Museum of Anthropology

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O'Sullivan Dam

A = Artifacts; R = Records; S = Samples

Site

Agency

Site Name

Materials

45GR27

USBR

Ridge Bottom Village

A, R, S

45GR30

USBR

(none)

A, R, S

45GR33

USBR

(none)

A, R, S

 

 

45GR30 Title

The Excavations at 45GR30

 

Background

 

The O’Sullivan Dam Project was a three year project conducted between 1947 and 1950 as part of the Smithsonian River Basin Survey. The 1947 and 1948 seasons were conducted by the University of Washington and the 1950 season by Washington State College (now University). All of the projects were directed by Richard Daugherty, who reported the work in a 1952 volume of American Antiquity dedicated to various river basin projects (Daugherty 1952).

 

45GR27 Camp

The Camp at 45GR27

 

The 1947 season work began with a surface survey of the reservoir area conducted by Francis A. Riddell and Daugherty. Nineteen sites were recorded and two were selected for excavation in the 1948 season. These sites were 45GR27, 45GR30, and 45GR33. Site 45GR27 was located on the north shore of Moses Lake. The surface of the site was marked with 33 house pit depressions. The two largest depressions were chosen for excavation and were completely dug. The northern half of a third depression was also excavated. In addition to the houses, a large stone pile near the first two houses was also completely excavated. It was interpreted to be a roasting hearth.

 

Feature 1 at 45GR27

A single human burial was found near the south wall while excavators were removing the floor deposits in House Number 1 at 45GR27. The burial was in a fully flexed position, lying on its left side with the head pointing to the east. No artifacts were found in association with the burial. Daugherty interpreted the differences between the shallow, loosely packed sediments atop the burial and the firmly packed floor sediments as evidence that the house was not occupied after the burial was made (1952:376). In his notes for this excavation Daugherty describes the bone as very poorly preserved, with only fragments of the skull remaining.

A second burial was encountered during the excavation of the roasting hearth feature. The burial was found seven and one half feet north and about one foot above the level on the hearth. This burial was also described as poorly preserved. The skeleton had been scattered by rodent activity. Skull fragments, a mandible fragment, several teeth, and long bone fragments were all the remained of the skeleton. The placement of the skull and long bone fragments suggested to the excavators that the burial had been in a tightly flexed position with the head facing to the west. No artifacts were found in association with the body (Daugherty 1952:377; Daugherty ca. 1948, unpublished draft of report of excavations at 45GR27, Museum inventory number 45GR27.695).

 

45GR30 at work

 

Excavators at Work at 45GR30

 

The second site selected for excavation was 45GR30. Daugherty observed 21 house pit depressions on the surface of the site. The largest and most well defined house pit was excavated entirely. A second, smaller, adjacent housepit was test excavated with an L-shaped trench cut through the north and east walls of the house. A third housepit depression located about 80 yards south of the others was also completely excavated. The shape and depth of this feature led Daugherty to interpret it as the remains of a mat lodge style of house (1952:379). No burials were found at 45GR30, however, a series of cairn marked cremation burials were located along the edge of the first terrace above the site. These had been completely destroyed by vandals (Daugherty 1952:382).

Although no radiometric dates were obtained on materials collected from either of the sites until 2001, Daugherty suggested that both sites were occupied during the very late prehistoric, perhaps immediately pre-contact, period (1952:383). This interpretation was based on the classes and stylistic features of artifacts found at the sites.

In 1947 Daugherty visited 45GR27 with Billy Curlew, an 80-year-old member of the Columbia tribe. Mr. Curlew had lived in a winter village located on a terrace above the site during his boyhood. Daugherty comments that because this village site was above the expected level of the reservoir, no excavations were made there. He also noted that Mr. Curlew had no recollection of people living at 45GR27, nor was he aware of the occurrence of the numerous housepit depressions surrounding Moses Lake (Daugherty ca. 1950, unpublished draft of O’Sullivan project report, Museum inventory number 45GR30.1479).

In 2001 three radiocarbon dates were obtained on materials from 45GR27 to develop a temporal context for the two excavated burials. The results indicate that the earliest occupation of the site was about 1500 years ago and the last occupation was about 800 years ago. Three different features were dated: a stone oven, housepit 2, and housepit 3. The dates reveal that the stone oven is about 1500 years old. House 3 dated to about 1400 years ago. House 2, which is believed to be roughly contemporaneous with house 1, is about 800 years old. Burial 1 was interpreted to have been interred after the abandonment of house 1. Thus it is less than 800 years old, although probably not much younger. Burial 2 appears to be younger than the stone oven, but older than house 3, so it probably dates to between 1400 and 1500 years ago.

Click here to see an image of the radiocarbon report for 45GR27.

Site 45GR33 was also test excavated in 1950 although no report of this work was located. The only extant record of work is a single page of field catalog records and eleven artifact find cards. The artifacts recovered from all of the O’Sullivan Dam Project excavations are summarized in Table 1. The summary was prepared using the field records. The quantities and classes of artifacts described in Table 1 are not always in agreement with the artifact descriptions presented by Daugherty (1952). This is not unexpected as many things reported as artifacts, or types of artifacts in the field are often reclassified during later analysis. Also, for several classes of artifacts Daugherty did not discuss the quantities of materials found but just mentioned their presence. In addition to artifacts the recovery of faunal materials was also reported but these are not quantified in the excavation records or the project report (Daugherty 1952).

Table 1. Artifacts Collected During O’Sullivan Dam Project (From excavation records).

Click here for a Word document containing this table

Artifact

45GR27

45GR30

45GR33

Total

Abrading Stone

2

2

0

4

Projectile Point

72

209

2

283

Scraper

147

206

7

360

Quartzite Pendant

1

0

0

1

Pipe Fragments

2

11

0

13

Graver

1

10

0

11

Hammerstone

4

12

0

16

Drill

1

1

0

2

Grinding Stone

12

7

0

19

Pestle

0

1

0

1

Worked Bone Object

6

6

0

12

Knife

5

503

1

509

Bone Awl

5

18

0

23

Chopper

4

10

0

14

Net Weight

0

1

0

1

Bone Point

1

3

0

4

Bone fishhook

0

1

0

1

Carved/Incised Bone

1

2

1

4

Ochre Chunks/Ochre Stained Stone

2

12

0

14

Paint “Dish”

0

2

0

2

Polishing Stone

0

2

0

2

Total

266

1019

11

1296

 

Condition of the Project Collections

 

The collections from the O’Sullivan Dam project are in generally good condition. Most of the objects reported in the field records are present and in good condition. A few items have missing or confused provenience information. The collection from site 45GR27 contains 979 stone and bone artifacts, there are 48 items unaccounted for. There are also some faunal remains and charcoal samples, although the number is relatively small. The collection from 45GR30 contains 4445 stone, bone, and wood artifacts. The collections also contains almost 3000 grams of faunal and botanical samples. A comparison of the field catalog with the materials present in the extant collection, indicates that 246 items are unaccounted for. Some of these may be items whose provenience information is missing. The collection from 45GR33 includes 79 bone and stone artifacts and about 500 grams of faunal remains and charcoal.

The project records associated with the O’Sullivan Dam Survey and related sites are very complete. They consist of correspondence, field notes, find forms, feature forms, artifact forms, burial forms, black and white photographs and negatives, and a draft of Daugherty’s (1952) American Antiquity article. In 2001, John O. Pouley completed a Master's Thesis on 45GR27, Ridge Bottom Village.

 

45GR30 Title Bar

 

View the Bibliography for the entire Columbia Basin

14C dating reports for the O'Sullivan Dam Project

View more photos from the O'Sullivan Dam Project

Click here for a Word document of O'Sullivan Dam sites

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