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Archaeology

Marmes Rockshelter
Fall 2018

The curation crisis

More than 8,500 years ago, a group of people used a rock shelter at the confluence of the Palouse and Snake Rivers as a base camp. When rediscovered in the early 1950s, the shelter amazed scientists, including Washington State University archeologist Richard Daugherty, with its wealth of artifacts—and the age of its human remains. Named after the property owner at the time, the Marmes Rockshelter was soon inundated by waters from the recently closed Lower Monumental Dam on the Snake. Although a levee had been built by the Army Corps of Engineers to keep the shelter dry, the Corps neglected to take into account the … » More …

Spring 2017

Emergence

Last August, shifting sands on a well-trafficked beach along Oahu’s west coast revealed 400-year-old carvings left behind by Hawaiian indigenous people. The 17 petroglyphs etched into the sandstone on Waianae Coast, and the stories they tell, had never been recorded. Without the right conditions, they may have remained hidden for years or centuries.

Archaeological sites like the one in Hawai‘i, or ancient buried pyramids and tombs in Egypt, open up their secrets when the conditions are right, but sometimes even plainly visible ruins hold mysteries. Mesa Verde’s astounding Cliff Palace and other Pueblo sites provide insight into the continent’s past civilizations to … » More …

Spring 2017

Ends of eras

Yes, Mesa Verde is the richest archaeological preserve in America. A sanctuary of cliff dwellings. Petroglyphs. Thousands of sites holding clues to an ancient civilization. But is it too much to ask for better cell phone reception?

For two days, my wife and I meandered around the park and its environs, climbing with other tourists among the 40 rooms of Balcony House, visiting dozens of kivas—rooms for religious rituals—and walking among striped pieces of broken pottery, or “sherds,” that litter the place. But it wasn’t until we retreated to the park’s Spartan lodgings, also called kivas, that we could tap the wi-fi and fill our … » More …

Ozette cover
Winter 2015

Ozette: Excavating a Makah Whaling Village

Ozette cover

Ruth Kirk

University of Washington Press: 2015

Although the professional literature is rich and extensive, not enough had been written for the public on the extraordinary archaeological exploration at Ozette, the ancient whaling village on the Olympic coast between Neah Bay and La Push. There is Hunters of the Whale, by Northwest chronicler Ruth Kirk, written for young readers in 1974 when the expedition was barely half finished. Archaeology in Washington, coauthored by Kirk and WSU … » More …

Stone tools
Spring 2014

Sorting debitage from rubble

Up until fairly recently, archaeology of the western hemisphere stopped at about 13,000 years ago. Since the discovery of the beautiful and finely worked Clovis points in 1929, and subsequent discoveries of Clovis technology across the United States, archaeologists generally adopted the “Clovis First” belief, that whoever created these tools must have been the first humans to populate North America.

Over the last few decades, however, a series of dramatic discoveries have pushed the estimated arrival by humans in the Western Hemisphere further and further into the past. Dates that were once considered only on the fringes of academic archaeology are now being discussed seriously … » More …

Terraces in the Andes
Summer 2013

Chicha in the landscape

Terraced hillsides in the Andes are amongst the most beautiful examples of what archaeologists refer to as “domesticating the landscape.” Generally constructed during the Incan Empire, the terraces, many of which are still farmed, are framed by often-elaborate stonework. Perhaps too elaborate for its assumed use, says archaeologist Melissa Goodman-Elgar.

Using techniques such as microscopic soil analysis and geochemistry, Goodman-Elgar explores how humans have transformed natural landscapes and the cultural implications. Much of her work is focused in the Andean highlands of Peru and Bolivia.

In the case of the terraced hillsides, however, she started from her perception as an archaeological soil scientist and explored … » More …

Montana before History cover
Spring 2013

Montana Before History: 11,000 Years of Hunter-Gatherers in the Rockies and Plains

Montana before history book cover

Douglas H. MacDonald ’94
Mountain Press, 2012

The oldest archaeological site in Montana, the Anzick Site near Wilsall, has been carbon-dated to 11,040 years ago. It is, writes Douglas MacDonald in this fine survey of Montana archaeology, the only Clovis site excavated in Montana. Apparently a ceremonial burial site, it contained the oldest human remains found in North America.

Whether or not they were a coherent “culture,” the Clovis people are … » More …