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Chapter 2
Review of the Archaeological Data
Kenneth M. Ames

Alexander Gall, Stephanie Butler and Jon Daehnke, all of Portland State University, gave me invaluable assistance in the production of this document. They assisted me with library research, the bibliography, data bases and so on and on. However, neither they, nor any of the people with whom I consulted on this work (see list below) bear any responsibilities for errors, ideas, or conclusions drawn here. That responsibility is solely mine.


This report is part of the cultural affiliation study, under NAGPRA, of the Kennewick human remains. The circumstances of the finding of those remains, and the resulting controversies, are well enough known not to require rehearsal here. The present work reviews the extant archaeological record for the Southern Columbia Plateau (sensu Ames et al. 1998) (Figure 1).

Scope of Work and Methodology

The framework for this study is set out in the scope of work (SoW) dated December 9, 1999. It is important to be quite explicit about what the scope of work and the parameters of this study are. Therefore, in summarizing the SoW, I either closely paraphrase its wording, or quote extensively. The project's scope of work included:

  • Identify an "earlier group" with which the Kennewick human remains could be associated. This group is essentially defined chronologically - as the archaeological manifestations contemporary with the skeleton's age. The contract therefore specified 9500 BP (cal) or c. 7500 BC as the starting date for establishing the "earlier group." This is approximately the calibrated age of the first radiocarbon date from the skeleton. In order to develop as complete a picture as possible, however, it is necessary to examine a much broader time span, as will be seen below (Section 4).
  • While "the investigation into the cultural affiliation of the Kennewick human remains must consider all present-day Indian tribes ... heightened scrutiny should be applied to the interest of present-day Indian tribes that have either claimed cultural affiliation with the Kennewick human remains or participated in on-going consultation efforts concerning their treatment. These tribes include: the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation; Washington; Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, Oregon; Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Indian Nation of the Yakama Reservation, Washington; Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho; and the Wanapum Band, a non-Federally recognized Indian group." The SoW specified that the study should focus on indigenous peoples occupying or utilizing the Mid-Columbia region, including the Lower Snake River area. The temporal terminus for this study is the early nineteenth century. It is not the task of this work to link the peoples of the Mid-Columbia\Lower Snake Rivers in 1800 to the tribal peoples of that area today.
  • The study was to "review and synthesize existing published and non-published information ... (emphasis mine)." The time constraints did not allow examination of museum collections. The study is, in a sense, a literature review. The available time did not permit even new manipulations and reorganization of basic, available data.
  • The SoW specified examinations of the following "manifestations:"
    • Artifact styles and types;
    • Artifact manufacturing techniques;
    • Trade and other social networks;
    • Dwelling styles and manufacture;
    • Community and settlement patterns; and
    • Economic and subsistence patterns.
    • The study was not limited to these, and I have also examined what I am calling patterning in the radiocarbon record and demography. Other lines of evidence, such as rock art motifs, that might be relevant with a shorter time span, do not extend far enough back in time to be used.

The scope of work acknowledged the stringency of the time constraints available to accomplish the study, noting that much of the necessary evidence may be in reports of limited circulation, as well as being unpublished. It asked that given these constraints the study "will be as comprehensive and representative as reasonably possible."

The study was conducted between 9 December, 1999 (when the contract began) and 15 January 2000, when the draft report was due. Additional work was done between 22 February and 7 March, including revising the report and adding additional information and discussion as requested by the National Park Service (NPS) staff. The research process was primarily my reading extensively in the available literature and thinking about it. Visits were made to the libraries of the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office in Salem, Oregon, and of the Washington State Historic Preservation Office, in Olympia. I also made inquires of the Idaho SHPO for relevant studies. The libraries of the Portland District, US Army Corps of Engineers, and Archaeological Investigations Northwest were also consulted. Additionally, extensive use was made of the Interlibrary Loan Services of the Portland State University.

Additionally, the Tribal Historic Preservation Offices of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Indian Nation of the Yakama Reservation, and the Nez Perce Tribe were consulted by phone, fax and/or letter. They were asked to recommend any studies, reports, etc. that they thought important or germane to my work. Information was provided to me by the Tribal Historic Preservation Office of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. Additionally, information that was provided to the NPS by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation has passed on to me. I also consulted, via telephone, email and talking directly, with the following Plateau researchers: Jerry Galm, Virginia Butler, Randall Schalk, James Chatters, Loren Davis, R. Lee Lyman, Darby Stapp, William Andrefsky, Alan G. Marshall, Rick McClure and Max Pavesic.

Organization of This Report

The report's organization is dictated by the SoW. While I review the archaeological record of the Plateau, I do not do so in the common narrative form for cultural-historical overviews. Rather, I organized the discussion to directly address the topics raised in the SoW. The report is divided into six sections, including this one. Section 2 provides necessary background information, including discussions about the Plateau's environments, a brief history of anthropological and archaeological research on the Plateau, a summary cultural-historical chronology, and a review of the cultural-historical frameworks used over the past 40 years by archaeologists working on the Plateau. The next section, Section 3, discusses a range of substantive, theortical and methodological issues and problems relevant to this study. Sections 4 through 7 directly address the SoW. Section 4 identifies the "earlier group" with which the Kennewick remains can be associated. This association is based on temporal criteria. Section 5 addresses the archaeology of the late 18th century along the Middle Columbia-Lower Snake River. These two sections together define the beginning and end points for this analysis. Section 6 reviews relevant aspects of the Plateau's archaeological record addressing the topics specified in the SoW and the additional ones noted above - radiocarbon chronology and population dynamics. Section 7 presents the summary and conclusions.

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