[NPS Arrowhead] U.S. Dept. of Interior National Park Service Archeology Program
Quick Menu Features
* Sitemap * Home
  Kennewick Home Cultural Affiliation Report  

Chapter 2
Review of the Archaeological Data
Kenneth M. Ames

"Earlier Group"


Five bone samples from the Kennewick skeleton have been submitted for radiocarbon dating, including the first date of 8410 60 (Taylor et al. 1998) or 7590 – 7320 B.C. The other four dates are: 813040 (UCR-3807/CAMS 60684), 841040 (Beta-133993); 694030 (UCR-3806/CAMS-60683), and 5750100 (AA-34818). The two "young" dates are from samples taken from the skeleton's left tibial crest. These are regarded as too young (McManamon 2000). The report on Beta-133993 (Beta-Analytic 1999) indicates the value of that sample's 13C/12C ratio is elevated, suggesting that the person had either a diet of C4 plants, or marine organisms. If the latter, the date may be too old, because of the marine reservoir effect. The age could be several hundred years too old. However, data to be presented below indicate that the individual could also have been eating bison, which would elevate his 13C/12C ratio (also see Carlson 1998). In any case, the calibrated age spans of the two additional accepted dates are 7575 – 7450 BC (Beta 133933) and 7185 – 7053 BC (UCR – 3807/CAMS 60684).

In terms of the regional cultural historical sequences, these three dates place the individual in the middle of Ames et al.'s Period 1B, which includes the Windust (11,000 – 7000 BC) and the Cascade (7000 – 4500 BC) phases of the Lower Snake River, and the Philippi phase (11,000 – 7000 BC) of the John Day Reservoir, and the Vantage phase (7000 – 4500 BC) of the Middle Columbia region (Galm et al. 1981). The individual is actually earlier than the beginnings of the Cascade and Vantage phases. At present, the artifact in the skeleton's hip is the only dated cultural manifestation along that stretch of the Columbia River of that age (Figure 8).

Given the age of the skeleton and the possible typological affinities of the projectile point fragment in the hip (Fagan 1999), both the Windust (11,000 – 7000 BC) and Cascade/Vantage (7000 – 4500 BC) phases are reviewed here (Figure 5). The Philippi phase (Dumond and Minor 1983) will be treated as part of the Windust phase. Leonhardy and D. Rice (1970), D. Rice (1972), Bense (1972) and Ames (1988b) have reviewed the Windust and Cascade phases in detail. Nelson (1969) and Galm et al. (1981) are the primary sources for the Vantage phase. Aspects of this period are also discussed by Schalk and Cleveland (1983), Chatters (1984), and Chatters and Pokotylo (1998). Hess (1997) discusses mobility and obsidian use in the southern uplands of the Columbia Plateau, Pettigrew and Hodges (1995) and Schalk et al. (1995) discuss aspects of mobility and resource use in the same region, while Connolly (1999) provides significant new data for the Windust phase.


The terminus for this lengthy cultural period is the Mazama ash fall, produced by the eruption of Mt. Mazama, which also created Crater Lake in the southern Oregon Cascades. This event is variously dated between c. 7000 and 6700 radiocarbon years ago, or c. 5800 – 5600 BC, and it marks the boundary between the Early Cascade (7000 – 5700 BC) and Late Cascade (5700 – 4500 BC) subphases of the Lower Snake River sequence. This is not entirely arbitrary, as we will see in subsequent discussions. The terminus of the Windust phase (and beginning of the Early Cascade phase) is generally given as c. 8000 BP or about 7000 BC.

The earliest reported dates for Windust materials are from the Copper's Ferry site on the Lower Salmon River in central Idaho. Almost equally early dates, particularly when calibrated, have been produced at Hatwai, Wildcat Canyon and Marmes (Table 1). The Marmes dates, however, are shell dates. Sheppard et al. (1987) reports these as being as reliable as the Marmes charcoal dates.

Table 1  Calibrated Earliest Windust Phase Dates.
Site Lab Number Radiocarbon Date 2 Sigma Calibrated Age Range Source
Cooper's Ferry TO-7349 11,410 130 11,900 – 11050 BC Davis 1998
Cooper's Ferry Beta-114949 11,37040 11550 – 11115 BC Davis 1998
Hatwai TX–3159 10820+140 11250 – 10650 BC Ames et al. 1981
Wildcat Canyon GAK- 1322 10600200 11200 – 9800 BC Dumond and Minor 1983
Marmes WSU-363 10810300 11600 – 9700 BC Sheppard et al. 1987
Marmes WSU–211 10750300 11500 – 9600 BC Sheppard et al. 1987

Not included in this table is the Lind Coulee site, the Windust phase (11,000 – 7000 BC) site temporally closest to the Kennewick individual. Moody (1978) dates Lind Coulee to c. 8700 BP. Chatters and Pokotylo (1998, in passim) observe that Moody's reconstruction of the site's environment is at variance with regional environmental reconstructions for this time. Moody reconstructs the depositional environment as a permanent flowing stream while Chatters (1998) sees this period as very warm and dry. Moody's age assignment is based primarily on a dated Mt. St. Helens ash contained within the cultural deposits. The ash, Mt. St. Helens J, is radiocarbon dated to 8900300 (W–2991), or 8900 – 7200 BC, overlapping slightly with the Kennewick date. Several other radiocarbon dates are reported for the site. Daugherty, in the original report (Daugherty 1956), discusses two dates, one of 9400 940, and the second 8518 400. Fryxell dated humic acid from the site that was dated to 8600 65 (Sheppard and Chatters 1976, cited in Moody 1978). Excavations at the site by Irwin and Moody (Irwin and Moody 1977, 1978; Moody 1978) produced additional dates, both on aggregated bone samples. The first, 12,830 1,050 (WSU-1707), is from a bison scapula immediately below the St. Helens J ash. The second is 8720 1709 (WSU-1707). Moody concludes that while none of these is, individually, a strong date, the preponderance of available evidence indicates the St. Helens J date is a reasonable date for the site.

Phase Characteristics

The type characteristics of the Windust (11,000 – 7000 BC) and Cascade (7000 – 4500 BC) phases are summarized above (Period 1B) and listed in Figure 5 (Galm et al. 1981). For the Windust phase, these include stemmed and shouldered lanceolate points (Figure 9) which are generally similar to points found throughout the far western United States, and which are sometimes subsumed under the terms "Western Pluvial Lake Traditions" and "Western Stemmed Tradition" (Ames 1988b, Beck and Jones 1997, Dixon 1999). Windust and Early Cascade\Vantage ( 7000 – 5700 BC) phases differ very little in their artifact contents. Ames (1988b) summarizes the assemblage contents of 13 Windust and Early Cascade components from the Lower Snake River (Table 2). Basic tools were recovered in all 13, secondary tools in five to eight components and rare tools in one or two. Antler wedges were found in four.

Differences in material culture between the Windust (11,000 – 7000 BC) and Early Cascade\Vantage phases (7000 – 5700 BC) are limited, but present. The major differences are projectile point forms (Figures 9 & 10), the presence of burins in Windust assemblages, the relative frequencies of one artifact class, edge – ground cobbles (higher in the Cascade\Vantage phase) – and a greater reliance on basalt for tool stone during the latter phase. There are also subtle differences in settlement patterns that suggest a shift from more collector–like mobility strategies during the Windust Phase, to more forager–like strategies during the Early Cascade\Vantage phase (Ames 1988b) (see below).

Table 2 Assemblage contents of 13 Windust and Early Cascade components
Basic Tools Secondary Tools Rare Tools
Projectile Points
Cobble Tools
Utilized Flakes
Piercing tools (burins/gravers)
Bone Points
Ceremonial artifacts
Clothing related artifacts
Edge Ground Cobbles
Pounding Stones
Antler Wedges
Fishing Gear
Flaking Tools
Milling Stones

Cascade points are present in assemblages during the Windust phase (11,000 –7000 BC) (Lohse 1985, 1995). At Hatwai, for example, Cascade points may date as early as 10,000 BC, and as late as 7600 BC in one context (Ames et al. 1981). The beginning of the Cascade\Vantage phase (7000 – 4500 BC) is marked by a reduction in the variety of projectile point forms that characterizes the Windust phase. Only Cascade points are present during the Early Cascade\Vantage phase (7000 – 5700 BC). Lind Coulee is the last major site with relatively large stemmed and shouldered points, for example. It is likely that all of these point types armed atlatl darts. The changes in projectile point styles and reduction in diversity suggests that there was a fair amount of diversity in weaponry during the Windust phase, but that gradually one form, that armed by Cascade points, became the most common. Lohse (1985, 1995) does recognize three classes of Cascade point, but the differences among these are not great.

Core and blade technology was employed. Lithic reduction techniques also produced large thin flakes. The bone technology included a range of forms, including the very small bone needles.

Edge–ground cobbles are a diagnostic artifact of the Cascade phase (7000 – 4500 BC) (B. R. Butler 1961, 1965; Leonhardy and D. Rice 1970). They are present, however, in small numbers in Windust components, as well as very occasionally in later components (Keeler 1973, Yent 1976). Their function is unknown, although a number of suggestions have been made (e.g. Sims 1971). The causes of increased proportions of basalt tools in Early Cascade\Vantage (7000 – 5700 BC) assemblages are not known.

To the south, in central Oregon, archaeologists have recovered a distinctive form of sandal in dry caves (the Fort Rock style). The sandals are woven from sagebrush bark. Radiocarbon dates for these sandals cluster between 9000 and 7300 BC (Connolly and Cannon 1999). They may occur as late as 5000 BC, however, but no later. There is little or no temporal overlap with the subsequent woven sandals8.

Demography, Subsistence, and Mobility Patterns

While it cannot presently be firmly proven, it is reasonable to think that population levels were very low during this period. Ames predicted that the Columbia Plateau might have held as few as two and as many as 20 maximal bands during this period (Ames 1988b). Maximal bands range in size from 175 to approximately 500 people (Wobst 1974). It is also a reasonable inference that these groups were highly mobile.

A number of researchers have examined mobility patterns for all or portions of this period, usually the Early Cascade\Vantage subphase (7000 – 5700 BC), as opposed to the Windust phase (11,000 – 7000 BC). Bense (1972) examined the excavated Cascade phase assemblages from the Lower Snake River and concluded that Cascade mobility patterns were, overall, similar to those of 19th century Nez Perce, in that sites were regularly reoccupied, winters were spent in the canyons and people dispersed into the uplands in the other seasons to acquire resources. She did not postulate winter villages. Sites were small. She also found no difference in mobility and settlement patterns before and after the Mazama ash fall. Ames (1988b) examined the reported assemblage contents of Windust and Early Cascade sites and concluded that Windust mobility patterns were somewhat more collector-like than Early Cascade patterns which fit expectations of foragers. He also postulated that mobility levels were high and that groups covered a great deal of ground.

More recent analyses generally support Ames' results. Some of this recent work is based on lithic procurement, usually of obsidian9, and on the organization of lithic technology, including reduction techniques and artifact use-lives (e.g. Hess 1997). Hess concludes, for example, that in the southern uplands during the Early Cascade\Vantage phase (7000 – 5700 BC), that groups moved perhaps 10 km over the "short run" but they might move as much 150 km, and even over 400 km over a "long run" of two or three years. Connolly, for example (1999) (Figure 11) shows that the average distance for obsidian procurement10 at the Paulina Lake site was 50 km – some distances were greater. Hess compared this pattern with mobility figures for the Early Modern period (AD 1720 – 1850) and concluded that the distances moved were similar, although he thought the early peoples had moved more frequently. However, his Early Modern sample included maritime peoples on the northern Northwest Coast, an inappropriate comparison since boats allowed them to move distances pedestrian hunter-gatherers would find daunting.

Hess used obsidian sourcing data to reconstruct movements. He concluded that people moved between the major rivers and the uplands by following major drainages, but once in the uplands often moved across drainages. Data generated by INFOTEC from the Pipeline Expansion Project also indicated considerable movement through the uplands (Hess drew on their data, so the similarity in conclusion is not surprising. However, they looked at a wider array of raw material types, although obsidian was the principal one).

There is strong evidence (e.g. Ames 1988b, Schalk et al. 1995, Connolly 1999) that mobility and subsistence patterns during this period focused on wetlands. Overall site distributions on the Plateau (Figure 8) shows them to be concentrated in the wetter portions of the Plateau. Finer–grained settlement studies (e.g. Schalk et al. 1995) have also shown this.

While the evidence convincingly shows movements from the rivers into the southern and eastern uplands, and use of the uplands, there is little evidence for human use of the central Columbia Basin during this period. This includes the general region in which the Kennewick individual was found. With the exception of Lind Coulee, which is located on what was a permanent watercourse when it was occupied, there are no Windust sites in the central Basin, nor is surface Windust material reported from surveys. Cascade materials, including sites and surface finds are reported, but with one possible exception, they are located very close (within a mile) to the Columbia River (Chatters 1980, Galm et al. 1981). The single exception is Meyers Cave (Bryan 1955), where what may be the base of a Cascade point was recovered at the bottom of the deposits, which appear to span the Middle and Late Holocene. There is no Cascade material out in the middle of the Basin. It is not until the beginning of Period II (4500 – 1500 BC) that projectile points and other materials are found away from the rivers, and these in only small numbers until c. AD 1.

Evidence indicates that a range of both large and medium mammals was taken during the Windust (11,000 – 7000 BC) and Cascade (7000 – 45000 BC) phases, including bison (only at Lind Coulee), elk, deer, antelope (only in Cascade phase sites), rabbits, and other medium mammals. There is scattered evidence for fishing, including a notched net weight in the Windust component at Hatwai (Ames et al. 1981), and fishing gear and fish at Bernard Creek Rockshelter in Hells Canyon (Randolph and Dahlstrom1977). While salmon are present at Bernard Creek, other fish are also present.

The major evidence for fishing during this period comes from the Five Mile Rapids site, near The Dalles, Oregon, at the upstream end of the Columbia River Gorge. The site, excavated in the 1950s by Luther Cressman and others (Cressman et al. 1960), produced some 150,000 salmon bones in its basal deposits, which are dated to c. 10,200 – 8500 BC (9785220 BP) by a composite radiocarbon date collected from throughout a two–meter thick deposit. V.L. Butler recently re–exposed portions of Cressman's excavations, including the levels where his crews recovered the salmon bones. She dated nine samples collected from the entire deposits she exposed. Based on her dates and stratigraphic work, V. L. concludes that a minimum age for the salmon–rich deposits would be c. 5940 – 5540 BC, and the maximum age is c. 7260 – 6500 BC (V.L. Butler n.d.). This is significantly younger than Cressman's estimate of the age of these deposits. Given the potential errors in a composite date collected across a two–meter profile, V. L. Butler's estimate seems far more likely to be correct. Schalk and Cleveland (1983) questioned whether the salmon deposit was a natural or cultural deposit. V.L. Butler (1990) demonstrated conclusively that the bone deposit was produced by humans. However, the site has proven problematic since the dense salmon deposits are not replicated elsewhere in the Plateau, deposits above the salmon–rich strata have few or no salmon bones, and it has proven difficult over the years to tie the reported sequence of cultural materials to other sequences in the region (e.g. Nelson 1969). V. L. Butler's recent work raises additional questions about the site and its relevance to this early period.

Five Mile Rapids is not the only site with fish bones. At least 13 sites along the Columbia and Snake Rivers have fish bones dating to this period (Hess 1997, Randolph and Dahlstrom 1977). The available evidence suggests that fishing occurred on the main stems. The evidence also suggests that Five Mile Rapids aside, salmon were not the main emphasis of fishing activities. It also seems likely that fishing was not a major emphasis of subsistence practices, except in some places.

Evidence for plant exploitation in this period is even more limited. There has been no significant work on plant remains associated with sites of this age. Most work was done before appropriate techniques were available. Archaeologists presume that the presence of manos and milling stones, edge ground cobbles, and the occasional pestle and mortar indicate that a range of plant foods was exploited.

The next section reviews the archaeology of the Early Modern Period (AD 1720 – 1850). The intervening period is discussed in Section 6, which addresses the specific topics requested by the SoW.

8The relevance of these sandals might be questioned, since they were recovered to the south of the region discussed here. However, they were found in the Fort Rock Basin, which is not far south of Paulina Lake, which is relevant. Of course, no sandals are associated with Windust materials in the Plateau, so we do not know that this style of sandal was worn in that area.
9Archaeologists on the Plateau have little success in sourcing cherts.
10There has been little sourcing of chert sources on the Plateau.

Kennewick Home | Ames Home | Next Section >>