Saturday, January 22, 2011

Seal Rock Archaeology

Alsea fishing (USFS)

Linda Ann Clark completed a thesis at Oregon State University in 1988 on the archaeology of a site in Seal Rock, Oregon (Site 35LNC14). She also wrote a chapter on this site in Prehistory of the Oregon Coast.  This site is a shell midden located a couple of miles south of the Beaver Creek marsh, so probably reflects life for Alsea people who lived near the marsh.  Details of the study should be consulted in her thesis.  This post gives a general summary of interesting findings about the site.   
The site was part of a seasonal land use pattern.  Clark states: 
“The land use pattern suggests that during the winter people lived in villages adjacent to estuaries, from the river mouth upstream to tidewater. By spring, stored supplies were depleted and sea mammals were establishing rookeries.  At this time village populations began to disperse, possibly moving to the outer coast or to upriver camps. During the spring and early summer, many of the outer coast shell midden sites were utilized as resource procurement camps for shell fish, fish and sea mammals. At the same time, trips into the adjacent uplands were probably conducted to hunt terrestrial mammals and collect plant resources. In the mid to late summer, anadromous fish (especially salmon) were running, and populations may have moved to fishing camps where fish were caught, dried, and stored for the winter. At the end of fall fish runs, people moved back to their winter villages.”
The faunal remains suggest that the Seal Rock site was used for subsistence harvesting of nearshore and terrestrial resources during the spring to mid or late summer months.  Radiocarbon dating suggested that initial use of this site began around A.D. 1575.  The site was probably abandoned prior to A.D. 1830, as Euro-American trade goods are lacking.  Intense white contact and trading along the Oregon coast occurred about 1830-1840.
Ethnographic accounts place the Seal Rock area in the Alsea culture territory.  It is possible that a village named Ku-tau’-wa was located at the site of the midden.  No dwellings have been excavated at the site, and this may be due to the limited scope of excavation or that they were destroyed by road building activities for Highway 101 that ran through the midden.    
Several types of artifacts were found and analyzed at the site.  These include tools made of stone, bone, shell, and antler.  Stone tool types included knife, scraper, graver, drill, adze, abrader, grinding stone, hammer stone, pestle, and projectile point.  Antler and bone tool types included wedge-chisel (wood working), pointed bone, awl, harpoon valves for fish and pinnipeds, tine, whistle (bird bone), fish hook, and ornament (pendant, bracelet, or band).  The composition and style of artifacts suggests technological and trading influences from both northwestern Washington tribes and northwestern California tribes, with the Alsea culture being near the southern and northern boundaries of the adjacent cultures, respectively.   
Previous studies of artifacts by other researchers identified pinniped, fish, and mammal remains at the site.  Pinniped and mammal species include Steller’s sea lion, harbor seal, northern fur seal, California sea lion, harbor porpoise, sea otter, North American beaver, cottontail rabbit, coyote-dog-wolf, raccoon, river otter, elk, deer, mole, and small-eared vole.  Fish species include surfperch, greenlings, flatfish, rockfish, sculpins, and salmon.  The Seal Rock site and surrounding area was a rich area for food acquisition and processing during this period.
Posted by michael

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