|People living in the Pacific Northwest during the Archaic period (from ca.13,000 to 7,000 years ago) are thought to have been organized in small residentially mobile bands whose seasonal movements spanned broad areas. Early archaeological sites in the vicinity of Gee Creek attest to a long history of use of the area.|
Archaeological data from the Gee Creek sites are generally supportive of this notion as the earliest artifact and feature assemblages from the sites reflect influences from across the region and the generalized toolkits are characteristic of an economy focused on foraging (consuming fresh foods with limited amounts of food storage). Interestingly, the younger artifacts and features are similar to the older materials found in the Gee Creek sites. This suggests that the types of activities that occurred in the project area did not substantially change over time, although other aspects of settlement and social organization may have.
The oldest materials from the project area share many traits with Archaic sites throughout the region, indicating widespread social networks that facilitated the spread of information on technology and lifeways. The Gee Creek artifacts include distinctive artifact types, such as lanceolate projectile points and cobble choppers.
|The stone tools found at the Gee Creek sites include types common to contemporary sites on the Columbia Plateau and sites in the Cascade Range or west of the Cascades. A fairly large proportion of the flaked stone materials, including bifacial blanks, preforms, and projectile points, are composed of coarse-grained igneous rock (basalt and rhyolite). This is generally characteristic of older sites in the region.
These data indicate that the material culture of the people who used the project area is similar to that of other contemporary peoples throughout the Pacific Northwest. It seems probable that these similarities are the result of the diffusion of ideas and technologies among people who were well-traveled in the region and maintained social ties with groups over a widespread area.
Cobble chopper (above) and lanceolate dart point (below) from Gee Creek
|The stone tools found at the Gee Creek sites represent a generalized toolkit containing a variety of basic functional types (choppers, scrapers, drills, projectile points, flake tools, and hammerstones) common to many early archaeological sites found in the region. The stone tools and stone waste flakes (produced during stone tool manufacture) also represent many stages of tool manufacture from raw material cores to refurbished and broken or exhausted tools along with intermediate-stage products and byproducts representing a variety of flaked stone and ground stone industries. This generalized toolkit is characteristic of foragers – hunter-gatherers who move their residence to the location of seasonally available resources and subsist primarily on fresh, locally available foods rather than stored foods. In theory, a generalized toolkit facilitates this type of settlement and mobility where groups of people live at a temporary or seasonal campsite and many different group maintenance activities occur to provide shelter, clothing, food, socialization, and other common needs. |
The Pacific Period (ca. 7,000 years ago to the time of European contact around AD 1775) is generally characterized by increasing sedentism and an economic shift from foraging to collecting. In this settlement model, Pacific Period upland sites should be special task sites for collecting and bulk processing of particular resources or summer camps used as bases for such processing. From the perspective of the special task site or summer camp site, the change from Archaic Period foraging to Pacific Period collecting should be seen in increasing use of bulk resource processing to create a surplus for winter storage. However, the pattern of activity at the Gee Creek sites does not appear to change significantly between the Archaic and Pacific Periods. A similar variety of earth ovens and fire pits are represented during both periods, similar types of food were being processed, and artifact assemblages do not change appreciably.
Regional mobility or trade contacts are evident from obsidian artifacts found originating from distant geological sources. Two obsidian artifacts were made from obsidian procured from Obsidian Cliffs and Buck Springs in Oregon. Both of these obsidian flakes exhibit thin hydration rinds suggesting Pacific Period ages, but the effects of fire may have obscured evidence that they were initially used during the Archaic Period. These obsidian sources are both located to the south and east of the project area at distances of approximately 190 km (118 mi) and 322 km (200 mi), respectively.
Map showing sources of obsidian found at the Gee Creek sites.
Click here for larger image.
This strong directional orientation toward obsidian sources to the southeast should not be taken as an indicator that Gee Creek people restricted their travels to that direction. In fact, all of the abundant high-quality obsidian sources are located south and east of the project area and obsidian is virtually absent in areas to the north and west.
Other direct archaeological evidence of regional mobility of the people from the Gee Creek sites has yet to be identified. Nonetheless, shared regional technologies and styles suggest strong ties to other groups throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Ames, Kenneth M. (1988) "Early Holocene Forager Mobility Strategies on the Southern Columbia Plateau." In Early Human Occupation in Far Western North America: the Clovis-Archaic Interface, edited by Judith A. Willig, C. Melvin Aikens, and John L. Fagan, pp. 325-360. Nevada State Museum Anthropological Papers Number 21, Carson City, Nevada.
Ames, Kenneth M. (1994) Archeological Context Statement: Portland Basin. Wapato Valley Archaeological Project Report No. 4, Department of Anthropology, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon. Submitted to the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office, Salem
Ames, Kenneth M., and Herbert D. G. Maschner (1999) Peoples of the Northwest Coast: Their Archaeology and Prehistory. Thames & Hudson, New York.
Binford, Lewis R. (1980) "Willow Smoke and Dog's Tails: Hunter-Gatherer Settlement Systems and Archaeological Site Formation," American Antiquity 45:4-20.
Hajda, Yvonne P. (1990) "Southwestern Coast Salish." In Northwest Coast, edited by Wayne Suttles, pp. 503-517. Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 7, W. C. Sturtevant, general editor. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.