The Evolution and Diversification of Native Land Use Systems on the Olympic Peninsula
A Research Design
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by Randall Schalk

This report is the product of a study of Olympic National Park that was undertaken by the Office of Public Archaeology at the Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Washington. The study was carried out under contract to the Pacific Northwest Region of the National Park Service (Contract No. CX-900-4-E075). The objective of the project was to develop an archaeological research design and a plan for segmenting the Park into research units. The results of this study are intended to provide a dynamic and long-term framework for archaeological research, compliance, and management by the National Park Service.

Olympic National Park (ONP) is located on the Olympic Peninsula at the most northwesterly corner of Washington State. The Park contains an area of more than 1400 square miles distributed in two slightly separated land areas. The Park's main section is centered upon the rugged Olympic mountains and includes the upper valleys of the Olympic Peninsula's rivers as well as a narrow corridor that parallels the Queets River nearly to the ocean. The second and much smaller area of land in the Park is the 57 mi long coastal strip. These two portions of the Park and the surrounding Olympic Peninsula region are shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1.1 Olympic National Park and the Olympic Peninsula. (click on image for a PDF version)

The Park encompasses some extraordinary ecosystems, both terrestrial and marine. Included within the Park are extensive areas of temperate rainforest—a kind of ecosystem that is relatively rare in the world. Among the National Parks of the United States, Olympic is also unusual for including areas from sea level up to the peaks of a mountain range as well as representative portions of the intermediate environmental zones. In view of the Park's environmental diversity and also the objectives of the present study, a regional perspective seemed essential. Therefore, the Olympic Peninsula region is considered the study area.

At the outset of this study it was assumed that archaeological management and research should be complementary, interdependent, and inseparable processes. Cultural resource management aims to preserve the significant information content of a nonrenewable archaeological record; contemporary research questions establish the priorities for what information is deemed significant. Because the scientific questions asked by archaeologists are subject to change with advances in knowledge, it is highly desirable that management frameworks be flexible enough to accommodate new questions. This study presents a preliminary research design and research units for the Olympic National Park which was developed to permit an incremental, self-correcting, adaptive approach to management. The approach taken in the effort to achieve these qualities involves (1) development of a regional perspective on hunter gatherer land use, (2) development of the best possible characterization of past and present environments of the region, (3) considering alternative archaeological models, and (4) implementing the project as an ongoing experiment. The last point identifies an approach in which information is collected in strategic ways to permit the elimination or refinement of existing models or the development of new ones.

The initial research design developed in this study focuses on aboriginal settlement and subsistence systems of the Olympic Peninsula. This land use conceptual framework offers the dual advantage of bringing this region into the mainstream of current research on hunter-gatherers around the world and of being directly relevant to the broadest possible range of cultural resources likely to be encountered in the study area.

Scope and Objectives of the Study

The two main products requested in the Request for Proposals for this project are a "preservation oriented direction in the nature of a research design and a method of dividing the park into manageable research units (RFP-9000-84-31:2)". It is further stated that:

These are to be working plans, dynamic in structure so that they can be amended to fit research advances in archaeology as well as changes in management research plans. The plans are expected to guide archaeological research, assist in compliance activities which may affect known or undiscovered resources, and provide direction to cultural resource managers in the treatment of the resources (stabilization, preservation, excavation, etc.) (ibid, p.2).

Planned as a two year study, the project required development of a draft research design and research units, review and comment on the draft, and revision in light of the comments. As a means of refining the initial draft of the research design, limited archaeological field reconnaissance was undertaken during August and September of 1985. This reconnaissance contributed significantly to the number of recorded archaeological sites in the Park, yielded a substantial amount of new information about the character and locational characteristics of archaeological sites in several upper river basins of the leeward Olympics, and provided valuable insights into management needs for archaeological resources in the Park. The descriptive results of this reconnaissance are presented in Appendix A and interpretive results are incorporated in Chapter 8.

There is a substantial amount of archaeological literature on the Olympic Peninsula and some of the largest, longest running archaeological projects in the Northwest have occurred here. In an effort to integrate and synthesize the rapidly accumulating archaeological information available for the Olympic National Park and its surrounding region, the National Park Service sponsored a cultural resource overview of the Park (Bergland 1983a). This study summarizes both prehistory and ethnography for the Park. In compiling existing archaeological information for this area, the overview clearly demonstrates that most of what is presently known about the region pertains to the very recent end of the prehistoric time scale and is limited largely to a very small number of site-focused studies. A primary objective of the present project, then, was to proceed to build a framework for inquiry that will help to identify what is not known about the archaeology of Olympic National Park and which would be of general anthropological interest. This study is concerned with arriving at a strategy for inquiry that will permit moving forward without massive additional data collecting.

Characterization of Past Environments

Knowledge of the past distributional structure of human food resources is of critical importance to understanding the behavior that contributed to formation of the archaeological record. Past environments of this region were undoubtedly quite different from present ones and it is obvious that modern resource distributions can not be projected indiscriminately into the past. At the same time, modern data on biotic resources provide the best and only baseline from which we begin to imagine how the past might have been different. A strong effort was made to assemble a comprehensive account of both past and present environments of the Olympic Peninsula. This effort goes well beyond the usual characterizations of environment provided in cultural resource studies. This is essential if the adaptive variations in either the ethnographic or archaeological records are to be understood. Aboriginal people that occupied this region in the past, exploited a wide variety of resources—from both the land and the sea. A thorough knowledge of the behavior, distribution and abundance of these resources today must provide the basis for our efforts to model past environments and, in turn, to build models of how hunter gatherers used those environments. Also, recognizing the unique environmental characteristics of a region is essential in any effort to identify those research questions that are of greatest importance scientifically.

Some Principles from Adaptive Management

As a means for achieving the dynamic, self-correcting qualities called for in the Statement of Work, an effort was made to apply some of the principles of "Adaptive Management" in the present study. This term refers to an approach to environmental management and assessment that has been developed and applied in a wide variety of studies concerned with anticipating impacts to ecosystems (Gordon Orians, pers. comm. 1985; Macnab 1983; Holling 1978; ESSA 1982; Sinclair 1982). An adaptive management approach is also being used currently by the Pacific Northwest Power Commission in its Fish and Wildlife Program in the Columbia River Basin. Some of the central concepts of adaptive management are mentioned here in an effort to show why they are relevant to the management of cultural resources in Olympic National Park.

Adaptive management recognizes that natural systems are complex and that anticipating their behavior carries a large component of uncertainty. As a result, the effects of management policies can not be predicted with any degree of confidence because those policies invariably must be made without full information. Even where existing knowledge appears to be well developed and available data bases seem reliable, there is no guarantee that management success will result. In the face of this heightened awareness of uncertainty, adaptive management proceeds in an experimental fashion. Surprises and unexpected results are not only anticipated but are welcomed as valuable opportunities for learning. Management measures are viewed as hypotheses and not as unchanging operational procedures. As explicitly formulated hypotheses, these measures are constantly tested, reformulated, and tested again in an interactive process. Instead of seeing policy and action as a result of extensive data collecting procedures, adaptive management sees research and implementation as inseparable components of a single process. Throughout the process there is emphasis on disconfirmation and flexibility. In the context of an adaptive management approach, management is research.

The management of archaeological resources involves many of the same challenges as the management of ecosystems. Archeological information is typically not adequate to make fully informed management decisions yet the urgencies of land modifications necessitate such decisions in the face of acknowledged deficiencies in knowledge at any point in time. Some archaeologists have rightfully expressed a concern about so-called "predictive modelling" approaches which propose to offer management protection only to those resources that can be anticipated on the basis of existing knowledge. The effectiveness of such approaches can be no better than the accuracy of the available archaeological models. To be sure, predictive approaches are useful and desirable but there also must be mechanisms to avoid the so-called "self-fulfilling prophecy".

On the one hand, it is clear that the costs of obtaining anything approaching complete knowledge of the resources in some areas can become astronomical while, on the other hand, implementation of policies based upon poor information about the nature of archaeological resources in a particular area can result in the irreversible loss of nonrenewable scientific information. Given these opposing forces, some of the principles of adaptive management seem to offer promise for approaches to archaeology that are more conservation oriented, more cost effective, and more productive of new scientific information.

Testing of Alternative Models

A major impact associated with developments in archaeology during the past 15 years has been a greatly increased interest in building adaptive models and formulation of hypotheses to explain cultural change and variability. In the Pacific Northwest, for example, there has been a proliferation of models to account for observed changes in the archaeological record. Surprisingly though, there has been minimal effort to test these models. Even recognizing that the creators of a model often are least able to provide rigorous tests of their own ideas, it is surprising that there has been so little interest in developing empirical tests of models advanced by others in an effort to falsify and reject certain ones. Clearly there are scientific benefits to "clearing the field" and narrowing the search for viable explanatory frameworks.

In the context of cultural resource management, model building can actually be a liability to the extent that new models are continuously created and then utilized to guide data recovery procedures. The risk, of course, is a "self-fulfilling prophecy" in which data recording neglects important observations because they are "not relevant to the research design" and important hypotheses are not tested. These statements are by no means a condemnation of problem-oriented archaeology but, in fact, an effort to emphasis its important role in cultural resource management.

The validity of scientific explanations can never be proven and, it has been argued that the strength of the scientific method lies in its capacity for disconfirmation. Disproof of existing scientific explanations generally initiates the development of more powerful explanations. The general process is one of approximating the real world with successively more accurate theories and models. While these points hardly require repeating, they do bear implications for the structure of a research design.

In any region where rival explanations for the same archaeological phenomena exist, there is opportunity for hypothesis testing that can contribute to theory building without necessarily building theories. If we can articulate these models in such a way that they offer different empirical predictions that can be examined within a management project area, then hypothesis testing is more likely to be successful. Moreover, data collection strategies are much less likely to be self-fulfilling when they are geared to recover information stipulated by multiple competing hypotheses.

In this study, alternative models for the emergence of maritime adaptations are discussed and critically evaluated with respect to the archaeology of the Olympic Peninsula. Where it was appropriate and possible, test implications were deduced from these models that are relevant to research zones defined for the Park.

Organization of the Report

Chapter 2 provides a brief theoretical background regarding hunter-gatherer land use strategies. It also considers how general models of land use can be used to generate a wide range of expectations for archaeological patterning. The basic ideas presented in this chapter lay the groundwork for the building of models in later chapters of the study.

Environmental variability and resource structure serve a central role in all of the models that are considered. To effectively design ways that these models can be evaluated or to move in the direction of being able to predict regional archaeological structure, it is first necessary to understand the ecological determinants of variation in human settlement and subsistence systems. Chapter 3 addresses the modern environment with detailed sections on both terrestrial and marine resources. Ethnographic observations on resource procurement are also provided in this chapter. Within the framework of regional environmental variability developed in Chapter 3, Chapter 4 then examines variability at the regional level in the ethnographic land use strategies. Chapter 5 considers the paleoenvironment record for the Olympic Peninsula and lays the foundation for the development of models of prehistoric land use in Chapters 6 and 7. In Chapter 8, the Park is subdivided into zones for which specific predictions for the character of the archaeological record are presented. The final chapter, Chapter 9, provides suggestions for the implementation of the research design, strategies and methods for doing archaeology in this region, and recommendations for future management.

Identification of responsibility for the research and writing that went into sections of this report is necessary. David Yesner did research for and wrote the marine resource section (excluding anadromous fish) of Chapter 3. He also was responsible for the section of Chapter 5 dealing with relative sea level change during the Holocene and portions of the section summarizing palynological studies. The remainder of the report and its appendices were written by Randall Schalk.

The reader will note that Appendices A and C are not included in this report. These were submitted separately to the National Park Service and are available at the Pacific Northwest Region in Seattle.

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Last Updated: 16-Nov-2009