Museum of Anthropology

Wexpusnime (45GA61)

 

View of 45GA61 from the hill; 1969 before excavation (Source: 1969 Field Season Photo Archive

 

 

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Overview

Lyle Nakonechny (1998) Analysis

Overview

 

Wexpusnime, or Rattlesnake’s Place, (45GA61) is located on the now-inundated Offield Bar, three miles downstream from Wawawai on the Lower Snake River. The Offield Bar was a high terrace on the south side of the Snake River, within the construction area for the Lower Granite Dam in Garfield County, Washington. Offield Bar, located in USGS 7.5’ Almota Quadrangle, was inundated by Lower Granite Lake after completion of the dam. and is currently inaccessible.

The site was recorded during a 1966 survey of the Lower Granite Reservoir Area and tested by a team led by Frank Leonhardy of Washington State University (WSU) in 1968. Excavation was begun during the summer of 1969 and completed in the fall of 1970 under the auspices of the National Park Service Interagency Salvage Program. Leonhardy directed excavations in 1969, with Gerald Schroedl as foreman. In 1970, Schroedl took over as director, with David Brauner and Alan Marshall as foremen. Crew members for both field seasons consisted of WSU field school students plus volunteers. A preliminary report (Leonhardy et al. 1971) was published as part of the Washington State University Reports of Investigation Series.

The artifacts from the site have been classified on four separate occasions.The first classification was completed for the 1971 Preliminary Report (Leonhardy et al. 1971). Frank Leonhard classified the artifacts from Area A and Judith Bense classified the artifacts from Area B. In 1975 Leonhardy did further analysis including reclassification and computerization. The third classification was conducted by the Center for Northwest Anthropology, under the direction of William A. Andrefsky for the NAGPRA inventory (Collins and Andrefsky 1995). Finally, Lyle Nakonechny analyzed the artifacts and features from Area A for his Master's thesis at Washington State University (Nakonechny 1998). His classification scheme is explained in further detail below.

 

Excavations 1968 - 1970

 

The goals of the excavation project, as outlined in the Leonhardy et al. (1971) preliminary report, were to create artifact typologies for each of the two site components, Area A and Area B, and to describe the features located during excavation.

Area A

Area A defines the last phase of the Lower Snake River Sequence based on a large sample size. The Piqúnin Phase, later defined as the Late Harder Phase, dates from A.D. 1300 to A.D. 1750 (Ames et al. 2010; Leonhardy and Rice 1970). Seven random test pits were excavated in 1968. In 1969 the area was gridded and more regularly spaced 2m-x-2m tests pit were excavated. Area A consisted of an open camp above a pithouse village. The open camp contained firepits and earth ovens, with fire-modified rock, bone, debitage, and an artifact scatter. The pithouse village, which was probably a seasonal winter village site, consisted of seven housepits and roughly 80 features. The housepits could be chronologically ordered based on elevation and intrusion sequence. The houses are very variable, but no correlation between house configuration and chronology could be discerned. Most houses are round; one is rectangular and one is sub-rectangular. The uppermost house, House 4, dates post-A.D. 1300. Next in the sequence are House 1 and House 5, which are contemporaneous. House 2 and House 6, also contemporaneous, are later in the sequence. House 7 post-dates Houses 2 and 6 and contained two intrusive burials. These burials and associated grave goods were repatriated in 2010 and are neither pictured nor discussed here.

The open camp occupation above the pithouses contained horse bone and trade beads. The trade beads were the only Euro-American artifacts found at the site. The presence of horse bone suggests that this site is an example of settlement pattern shift that occurred with the introduction of the horse.

“The implication is that the site was abandoned after the introduction of the horse, but before trade goods were introduced into the area. The change in the function of the site, from a winter village to a camp, may reflect a change in settlement pattern associated with the adoption of the horse" [Leonhardy et al. 1971:15].

This settlement shift signals the end of the Piqúnin (Late Harder) Phase, and the beginning of the Nimipu Phase.

A total of 4,286 artifacts were collected from Area A. Of these, 3,740 (87.3 percent) were sorted and classified, but distribution analysis was not conducted at the time. The assemblage was considered very homogeneous in terms of chronology: Seventy artifacts are considered to date to the Cascade Phase, and based on calcified loess adhering to them, are probably intrusive. It is suggested that they were dug up when the features were constructed, and are not described for Area A; the rest of the artifacts are Piqúnin (Late Harder). The artifacts associated with the camp occupation overlying the housepits show no apparent typological differences (Leonhardy et al. 1971:18).

Area B

Area B is an isolated component of the site. In 1969 four 1-x-2-m test pits were excavated to determine the extent of the occupation and a 2-x-14-m trench was excavated for geological context. In 1970, rather than deep stratigraphic excavations, the overburden was stripped to a depth of 60 cm below ground surface to find features. Distinct living surfaces were excavated sequentially. Scattered tools and flakes, but no hearths or other elaborate features, were found.

 

45GA61 July 1969; Area B, Features 18 and 19, showing horizontal excavation strategy (Source: 1969 Field Season Photo Archive)

Wexpusnime was the first site on the Snake River where excavators employed this strategy of contiguous horizontal units to expose large areas of occupation surfaces. Each of these methods - test pits, vertical trenches, and horizontal units - is appropriate for different questions. Vertical trenching reveals river bar deposition, cultural chronology, and artifact type variability over time. Horizontal excavation reveals settlement systems, intra-site variability, and activity areas.

The preliminary results for both Area A and Area B focus on chronology and type variability, while Nakonechny (1998) focused his analysis of Area B on intra-site variability and activity area recognition.

Area B consisted of three parallel, superimposed living surfaces. No structures were found. Each living surface was approximately 10 cm thick, separated by 5 to 10 cm of fill. Each contained a homogeneously distributed scatter of artifacts, flakes, and broken rock. The depth of the cultural material was approximately one meter, but only 20-30 cm were excavated.

Artifacts consist of Levallois-style cores, with a striking platform at the top, plus associated debitage that confirmed the technique. The artifacts were located in a paleosol overlain by a thin, ash-rich, silt-loam loess. This loess was overlain by a second, 80-cm-thick, silt loam loess soil. Any artifacts found in overlying deposits were associated with bioturbation. Based on artifact typology and geology, occupation occurred during the Early Cascade Phase.

Judith Bense analyzed and described the artifacts from both components (Bense 1972)

According to Bense (1972:40, 48) “this assemblage has a higher percentage of preforms and implements broken in manufacture than other assemblages.” There were no identifiable faunal remains found in either component. The few small bone fragments and the preponderance of lithics at Area B indicate that it was probably a workshop area. The range of tool forms is limited, but this might be a function of the small sample size. However, there is a complete range of implements at all stages of manufacture and debitage, from Levallois-like techniques from cores to trimming flakes.

Table 1. Artifacts from Area B.


Artifact

n =

Raw Material

Comments/Other

 

 

Basalt

CCS

 

Lanceolate projectile points

24

12

12

 

Stemmed projectile points

3

1

2

 

Basal-notched projectile point

1

0

1

intrusive

Knives (small)

3

3

0

 

Knives (large)

46

36

10

2 complete

Oval-lanceolate biface performs

6

2

4

 

Discoidal biface preforms

4

3

1

 

Endscrapers

10

4

6

 

Unifacial flakes

11

10

1

1 retouched

Bifacial flakes

9

1

8

5 retouched

Bifacial lanceolate preforms

12

9

3

 

Biface preforms, medial fragments

3

1

2

 

Utilized flakes w. knife-like edges: straight or conves

90

36

54

 

Utilized flakes w. knife-like edges: concave

12

8

4

 

Utilized flakes w. straight or convex scraper-like edges

37

4

33

 

Utilized flakes w. steep scraper-like edges

4

0

4

 

Utilized flakes w. concave scraper-like edges

14

0

14

 

Utilized flakes w. straight or concave denticulate edges

3

3

0

 

Drill

1

0

1

 

Gravers

3

1

2

 

Utilized cobble spalls

9

6

1

2 granite

Cobble scrapers

12

12

0

 

Expired top-struck cores

3

3

0

 

Crude knife-like biface or preform

1

0

1

 

Edge-ground cobbles

3

0

0

Igneous rock

Anvil

1

1

0

 

Pounding stones

5

2

0

3 igneous rock

Polished bone fragment

1

0

0

 

Ochre fragments

3

0

0

 

Miscellaneous flaked pebbles

15

0

15

 

Unclassifiable cobble artifacts

16

16

0

 

Unclassifiable fragments

18

0

18

 

Questionable artifacts/flakes

76

23

53

 

Total (Includes 70 artifacts from Area A)

457

 

 

 

 

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