Salish Archaeology in Western Washington
A mystery to ponder

Charles Nelson
Spring Semester, 2012
Academy for Life Long Learning

Three two-hour sessions:

TUEs: MAR 6 / MAR 13 / MAR 20
10 AM to NOON
St. Luke's Education Center
3333 Squalicum Parkway

Everything in BLUE is an active link.

Brief course description:         eMail the instructor
How do archaeologists identify and trace prehistoric cultures? The answer is fundamental for interpreting prehistoric remains. Around Puget Sound, traditional archaeological thinking tells us we have two sets of cultures, one living in the foothills and the other living on the shore. But the evidence from history, linguistics and ethnology suggests only one set of cultures, each occupying a bit of the shore and the adjacent hills and river valleys. How can we resolve these views? What does this mean for archaeology?
  If you or someone you know have artifacts from the Pacific Northwest, bring them to class to find out what they are and what the mean.


Expanded Course Outline   Return to Home Page

Society & Culture / Culture Area / Culture Depth
   Anthropological Concepts of Society & Culture
   Culture viewed as a series of domains, e.g.:
      Social structure & organization
      Economic structure & organization
      Material culture
   The concept of the culture area
      Northwest Coast Culture Area
      The Plateau Culture Area
   The concept of "cultural depth"
      The case of the Salish and glattochronology
Culture / Style / Function
   Function = physical/economic function
   Style = intangible/social function
   Historical cultures defined by style
   Archaeological cultures defined by function + style
   Differences reflect nature of available information
   Display frequency vs survival frequency
Archaeology and Prehistory
   Prehistory is the story we tell
   Archaeology is how we unearth the story
   Prehistory is the story of societies without writing
Prehistoric Societies / Prehistoric Cultures
   Continuum of social/cultural complexity
   Continuum of economic adaptations
   Prehistoric societies largely invisible
   Archaeology focuses on prehistoric cultures
What is a prehistoric culture?
   Physical remains to work with ...
      stone = most often preserved
      original site structure
      wood, fiber, plants
      skin, integument = rarely preserved
   Geographic distributions of ...
      types of archaeological sites (settlement)
      subsistence remains (economies)
      artifacts (tools) & debris from tool making
   So a prehistoric culture is a geographic association of ...
      settlement, economic, burial & artifact patterns
   A prehistoric culture may represent ...
      a single society = least common outcome
      a closely related group of societies, or
      an entire culture area = most common outcome
   Sometimes prehistoric cultures include societies that are
      very different. Studying such cases can help us better
      understand the prehistoric record.
Tool Form reflects Style and Function
   The tool and its components
   The process of compositization
   Sorting out functional and stylistic attributes of tools
   Tools as cultural markers
   Examples using stone tools
The Problem in the Western Puget Sound Basin
   Statement of the problem
   Graphic comparison of a cultural marker: the arrowhead
The Geographic Stage
   The Northwest Coast
   Circum-Pacific conveyer belt
   Western Intermontane Plateau
   Interior corridors, rivers & passes
   We will come back to this geography time and again.
Limitations / Scope of Comparisons
   Archaeology's fragmentary puzzle
   Geology & Site Preservation:
      Basin, Foothills, Plateau compared
   Raw material preservation compared for results of:
      Displacement on faults & changes in sea level
      Cycles of riverine erosion and deposition
   Preservation of economic activities
      evidence for hunting compared
      evidence for fishing compared
Resource Diversity / Technological Specialization
   Puget Sound and its shores
   Differences among river basins
      Fraser, Skagit, Snoqualmie, others comparred
Systematic Comparisons
   Shore / Delta / East Foothills / West Foothills / Plateau
What Do the Comparisons Tell Us?
Hypotheses Consistent with the Observations
What We Need to Test the Hypotheses

Expect to see a few more additions and elaborations as the presentation is refined.



©2012 by Charles M. Nelson
All rights reserved.