Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Non-Projectile Lithics: The Northwest Coast


Markos, Jeffrey A. 1991. The Packwood Lake Site: Lithic Technology and Site Function. Journal of California and the Great Basin Anthropology 13(2):217-229.

In Southwest Washington, Southeast of Mount Rainier, the lithic assemblage site Packwood, was excavated. Packwood was compared to two other sites, the Diamond Lil site and the Warehouse site in the Oregon Cascade Range. A large number of Oregon sites were determined to be hunting sites based on the lithic reduction activities of the area. The Packwood site uncovered over 4,000 lithic artifacts, dating back 1,100 years ago.
Packwood was compared to Diamond Lil and Warehouse, both of which were hunting or butchering sites, and the artifacts were compared to those found a few years prior, already in the archaeological record. From the comparison, Packwood showed more flakes from unprepared cores and limited flake scars, which indicated they were not produced as bifaces or blanks, unlike the other sites. However, there was the presence of a bipolar flake technique discovered from two exhausted cores, that, through microlith replication, were determined to be used to cut small bifaces.
Comparing the Packwood and Warehouse sites showed a difference in stage development of the lithics. At Packwood, there were early-stage biface thinning flakes, showing little reworking of the lithic—rather, it was cut and used, and never made stronger. However, at Warehouse, there was a stronger presence of late-stage biface thinning flakes, indicating long term use of the tool, and evidence that it was improved over time.
The findings at Packwood support the site being a seasonal camp or multi-resource acquisition site, rather than a hunting site—Packwood was most likely used for fishing or gathering berries when in season. This conclusion is evidenced by the Packwood artifacts being more focused on shorter term use of bifacial blanks, performs and some expedient flake tools, which suggest an element of mobility (that is, created with the intention of travel).
Additionally, both Warehouse and Diamond Lil evidence maintenance in rejuvenation debitage at Warehouse and replacement points and microblades as well as bipolar technology at Diamond Lil. Packwood, however, only evidence performs to be improved later (indicating a lack of permanency) and biface blanks.

Madsen, Carl D. 1997. Microwear Analysis of the Lithic Assemblage at the Rosenberger Site. Journal of California and the Great Basin Anthropology 19(1):116-123.

Located East of New Plymouth, Idaho, the Rosenberger site was selected for microwear analysis of its lithic tool artifacts. A cache of tools, as well as red ocher were discovered at the site, and thought initially to be tools potentially created solely for burial ritual. The artifacts were extremely well preserved, making them a candidate for microwear analysis.
At the suspected burial were one hundred and thirty one flaked stone tools, made from basalt, obsidian, and microcrystalline silicates. Of the microcrystalline silicate tools, the turkey tail points, as well as the biface caches were notably thermal treated.
Of these one hundred and thirty one tools collected, a random sample of fifty five were examined with microwear analysis to determine potential use. Two of the fifty five showed signs of wear, one of which was a turkey-tail point. The point showed signs of wear perpendicular to the base, and a satin type of shine. This wear pattern is unlike scrapers used on animal hide, indicating that it was not used for sustenance retrieval or other common resources. After the microwear analysis there was no evidence to suggest the tools were used in any manner other than ceremonial.  Additionally, use of high quality microcrystalline silicates could be seen as further evidence for burial goods.
While the human remains found near the lithic caches were not kept but rather returned and reburied, they were not factored in to the analysis at all. However, there were three separate sets of remains found, and one hundred and thirty one separate tools. This indicates a strong use of lithic tools in burial ceremonies, and the slight wear on the points indicates at least minor use in those ceremonies. While the exact use is unclear, there is at least some purpose for so many flake stone tools to be present around burial areas and in burials with different sets of remains. 


Violence/Warfare in the Northwest Coast


Ames , Kenneth M.  
Slaves, Chiefs and Labour on the Northern Northwest Coast
World Archaeology, Vol. 33, No. 1, The Archaeology of Slavery (Jun., 2001), pp. 1-17
                In this article, the author discusses the possible ideas behind, and evidence of, slave use in the Northwest coast. There is evidence that slaves were actually quite essential to the economic production of the elite in this area. There seems to have been frequent raids between areas where survivors would be taken to be used as slaves. This seems to have caused a significant shift in gender ratio in villages (namely more free males than females) and so slaves would have to be taken to equalize the gender ratio. This, however, caused an endless cycle of raiding, war and violence.
                While not having any real rights of a free person, these slaves were not necessarily treated poorly. On a day-to-day basis, the lives of slaves did not visibly differ from the lives of commoners. The big differences between a slave and a common, free person are that slaves could be killed or traded for any reason by the household members, slaves could be used by chiefs as bodyguards and warriors to reinforce their position, slaves did not have any specified tasks attached to class or gender, they could and would do whatever task was asked of them, and slaves were often the ones given tasks deemed difficult or unpleasant such as hauling water or collecting firewood.
                Slave labor used by Northwest coast chiefs was mainly used as labor that the chief could reliably control. Through the four points above of the differences between commoners and slaves, it is also shown how the chief could easily control the slave labor in their territory. New slaves could be traded for, or captured in war raids when needed, killed off when not, they provided labor for any task regardless of how unpleasant or dangerous.
                There is also evidence of the violence and warfare that might have led to the capture of these slaves in the skeletal trauma of those believed to be captured war prisoners who may have also been slaves as well as the evidence of fortification of the villages in this area.
                An interesting point in this article is one that I actually stated above, about the use of slaves by chiefs to both increase economic production, as well as assert status. These slaves could be traded or freed in potlatches to gain prestige, they could also be killed both as a show of power, or as a sacrifice in religious ceremonies. It seems the use and abuse of slaves was merely for those in power to assert their power in a cheap way.
de Laguna, Frederica
Atna and Tlingit Shamanism: Witchcraft on the Northwest Coast
Arctic Anthropology, Vol. 24, No. 1 (1987), pp. 84-100
                This article discusses the various types of perceived sorcery in the Northwest coast. Specifically within the Atna and Tlingit groups. What was interesting to me is that early on, those deemed “sorcerors” and “shamans” were not necessarily considered bad or evil, they were people with all too human emotions, the only major difference is that these people were perceived to have abilities that others did not have.
                The Atna dream doctors seem to be the more pacifist of the two types of sorcerors, at least at first. They were often called upon to help heal the sick or wounded. However, there were some Atna dream doctors considered bad as they were believed to send bad luck or even kill people. In addition, Atna dream doctors were often jealous of each other and were constantly having to watch out for rivals trying to “kill” them in the dream/spirit world.
                The Tlingit shamans seemed to be quite a bit more touchy and jealous of each other than their Atna colleagues. They were also viewed more often in a negative light than their Atna colleagues were. With the Tlingit, a witch was considered an evil person who feels compelled to harm others because of the “witch spirit” that possessed them, however this spirit was taken in willingly by repeated violating acts such as vigils to the graveyard while handling human remains. It seems to have been thought by this group that witchcraft was passed on like an infection, person to person, family member to family member. This “infection” could be passed down like a hereditary trait from whoever first dabbled in black magic to become a witch, as well as being passed on to those that a witch bewitches. For once the witch bewitches another, if that person succumbs to the bewitching, they too become a witch.
                If an evil witch was accused or discovered, they would be brought to trial where a shaman from another clan, preferably from another place, would be called in to detect the witch, who would then be tied up- hair, wrists, and ankles drawn painfully tight behind the back- and left without food and water to extract a confession. It was believed that a confession drawn without suffering was ineffective. Once a confession was procured, the witch would be forced to undo all the bad magic they had done, executed, and possibly even have their children executed to remove the potential for a hereditary taint.
                This article was interesting to me as the ways that sorcerors and witches were dealt with in these societies seems oddly reminiscent of the violent, suffering-inducing European ways of dealing with such people

Regional Site Surveys Northwest Coast


Ames, Kenneth M. Raetz, Doria F. Hamilton, Stephen. McAfee, Christine.
Household Archaeology of a Southern Northwest Coast Plank House
Journal of Field Archaeology 19(3) 275-290

This article discusses a large (14m x 35m) prehistoric plank house that was found in the Meier site, in the Wapato Valley near Portland Oregon. This site has been excavated by The Portland State University field school since 1987 and has yielded hundreds of artifacts, as well as a large amount of information not only on the construction and maintenance of the plank houses of the Northwestern coast, but also on the taphonimic aspects of the region. As these households were a central aspect of the Northwestern area, a plank house of this scale provides a wealth of information that can be applied to many of the other sites in the region. These houses were constructed by erecting a basic frame of permanent foundation posts and then affixing this frame in planks. As the Meier house was reconstructed, they based it off of the descriptions of other large-scale Chinookan plank houses in the regionas well as the Ozette houses.  The most well known of these houses having a very distinguishable construction, since they were all based on the same basic “plank-over-frame” design. These planks could be removed and replaced to preserve or repair the house. This allowed for the house to be used for multiple generations. This means that the Native groups living in these houses were relatively sedentary, despite having a hunter-gatherer society. Due to their location in the richly fertile Valley, they were able to provide themselves with a diet consisting of a very balanced nutritional value. This was generally composed of salmon and other protein sources such as elk, from the surrounding bodies of water, and plants from the Valley in which they were situated. This is known due to the finding of large amounts of ash, shell, and salmon bones found at the east end of the Meier house. From the excavations of this site, we  have gained a general idea of how much effort might have been expended on these structures, as well as how important these houses were within the social structure of the peoples of the Northwest coast.






Morrison, David.
Inuvialuit Fishing and the Gutchiak Site
Arctic Anthropology 37(1) 1-42

            In this article, Morrison discusses the fishing practices and culture of the Inuvialuit at the Gutchiak site, which is located on the shores of the Eskimo Lakes. As fish made a large portion of the diet of the Inuit peoples, the affect of these practices on their culture is substantial. The main aspect of their culture that separates the Inuvialuit from their neighboring groups is the fishing of the beluga. Many of the groups in the area fished and also hunted caribou for the majority of their diet, but the hunting of the beluga is what truly distinguishes the Inuvialuit. It is due to this that they were, for a long period of time, the wealthiest and most highly populated Inuit group in the area. Much of this information has been gained from the Gutchiak site and the artifacts found therein.
           
            The Gutchiak site was discovered and tested in 1986 and was later excavted in 1991. During this time over 55,000 fish remains were found. This makes it the most abundant in the entire Arctic region. Located on a peninsula, the Gutchiak (literally meaning “like a river”) is surrounded by powerful tidal currents, which insure that the water in the area is able to be fished for the longest amount of time throughout the year.  Unfortunately, these tidal currents have also caused the possible erosion of much of the site. Even so, the area is still a source of lithic material, wood and antler tools, as well as many different forms of fishing equipment such as curved and straight barbs, spear prongs, line sinkers and so on. It also shows the presense of multiple hearths. Though there are no large structures such as plank houses, these hearths seemingly allowed for the smoking and preservation of the fish that had been caught as well as provided shelter for the groups having caught them. This is not entirely surprising considering that the area is a primarily warm weather site. Though the traditional culture of this area is one of the more poorly documented, the Gutchiak site and the information gained from it have been very beneficial to increasing our knowledge and understanding of the groups that lived there as well as the practices that shaped their culture.



Human Remains - The Northwest Coast

Chisholm, Brian S., D. Erie Nelson, and Henry P. Schwarcz
1983 Marine and Terrestrial Protein in Prehistoric in Prehistoric Diets on the British Columbia Coast. Current Anthropology 24.3:396-398

This article focuses on explaining how stable-carbon isotope ratios, which are collected from human bone collagen, can tell us whether an individual relied mostly upon a marine protein based diet, or a terrestrial protein based diet. The researchers took data from a total of 48 individuals from various sites along the British Columbian Coast, and interior.
Prior to the development of stable-isotope analysis, the only data that researchers could use to base their conclusions off of were from the ethnographic and archaeological descriptions of subsistence. These descriptions are usually incomplete or imprecise, making it difficult to draw any solid conclusions on the actual degree of the dietary reliance of the prehistoric Northwest Coast people upon marine species. Stable-isotope analysis is a way to directly test an individual to determine the average relative amounts of terrestrial and marine proteins in the diets of these prehistoric people.
The original percentage of dietary reliance upon marine life, based solely off of the ethnographic and archaeological records, was estimated to be around 45-55%. The results that the researchers received from the stable-isotope analysis, gave them an estimate of around 90% reliance upon marine life, and definitely not lower than 85%. It is very obvious that these two methods for collecting data produce very different results, as well as the stable-isotopic results being much more accurate due to the direct testing of the bones, rather than basing an estimate off of incomplete literature.
The individuals tested all came from various sites along the British Columbian Coast, and many of these individuals ranged in dates as well; all the individuals ranged from approximately 5,000 years ago, up until about 70 years ago. This range of dates was used so as to see if there were any significant changes in diet overtime, after the switch to specializing/intensifying marine life diets. This test suggested that there was little, if any, changes over this time period of about 5,000 years; which makes sense when you consider how rich the marine resources are along the Northwest Coast.
This article proves that stable-isotopic analysis will continue to be a helpful tool for the field, especially when trying to draw conclusions about the typical diet for a society or region.





Lazenby, Richard A. and Peter McCormack
1985 Salmon and Malnutrition on the Northwest Coast. Current Anthropology. 26.3:379-384

This article examines the possibility of a link between prehistoric Northwest Coast societies and their level of dependence on salmon and other marine animals for subsistence, with malnutrition, possibly linked to hypervitaminosis D (an over abundance of vitamin D in the body). In their research, they analyzed different groups of human remains from several different sites, and looked at the differences in their C13 signatures, by using stable-isotopic analysis. Depending on what an individual’s C13 levels look like, we can determine how important salmon and other marine animals were to their diets, as well as estimates on how much was most likely consumed on a daily basis. Once we know how much salmon and other similar marine life was consumed on a daily basis, we can therefore determine more clearly, whether these people may have suffered from hypervitaminosis D, due to eating too much fish, or not.
It is determined that the average amount of salmon consumed daily by an average adult, would be between 1.5 and 3kg (approximately one half of a fish to a whole fish consumed daily by each adult). The amount estimated for an average child between the ages of 4 to 10 years, would be approximately half the serving of an adult; approximately .75 to 1.5kg. However, the estimate for children is less accurate, due to the fact that we do not know if salmon was as important to a child’s diet as it was to an adult’s, as well as several other factors that make it difficult to make a clearer estimation.
Hypervitaminosis D is caused when the body consumes too much Vitamin D. While is may take a substantial amount over the recommended daily dose to effect an adult, even very small overdoses can affect children. Because the amount of Vitamin D consumed, directly relates to how Calcium is processed in the body, when Vitamin D foods are consumed alongside calcium rich foods, often the symptoms of Hypervitaminosis D (hypercalcemia) can become more severe. These symptoms affect the gastrointestinal tract, and can cause neural and psychic problems. As soon as the over consumption of Vitamin D ceases though, the symptoms will also stop fairly quickly; usually within a few days.
The researchers discuss how it is possible that these early societies may have noticed a correlation between these symptoms and the consumption of salmon, especially in children who are more vulnerable. If these early societies did make this connection early on is the intensification period, it would explain why many, children of this area appear to have eaten substantially less salmon than the adults, and most likely supplemented salmon diets with terrestrial plants and animals.

Gender Differences in the Northwest Coast


Moss, Madonna L. 1993. Shellfish, Gender, and Status on the Northwest Coast: Reconciling Archaeological, Ethnographic, and Ethnohistorical Records of the Tlingit. American Anthropologist 95(3): 631-652.

            Within this article, Madonna Moss explores other possibilities for the importance and the role shellfish had in maritime societies throughout the Northwest coast, specifically the Tlingit peoples. Moss describes how shellfish has been viewed previously and most often by archaeologists as a low-priority resource. She says that this may be due to the lack of ethnographic and ethnohistoric focus when examining the importance of shellfish. Moss argues that shellfish, in fact, played a larger role than most archaeologists originally assumed within maritime societies such as the Tlingit. There is a greater dietary and economic role shellfish plays, as well as having a social and symbolic meaning attached. This social and symbolic meaning Moss says may have contributed to most archaeologists believing shellfish as being a low-priority resource. Furthermore, Moss uses ethnographic and ethnohistorical and oral historical data to establish that shellfish indeed played a bigger economic and dietary role for the Tlingit.
            Along the Northwest coast, Moss points out that there are variations in seasonality and thus variations in ecological conditions and extent of economic reliance on shellfish. Moss says that cultural factors and differences come into play, as well. Some groups gathered shellfish during the low tides of June whereas other groups would not gather any shellfish at all during this time.
            Moss goes on to say that there is an extremely high presence of shell middens throughout the coast Tlingit area in southeast Alaska. She says that these site distributions “give evidence of the area’s high intertidal productivity, amplitude, current-driven upwelling, and abundant estuaries.” The archaeological record, from eight sites near Angoon, Alaska, were used in Moss’s analysis. She says that the food sources are relatively the same as it was 1,600 years ago. In all but one of the sites in this area, shellfish was seen to be the most abundant faunal class by weight. Because there is such great abundance of this food source, Moss points out how it does not make sense that most archaeologists consider shellfish being a second-rate resource.
            In order to find answers, Moss uses ethnographic and ethnohistorical data. Ethnohistoric accounts have shown that shellfish indeed played a greater role within Tlingit societies. The ethnohistoric data came from accounts during a French expedition in 1791, and two Russian Amercian Company officials in 1832 and 1850-1. These accounts said that the Tlingit relied heavily upon shellfish, and some groups had shellfish as a seasonally important food source.
            Furthermore, Moss says how shellfish can become extremely toxic due to organisms such as phytoplankton. This may have led to the stigma that became attached to eating shellfish. Not only could shellfish be very poisonous, it was also very easily accessible. Most Tlingit groups associated those who ate shellfish as being lazy. They viewed people who ate shellfish as not having the work ethic to hunt or fish. Hunting and fishing were mainly men’s activities and a way to achieve wealth and status. Only in times of survival could men eat shellfish.
            Additionally, the stigma attached to shellfish due to its possible toxicity Moss says may have led to its role for women. For women, they were supposed to avoid eating shellfish during menses or their monthly menstruation to ensure purity and to “thereby ensure wealth as the young woman grew older.” The same applied to mourning widows and women giving birth for the first time.
            Overall, Moss says that men were not supposed to eat shellfish, nor were women. However, women depended more on shellfish than men, except for high-status women. Moss says that men probably ate shellfish more often than they would admit because it would lower their perceived masculinity.
            This reference is not as widely applicable to other regions. However, it is widely applicable to the Northwest in that most maritime societies depend to some extent on shellfish and marine-animals. For the Tlingit, certain symbolic and social implications existed for shellfish. Moss’s conclusions about gender roles and differences can be compared and contrasted with other Northwestern societies.

Burchell, Meghan, 2006. Gender, Grave Goods, and Status in British Columbia Burials. Canadian Journal of Archaeology. 30(2): 251-271.

            Analyzing sites from the coast of British Columbia, Meghan Burchell looks at burial modes and grave goods to better understand and challenge traditional views of gender and status. Burchell says that archaeologists have previously interpreted status within the Northwest coast in relation to the presence of grave goods, and even more so if the grave goods were ornate. Burchell goes on to describe how grave goods should not be the only aspect taken into account when attempting to determine status differences of individuals in certain Northwest coast societies. She says this because grave goods are so infrequent at times, so they should not be the only factor. Burchell used ethnographic as well as ethnohistoric data to explain how gender was viewed historically and then how it “may have been projected into mortuary treatment” in addition to using data present on 1,130 burials collected from published sources. Region, site, dat range, age, sex, present of grave goods, absence of grave goods, and grave good types were analyzed.
Upon examining regional variability between the north and south, Burchell found that the southern region contained burials of men and women with higher frequencies of ornate grave goods and at fairly equal rates for both genders. However, in the northern region men were more likely to be buried with ornate grave goods. Yet, overall Burchell says that there were no significant gender differences in grave good distribution. Though, there were significant differences in grave good ornamentation. The south had a lot more ornamentation than did the north, and women were found to have a lot more variety of grave goods then men. Burchell concludes that in the north, men were buried more often than women yet both received equal rates of grave goods. Here, men’s included more variety and ornamentation. Burchell interprets these differences through two main causes: “the increased evidence of warfare on the north coast; and the north coast unilineal descent versus the south coast bilateral descent system.” Furthermore, Burchell says that the south may have engaged in such funerary practices to attract new members and display wealth and power.
The importance that comes from this article is that there were no significant differences within a region, there were only significant differences between regions. Gender played a role, but not significantly. The presence of grave goods was occurred fairly equally for both genders. Since this article focused only on regions within British Columbia, this finding can be compared and contrasted to other regions on the Northwest coast. In this way, the findings can be applied, as well as the analysis of not only using grave goods and burial modes as a way to understand status and hierarchy within a society. Ornamentation plays a role, also, but still is not enough. There also needs to be an understanding of social organization, to learn why individuals were buried in particular ways.

NW Coast Milling Technology & Stone Assemblages

Conlee, Christina A.2000 Intensified Middle Period Ground Stone Production on San Miguel Island. Journal of California and Great Basin Archaeology 22(2):374-391

     This essay by Christina Conlee discusses the evidence of craft specialization in southern California among the Chumash people. At the time of Spanish contact, the Chumash resided across the Santa Barbara Channel from the modern day cities of Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. According to Conlee, the first type of milling technology available in the area is roughly hewn milling slabs (metates) and manos. By the Early Period these implements are a prominent feature in assemblages found on the mainland, and are assumed to be connected to food processing and subsistence activities. However, as Conlee points out, food production alone does not explain the reason for intensified production during the Middle Period. The evidence cited by Conlee as evidence of Chumash craft specialization creating milling technology was the presence of a quarry and several productions sites all containing multiple milling technologies at varying degrees of completion throughout the island, this interpretation is further supported by evidence of trade between the Chumash residing on the island with peoples on the mainland.
     Conlee describes the development of ground stone tools or milling technology in the region as changing in form over time from rough slab metates and manos dating to 5,000 B.P., to more refined globular shaped mortars and pestles 4,000 B.P., then lastly a "flower pot" shaped mortar style dating to 1,500 B.P. In addition to changes in the style of manos and metates through time, there are also spatial distribution of sites containing manos and metates versus mortars and pestles, with the latter being more evenly throughout the site. Conlee suggests that the shifts in style and distribution of milling technologies may indicate a change in subsistence strategies, particularly the increased importance of acorns in Chumash diet. However because most of the food sources were located off the islands themselves, it is still unclear to archaeologists exactly what the milling technology was used for primarily and why it became a mainstay of Chumash technology during the Early and Middle Periods.



Keithahn, Edward L.
1962 Stone Artifacts of Southeastern Alaska. American Antiquity 28(1):66-77

     This essay by Edward L. Keithahn discusses the early stone tool assemblages found in southeastern Alaska, including interpretations of the possible uses of these tools. According to Keithahn there is not be adequate ethnographic accounts available to determine the precise usage of each item, one reason he cites as the cause of this is the adoption of copper tools and other items by the indigenous populations. The items included in the assemblage studied by Keithahn includes adzes, double-bitted adzes, chisels, stone axes, ice axes, mauls, hat-topped hammers, T-hammers, beaver tail hand hammers, spatulate hand hammers, pecking tools, saws, whetstones, mortars and pestles, lamps, pipes, fighting picks, slave killers, clubs, skull crackers, slate spear points, flaked-shaped projectile points, charms, labrets, combs, and flask-shaped artifacts.
     A few items important things to consider about this article are: Keithahn followed pretty standard format for research of his time, listing each item of the analyzed assemblage, offering a simple description of each, along with a list of potential uses. In his concluding statement Keithahn makes the fact that no input from contemporary Tlingit and Haida groups was considered in the interpretations, which by todays standards presents some problems. The reason Keithahn offers for this exclusion of is an apparent disconnect between modern and past indigenous populations. The result of this (I feel) is a lack of depth in the overall interpretation of stone assemblages in southeastern Alaska. However the diverse nature of the assemblage presents an intriguing picture of indigenous diversity in the northwest coast region.

Northwest Coast: Plant Remains


Lepofsky, Dana, Madonna L. Moss, Natasha Lyons
2001  The Unrealized Potential of Paleoethnobotany in the Archaeology of Northwestern North America: Perspectives from Cape Paddington, Alaska, Arctic Anthropology, vol. 38, No.1:48-59

        This article explores the use of paleoethnobotany in the northwest.  Since agriculture was never really established in the area, plant remains tend to be neglected by archaeologist doing research in the area.  There tends to be smaller sample sizes and context can be hard to establish.  The authors argue that the research potential of plant remains in the northwest is not widely acknowledged but can be just as useful as other material remains.  The five misconceptions about plant remains in the northwest that the authors list are that plants do not play an important role in the economies of the region, nothing of interest can be learned from plant remains because they do not document daily life, plant remains do not preserve well in the area, plants that deposit naturally cannot be distinguished from plants that are deposited by people, and plant research is labor intensive and expensive. 
        The authors systematically poke holes in all of these arguments and used the 49 – CRG – 188 site ( Cape Paddington, Alaska) as their proof.  The site is a rockshelter on an island just south of the main Alaska area and dates to about 50 – 1500 CE.  They used 7 sample units to look through and used the floating technique to recover the plant remains.  14 plant taxa, including charred and uncharred seeds, needles, buds, wood, and other plant parts, were found.  An additional 10 taxa were found but cannot be identified.  They conclude that the plant remains are ancient and were brought to the rockshelter by humans.  Lepofsky, Moss, and Lyons support this by noting there was no definitive evidence to support they were brought in by rodents or that they could have naturally been grown there.  The material was preserved so well because they were several layers down and not exposed to moisture. 
        Using the information from the plant remains found the authors conclude that the shelter was occupied in the spring and summer months.  There is no evidence of processing or storage, suggesting it was only in use for a short time.  This conclusion supports the faunal remains in the area and draws a connection to the Tilingit people.  This shows just one example of how looking at plant remains can help show more than just diet.


Lepofsky, Dana and Natasha Lyons
2003   Modeling ancient plant use in the Northwest Coast: towards an understanding of mobility and sedentism, Journal of Archaeological Science, vol. 30, pp. 1357-1371.

        In this article the authors are using their own model revolving around plant remains to interpret the Scowlitz site.  Located in the upper Fraser Valley of the southwestern British Columbia, the site is located between the confluence of two major rivers in the area.  Dating from the site indicates that it started to be used some 3000 years ago.  The faunal remains in the area were not well preserved do to the acidic forest soil so turning to plant remains is all the more important.  The site itself is divided up into two occupations.  The first occupation is called “structure 3” and it is a village composed of several large houses dating to around 3000-1800 B.P.  “Burned orange deposit” is the name of the second occupation and it dates to around 1000-800 B.P.  There is no evidence of a structure at this site and it is suggested that all of the activities were done outdoors.  The samples collected were selected from hearths, floors, and a pit from structure 3 and burn features, surfaces, and a cooking feature from the burned orange deposit.  Of the samples found, 42 plant taxa from 26 plant families were identified and they were mostly seeds, charcoal, needles, and non-woody tissue.  There were also 20 additional taxa that could not be identified.
        The model that the authors apply consist of looking at the richness (amount or plant remains), specialization (amount of a particular remain), density (abundance of remains measure by seeds/liter or grams of charcoal/liter), accessibility (if the plants were local), and seasonally (when the plants were collected could indicate when the site was occupied).  For richness they found that there were more food and non-food seeds in the burned orange site while there was more charcoal in the structure 3 site.  Specialization shows that both of the sites were dominated by a just few plant types (salal and red elderberry).  The burned orange deposit had three times more food than non-food type seeds than structure 3 when looking at density.  When looking at accessibility it is suggested that the major plant types in both sites could have been harvested locally.  Finally, seasonality shows that both sites were occupied for a minimum duration of spring, summer, and fall.  By applying this model archaeologists can get a lot more information from plant remains that what is currently believed.