density, and assemblage diversity of pre and postcontact assemblages.

Results show contact is reflected in the osseous assemblages at both Cathlapotle and Meier. Contact is evident, but is reflected in different ways. At Cathlapotle, artifact frequencies, densities, and assemblage diversity decreases postcontact. In contrast at Meier, artifact frequencies and densities increase postcontact, with some artifact classes tripling or quadrupling in frequency. The introduction of metal could have enabled people to work osseous materials faster and easier, decreasing manufacture time, cost, and overall energy investment. The gain in efficiency promoted the proliferation of bone working and an abundance of osseous tools at the Meier site. These results encourage a reevaluation of Meier’s role in the fur trade. At Cathlapotle, metal objects may have replaced osseous tools resulting in the decline of bone and antler working and/or activity patterns shifted away from activities requiring osseous tools. The results of this report deviate from typical Northwest Coast bone and antler assemblages, challenge technological models of sedentism that are based on lithics, and contradict assumptions of lower Columbians involvement in the fur trade.

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