First Advisor

Kenneth Ames

Term of Graduation

Winter 2002

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Anthropology






Glass beads -- Washington (State) -- Cathlapotle Site, Glass beads -- Oregon -- Meier Site, Chinookan Indians -- Social life and customs, Cathlapotle Site (Wash.) -- Antiquities, Meier Site (Or.) -- Antiquities



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 205 pages)


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 plank.houses 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 ( 45CL 1) 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 ofthe 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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