Technical Report

Environment, Prehistory & Archaeology of Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Greg C. Burtchard

Chapter 5:


This chapter has presented two models related to the archaeological record of Mount Rainier National Park. The first model deals with prehistoric site types and distribution patterns on Mount Rainier irrespective of age. Available prehistoric site data and assumptions relevant to optimal use of Park landscapes were employed to develop a 10-part prehistoric site-type taxonomy. Nomenclature and type distinctions were selected to exhaust the range of presently documented prehistoric remains, and to the extent possible, maintain consistency with forager/collector terminology used by Binford (1980) and with extant regional site-type schemes. As presently structured, the model recognizes 1) Residential Base Camps, 2) Field Hunting Camps, 3) Low Intensity Hunting Locations, 4) Butchering Locations, 5) Lithic Procurement and Reduction Locations, 6) Stacked Rock Locations, 7) Culturally Modified Trees, 8) Plant Processing Locations, 9) Trails, and 10) Isolated Lost Artifacts. Text associated with each site-type class discusses predicted site function, expected assemblage characteristics, location, and current representation in the Park. Presently documented sites and tabular summary of remains are organized by site class in Table 5.1. Readers are encouraged to review that table and relevant text for a more thorough understanding of the model and the Park's prehistoric archeological record.

The second model is devoted to developing a broad-scale view of changing subsistence and settlement patterns through time. It is assumed that from early to late Holocene times, basic land-use practices have shifted from mobile foragers with minimal need to rely on mass harvested and stored food resources, to semisedentary collectors critically dependent on mass harvest, over winter storage and logistic acquisition of food resources by limited task groups tethered to a village center. Substantial attention has been given to developing ecological principles and historical precedents underlying the model's structure and key assumptions.

The processual model is divided into six temporal periods. Text accompanying each period summarizes environmental and land-use characteristics expected to dominate the region and Mount Rainier during the interval in question. Anticipated implications for the archaeological record are considered as well. As with the spatial/site type ideas, readers are encouraged to consult the text for a more complete understanding of the model and its critical assumptions. Table 5.3 below closes this chapter by summarizing its more salient expectations.

Table 5.3 Mount Rainier Environment, Land-Use and the Archaeological Record

Land-Use PeriodEnvironmentLand-Use Expectations Archaeological ExpectationsRainier-S. Wash. Cascades Data

Post-Pleistocene Foraging
(ca. 11,000-8,000 B.P.)
Mount Rainier glaciated early retreating rapidly near period end; modern habitats established near period end. Megafauna present in Puget Trough during Everson Interglacial, extinct by period end. Very low population density, foragers east of Cascades focusing on megafauna habitats. Limited use of Puget Trough and Cascade foothills. Increased use of Cascade foothills with megafauna extinctions at period end. Earliest plausible use of Mount Rainier (not expected). No archaeological remains expected for Rainier during the period. Earliest use of southern Washington Cascade (SWC) foothills and lowlands during the period. Extant: No remains dating to period. Clovis point near Cle Elum may indicate use of foothills or low elevation passes.
Recommend: Samples from deeply stratified cultural deposits. Mazama tephra provides good 6,800 year temporal marker in places.

Rest-Rotation Foraging
(ca. 9,000-6,000 B.P.)
Full onset of Hypsithermal. Lowland forest density decreases –ungulate habitat improves; upland forest density increases–ungulate habitat restricted. Low population density, mobile foraging strategies emphasizing ungulate habitat in lowlands and Cascade foothills. Minimal use of Mount Rainier uplands. Small residential and hunting camp sites in lowland and foothill settings. Negligible to very low site density on Mount Rainier. Extant: Modest number of dated sites in foothill to moderate elevation settings. No documented sites on Mount Rainier.
Recommend: As above, concerted effort to locate and sample deeply stratified cultural deposits.
Semisedentary Rest-Rotation Foraging
(ca. 7,000-4,000 B.P.)
Hypsithermal climate cools near period end. Ungulate habitat degrades in lowlands, improves in uplands. Volcanic collapse of Mount Rainier summit, Paradise-Greenwater-Osceola lahars. Slightly elevated population density. Short-term winter sedentism and storage. Other aspects of mobile foraging strategies continue. Punctuated increase in use of upland ungulate habitats. Site density in lowlands increases with similar site types. Limited evidence of storage features. Site density on Mount Rainier rises sharply. Patterned distribution of base camps at upper forest ecotone, hunting locations in subalpine to alpine settings. Extant: Modest number of dated sites in SWC, none firmly dated on Mount Rainier, though stratigraphy at FS 90-01 indicates use 4,500-2,300 years ago.
Recommend: Near term data recovery at FS 90-01. Survey and test rock-shelter locations to gain assemblage, resource and temporal data. Survey and test subset of base camp and limited-task locations.
Semisedentary Collecting
(ca. 5,000-1,500 B.P.)
Climate cools to near modern conditions. Limited glacial advance ca. 2400 B.P. Closed lowland forests, open uplands. Mount Rainier C eruptions rebuild summit to present height. Elevated population, degrading ungulate habitat; unstable resource balance with forager system. Shift to river oriented logistic strategies. Use of fire to improve ungulate habitat. Extension of territorial claims to uplands; montane use continues with focus on habitat protection and use of alternative resources. Increased site density in lowlands with punctuated increase in aggregated settlement on salmon rivers and streams. Site density remains stable on Mount Rainier reflecting decreased per capita use. Maintenance of base camps at upper forest ecotone, increased site variety. Decreased elk/deer use, increased use of alternatives. Extant: Village complexes in lowlands. Stratigraphic, artifact and 14C evidence for use of Mount Rainier upper forest to alpine habitats.
Recommend: Site survey with subsurface tests to expand database and improve temporal representation. Test/data recovery at subset of sites stratified by type to improve view of temporal and site distribution issues.
Intensive Collecting
(ca. 2,500-400 B.P.)
Early mountain rebuilding vulcanism. Cool climate continues, glacial advance-retreat ca. 900-500 B.P. Dense Maritime forests in lowlands, open subalpine associations in uplands. Peak prehistoric regional population density. Collector systems fully established. Increasing use of fire. Territorial claims vigorously enforced. Extension of trade and other intergroup ties. Increased social complexity. Elevated intergroup conflict. Exploitation of lower return storable resources, increasing use of inland valleys and foothills; high elevation use continues, focusing on habitat protection and use of alternative resources. Maximum lowland site density and dispersal into varied habitats. Largest aggregated settlements in marine and riverine context. Storage features and elevated artifact complexity. Higher fraction of ritual and status goods. Higher fraction of tools for capture of smaller bodied animals. Montane site density and type remains largely constant. Due to logistic difficulty, mass Mount Rainier huckleberry harvest for lowland storage not expected prior to introduction of the horse. Extant: Highest regional site density with largest aggregated villages in lowland settings. General SWC site density increases sharply. Upland Mount Rainier use evident by 14C, stratigraphic, and artifact remains.
Recommend: Survey and test procedures as above. Efforts to identify and date huckleberry prosessing fea-tures. Pollen profiles for paleo-environmental reconstruction and ex-amination of carbon frequency-fire data.
Mixed Strategy Hunting & Gathering
(ca. 400 B.P.-Present)
Essentially modern climatic conditions. "Little Ice Age" 400-100 B.P. Lowland and upland forest patterns near modern levels. Rapid population loss to epidemic diseases. Abandonment of villages in marginal habitats with reaggregation as composite groups in optimal habitats. Increased intergroup variability in land-use systems. Equestrian transport and emergence of long distance overland collecting and trade, particularly on east slope. Increased mass huckleberry harvest on Mount Rainier. Partial integration into Euroamerican economy ultimately breaks predominance of forager-collector land-use strategies. Punctuated drop in site density overall. Continuing but decreasing number of large lowland villages. Possible shortterm reemergence of small forager residential camps. Increased frac-tion of European trade goods and utensils. Mount Rainier use declines then increases with primary focus on mass huckle-berry harvest and supplemental hunting. Indigenous use of Mount Rainier for economic purposes declines in late 1800s/ early 1900s. Extant: Decreased lowland site total. Some large maritime and riverine villages continue. The Dalles trade fairs. Mount Rainier huckle-berry/hunting use ethnographically documented. Early historical use suggested at several sites, but data ambiguous. No huckleberry processing features currently documented.
Recommend: Survey efforts geared to expand and categorize sample of early historical remains. Survey test procedures to document huckleberry processing features. Test procedures at most probable traditional prehistorichistoric sites, esp. FS 74-01 and 95-10.

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Last Updated: Monday, 18-Oct-2004 20:10:54
Author: Natural & Cultural Resources Division

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