First Advisor

Thomas M. Newman

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Anthropology






Indians of North America -- Oregon -- Harney County -- Antiquities, Geomorphology -- Oregon -- Harney County, Oregon -- Antiquities



Physical Description

1 online resource (3, x, 170 pages)


The present study was a response to the discovery of two artifacts found in a ditch wall near Harney Lake, Oregon. These were lying on a buried lake floor that appeared to be of late Pleistocene or early Recent age. Other sediments exposed in the ditch seemed to relate to at least some of the phases of the pluvial lake sequence in the Harney Basin. Three problems were considered: (1) the geomorphology and dating of the pluvial lake stillstands, (2) whether the original artifacts were part of a larger early site, and (3) whether there was any relationship between archaeological sites and geomorphic features in the area. These problems were approached in the field by stratigraphic mapping of exposed sediments and by an archaeological survey of a defined study area. Test excavations were made adjacent to the location of the original artifact discovery to search for other cultural material. Beachline records of four stillstands of Pluvial Lake Malheur are preserved in the exposed sediments. The youngest beachline is undated. Three others were 14C dated from associated fossil molluscs at 32,000, 9620 and 8680 B.P. At least in the case of the 8680 B.P. lake, the Harney Basin was filled to overflowing and was a part of the Columbia River system. The Voltage basalt flow, which dammed the outlet of the Basin in Malheur Gap, was in place by 32,000 years ago. There is no evidence for a diversion of the Basin outlet to Crane Gap following this event. Molluscan fossils and diatoms were used, along with soil texture analyses, to help identify and differentiate sedimentary deposits and to draw environmental inferences. Artifacts were found both on and beneath buried beach deposits of the 8680 B.P. lake. Four of the five sites in the study area were either on wave-cut terraces or other lakeshore features associated with this lake. Diagnostic artifacts are Lind Coulee points, crescents, basally ground leaf-shaped points, and what are apparently true blades. The sites seem to have been located to take advantage of shallow water littoral zone resources. Fish may have been an important dietary item of the early Harney Basin dwellers. Large salmonid vertebrae from fish in the 10 kg weight class are found on the playa. By using the relationship between landforms and elevations it may be possible to predict the general age class of other sites on the margin of the playas.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).


If you are the rightful copyright holder of this dissertation or thesis and wish to have it removed from the Open Access Collection, please submit a request to and include clear identification of the work, preferably with URL

Persistent Identifier