Published In

Wapato Valley Archaeology Project Report #12; Cultural Resource Series Number 20

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 faunal remains. The Bird catalogs are self evident. The mammal catalogs have three tabs, the note tab explaining the other two. Basically, the first tab is the data as reported by Lyman, the second is a temporal control data set; we removed data with poor or ambiguous provenience. We use this data set throughout, hence our totals may differ from Lyman’s.

There is a Fish subfile which includes the data files provided by Butler, Frederick and Rosenberg. The Rosenberg files are SPSS files imported into Excel, and have her metadata. Rosenberg and Butler shared the same data format, so Butler’s metadata is the same as Rosenberg’s. The Meier fish data are contained in a single file. The Cathlapotle files are separated by analyst and by whether they originate from screened or bulk samples. Butler’s screened file (“Excavated matrix”) has three tabs, the original data, ¼” mesh non-house, and 1/8mesh, which is also non-house. Rosenberg’s non-bulk sample file includes Butler’s samples from the Cathlapotle houses as well as all of Rosenberg’s. The reader is referred to the screen size and sampling discussions in the relevant reports. Frederick’s file is straightforward.

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

Social inequality is a trademark of Northwest Coast native societies, and the relationship between social prestige and resource control, particularly resource ownership, is an important research issue on the Northwest Coast. Faunal remains are one potential but as yet underutilized path for examining this relationship. My thesis work takes on this approach through the analysis of fish remains from the Cathlapotle archaeological site (45CL1). Cathlapotle is a large Chinookan village site located on the Lower Columbia River that was extensively excavated in the 1990s. Previous work has established prestige distinctions between houses and house compartments, making it possible to examine the relationship between prestige and the spatial distribution of fish remains. In this study, I examine whether having high prestige afforded its bearers greater access to preferred fish, utilizing comparisons of fish remains at two different levels of social organization, between and within households, to determine which social mechanisms could account for potential differences in access to fish resources. Differential access to these resources within the village could have occurred through household-level ownership of harvesting sites or control over the post-harvesting distribution of food by certain individuals.

Previous work in this region on the relationship between faunal remains and prestige has relied heavily on ethnohistoric sources to determine the relative value of taxa. These sources do not provide adequate data to make detailed comparisons between all of the taxa encountered at archaeological sites, so in this study I utilize optimal foraging theory as an alternative means of determining which fish taxa were preferred. Optimal foraging theory provides a universal, quantitative analytical rule for ranking fish that I was able to apply to all of the taxa encountered at Cathlapotle. Given these rankings, which are based primarily on size, I examine the degree to which relative prestige designations of two households (Houses 1 and 4) and compartments within one of those households (House 1) are reflected in the spatial distribution of fish remains. I also offer a new method for quantifying sturgeon that utilizes specimen weight to account for differential fragmentation rates while still allowing for sturgeon abundance to be compared to the abundances of other taxa that have been quantified by number of identified specimens (NISP).

Based on remains recovered from ¼” mesh screens, comparisons between compartments within House 1 indicate that the chief and possibly other elite members of House 1 likely had some control over the distribution of fish resources within their household, taking more of the preferred sturgeon and salmon, particularly more chinook salmon, for themselves. Comparisons between households provide little evidence to support household-based ownership of fishing sites. A greater abundance of chinook salmon in the higher prestige House 1 may indicate ownership of fishing platforms at major chinook fisheries such as Willamette Falls or Cascades Rapids, but other explanations for this difference between households are possible. Analyses of a limited number of bulk samples, which were included in the study in order to examine utilization of very small fishes, provided insufficient data to allow for meaningful intrasite comparisons. These data indicate that the inhabitants of Cathlapotle were exploiting a broad fish subsistence base that included large numbers of eulachon and stickleback in addition to the larger fishes. This study provides a promising approach for examining prestige on the Northwest Coast and expanding our understanding of the dynamics between social inequality and resource access and control.

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