Tuesday, April 24, 2012

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.

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