Gilsen research topics/questions

Igneous Geology of the West Coast
Igneous Geology of the West Coast
(from USGS via Wikimedia Commons)

Oregon Ecozones
Oregon Ecozones

Map of the Columbia River Basin
Map of the Columbia River Basin
(from Wikimedia Commons)

1) What are the impacts of Oregon's unique geology (80% igneous, 20% sedimentary) as well as volcanism and obsidian sources on human adaptive systems, economics and trade?

2) What are the impacts of the five continental ecozones (NW Coast, Columbia Plateau, Inter-Mountain, Great Basin, and California Chaparral) on human adaptive systems, economics and trade networks?

3) What are the impacts of the Columbia River on human adaptive systems, economic and trade networks?

4) What were the impacts to coastal groups from sea level rise (differential preservation, population movements, etc.)?

5) What are the impacts of anadromous fish runs on cultural ecology?

6) What are the kinds of technological change that occur in the archaeological record and what were their effects?

7) What were the cause and effects of plant and animal management practices (i.e. - pyroculture - burning to reduce climax vegetation and increase valued plant and animal habitat)?

8) What were the causes and effects of semi-sedentism and sedentism on human ecology?

9) What were the impacts to populations and human ecology from great subduction earthquakes and tsunamis? Are there patterns in land use change after a quake and how long do they continue in the archaeological record?

10) What are the dated landforms in drainages?

11) What were the paleo-environments like through pollen profiles?

12) What was the impact of ownership of resource types (i.e. - tarweed patches, camas patches)?

13) What were the impacts to cultural change of Oregon's rich and diverse ecotones as compared to changes in the core areas?

14) Is there a fundamental difference between Paleoindian and Early Archaic adaptations other than the presence of Pleistocene animals? What is the time depth for gathering, rabbit drives, camas ovens, houses, etc.?

15) What are the actual samples from professionally excavated sites for each period and phase in each major drainage (i.e. - hard numbers and data gaps)?

16) Is there any way to reduce the size of chronological groupings of data?

17) Are there centers of cultural fluorescence (i.e. - my core area maps)?

18) Can drawdown zones on reservoirs (where waves erode out buried sites) be used to model hidden site densities in riverine environments (i.e. - what is the difference between original surface surveys and long-term post reservoir densities)? See expansion below.

19) What are the impacts of sampling on how archaeologist view the archaeological record (i.e. - quantity and quality of the data, surveys, land ownership bias, etc.)?

20) What were the impacts of ceramics on Oregon groups?

This is for Washington

Wessen, Gary C.

1985 Resource Protection Planning Process: Southern Puget Sound Study Unit. A draft RP3 Document prepared for the Washington State Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. Olympia.

Archaeologists have defined basic research themes for Western Washington that can be used to address the significance of prehistoric sites under NRHP Criterion D. The research objectives listed below are compiled from the Resource Protection Planning Process documents (Wessen 1985) In broad terms, archaeological research in Washington State should focus on:

1. Understanding the nature of change in adaptive strategy from the Paleoindian Period through the time of sustained Euroamerican contact;

2. Explaining the nature of functional and technological change as evidenced by the changing frequency and diversity of functional and technological classes;

3. Explaining the nature of stylistic change as evidenced by the changing frequency and diversity of stylistic classes (chronological refinement);

4. Understanding the nature of the relationship among aboriginal groups from the Columbia Plateau, the Washington Cascades, the lower Columbia River valley, and the Puget Sound lowlands; and

5. Understanding the nature of paleoenvironmental change and its affect on the archaeological record.

Core Areas?

Oregon is where four or five major continental ecozones merge. These ecozones are clockwise: 1)NW Coast; 2) Plateau; 3) Intermontane? (more by trade and cultural than physical); 4) Great Basin; 5) California. Within these zones, there are flat valleys that may be good candidates as central places or core areas for idiosyncratic cultural patterns.

The state is a mosaic of larger zonal diversity and a testing ground for theories based on cultural ecology and population adaptation. Ecotones, where ecozones overlap, are rich in plant and animal diversity. The characteristic plants and animals associated with the five ecozones commingle in Oregon. This diversity tends to increase carrying capacity for human groups exploiting resources through gathering, fishing and hunting. In Oregon, the large size of the continental zones and the relatively small area in which they merge has created a species diversity seldom found elsewhere.

Gather/hunter groups are resource exploitation systems in which there are a complex of environmental interactions for energy and information exchange. This complex consists of:

1) the physical environment (land forms, weather, water, minerals, etc);

2) the biotic environment (plants and animals and their seasonality, relative abundance, predictability and mobility);

3) the cultural environment (cooperating and non-cooperating other human beings).

The relative mobility of groups in terms of movement to the resources (residential) or movement of resources to the group (logistic) to these three variables creates very complex cultural adaptations. Schalk (1977) argued for five processes that relate to a change to food storage: 1) where resources fluctuate seasonally, storage increases carrying capacity; 2) storage implies reduced mobility; 3) food storage pulls people into sedentism; 4) storage requires changes in technology; and 5) changing labor processes change social organization.

Population growth is the primary pressure in "evolutionary" change and "storage" is an outgrowth of increasing demand on the resources ... but that storage comes in many forms:

Storage of the physical environment through exclusive claims and/or manipulation of the physical environment through a multitude of processes as well as increased "information" about the environmental resources by mapping more resources or mapping the resources more carefully or increased efficiency through technology in use of the resources.

Storage of the biotic environment through similar claims, manipulations, mapping and changes in technology.

Storage of the cultural environment through these same processes. This includes mapping in cooperating and non-cooperating other human beings, and expansion of ways to access and use this information through trade networks.

Economic process is isomorphic to general system process: 1) production = input; 2) distribution = throughput; 3) consumption = output 4) investment = feedback; and 5) storage (feedback) = storage. The constraint on the sub-system is the technology of production, the technology of distribution, the technology of consumption, the technology of investment, and the technology of storage. Economics also is manipulation in order to control access to, and exploitation of, valued resources. Politics and economics blur together, in that the term "economics" tends to be used when manipulation is confined to the physical and/or biotic environments , and the term "politics" tends to be used when manipulation is the cultural environment of cooperating and non-cooperating other human beings.

As one small example of how complicated this can get, storage by itself can be very complex. Information can be stored. If I give you some food one day, and the information is stored, and you give me some food some other day (reciprocity), then food has been stored indirectly as information (which has a lesser chance of decay in the interval between the two events). Resources can be stored through social rules, tabus, ownership, and other forms of "information".

While some anthropologists talk about foragers and collectors, actual systems are much more complex in that this three-fold environment is manipulated mapped, exploited, stored, claimed, and traded. Which results in many possible social forms.

The use of fire as a tool to manipulate the biotic environment, what I call "pyroculture", was a way to expand valued plant and animal resources. It reduces biomass tied up in cellulose and increase biotic diversity. It is a response to increased population pressure. It allows larger populations to expand and exploit naturally occurring plants and animals without having to resort to the more labor intensive manipulation of the physical environment as found in horticulture or agriculture.

Gathering and hunting populations in the ecological diversity of Oregon could maintain conservative economic exploitation strategies at higher population densities long after their resource poorer neighbors in the central portions of the continental ecozones were forced to change. Since change stands out in the archaeological record, research tends to emphasize the archaeological record in the "centroids" of large ecozones. Thus, Oregon appears to be an archaeological backwater, as change was slower and less dramatic. While cultures were changing due to increasing population demands on the resource base in the NW Coast, or Plateau, or Intermontane?, or Basin or California regions, the people in Oregon could continue their older ways as their populations grew. They simple had greater diversity and more strategic choices to absorb their increasing demands.

Within these larger regions, local drainage systems tempered this merging and diversity. Drainage basins were centers for population groups as well. Plants mature at different times at different elevations. Gathering strategies that follow the maturing plants is simple common sense. Drainage systems can be seen as somewhat self contained ecological units where all of the plant and animal resources needed by gathering and hunting groups for food, fiber, skins, etc can be found. Drainage systems can be seen as central places. The lower elevations just outside normal winter flooding events, often associated with sub-drainages, is the place to look for winter villages. In spring, and throughout the summer and into fall, groups would move up the valleys to exploit plant resources as they matured. Emphasis would be on the predictable and the abundant. These larger basins should reflect populations and their local cultural patterns as people simply would interact more often locally than between basins.

There is another regional factor as well. The eighteen drainage basins are still relatively large units. Within these larger basins are sub-basins, that probably also reflect a local level of human interaction. Again, they should contain local variation on common themes based on the relative amount of local interaction within the sub-basin as opposed to lesser interaction within the larger basin. This is simple statistics.

There is another level at work as well. There are a series of regional flat basins that stand out on a three dimensional map of the state. These flat basins could also be central places that may reflect differences in population adaptation. The flat basins are (in roughly circular order from the NE):

Wallowa Lake; Pine Creek Valley; Grande Ronde Valley; Baker Valley; Camas Creek Valley; Cottonwood Creek Valley; John Day (Prairie City); Cow Creek; Murderers Creek Valley; Bear Valley; Logan Valley; Big Summit Prairie; Malheur Basin; Alvord Basin; Catlow Basin; Warner Valley; Abert Lake Basin; Summer Lake Basin; Goose Lake Basin; Klamath Marsh Basin; Medford/Ashland Area; Rogue River (Grants Pass); Illinois Valley; Coos Coastal Plain; Siuslaw Coastal Plain; Tillamook Coastal Plain; Clatsop Coastal Plain; Willamette (Calapooya); Willamette (Pudding); Willamette (Yamhill); Portland Basin; Hood River Valley.

I believe these areas were central places for population aggregation and dispersal, trade and interaction. Again, they can be seen as core places that may be reflected in the archaeological record either by material culture style, settlement patterns, trade, obsidian source usage, and other aspects of culture. These flat basins may have acted as resource magnets, pulling people into them as regional interaction spheres? These "domains" may represent relatively rich lowland areas that dominated resource exploitation strategies for groups. It may be worthwhile to consider these factors when developing research designs for data recovery and when evaluating the significance and eligibility of sites. The archaeological record may be too sparse or to irregular to test these concepts at the current time. Much of the lower elevations are in private holdings, where field research is at a minimum.

Tom Connolly's paper (Modeling Prehistoric Cultural Systems in the Willamette valley: a Demonstration of regional Diversity) suggested that a single subsistence-settlement model did not account for the variability between the Mohawk, Lower Coast Fork and Mckenzie-Willamette confluence regions (in the 1983 AOA #2). It may be interesting to look for regional variations between the Calapooya, Pudding and Yamhill areas that I see in the three dimensional structure of the valley. Unfortunately, the Pudding is among the least well known areas, and little work has been done on the Yamhill in recent years.

Drawdown zones

During the preparation of the Columbia River System Operation planning process, I suggested that the drawdowns be used to generate new data about site surveys. This was done by analyis of the density of sites discovered during resurvey of drawdown zones. I assumed that buried sites would have been missed during the initial surveys prior to dam construction.

Water behind a dam is a flat plane. At the dam, the water is deepest, and tapers to zero at the far reach of the reservoir. As such, it crosscuts through elevation zones of the valley in which it sits. It's wave action samples a range of contours. The wave action erodes away the soils along the reservoir edge, leaving rocky lag deposits that act to reduce further erosion. If sites are present, the artifacts and debitage are left behind as lag deposits as well. This exposes buried sites. The reservoir edge is sampling its edges for the archaeologist.

The Corps of Engineers took my idea and modified it to determine the percentage of cultural resources in the drawdown zone. The Corps divided the reservoir drawdown zone into five foot increments. At John day, for example, the reservoir zone elevation between 1,400 and 1,420 feet contained four zones. Their survey indicated that this zone contained 209 sites with 642 elevation incidences. At John Day, site surface site survey incidences outside the drawdown zone was between 0 and 40 with the majority below 2. Within the drawdown erosional zone, the range was 38 to 94. At Dworshak, the surface data never rose above 5. The drawdown erosional data ranged from 1 to 122. These are incidences within five foot contours, not actual site densities.

The SHPO data for National Forests in eastern Oregon (Wallowa Whitman, Malheur, Umatilla, Fremont, Deschutes, Winema) indicated an average background surface density of 4-5 sites per square mile in uplands regardless of distance to water. Linear pipeleine and powerline projects in Lake, Harney and Malheur counties support extrapolations of surface densities of over 50 per square mile on lower elevations.

Reservoir studies suggest that during surface surveys 20-50 sites are missed, including surface manifestations. The idea that once an area has been surveyed, it does not have to be surveyed again, is not a viable conclusion.

The Seedskadee Project: Remote Sensing in Non-Site Archaeology (1986) by Drager and Ireland, placed artificial sites and isolates using painted nails and washers. A crew of five at five meter transects placed pin flags, followed by a second crew doing the identical survey adding pin flags. Where sites were identified, they were gridded into 1x1 meter squares and pin flagged. A third crew then recorded everything with an EDM theodolite and added anything they saw that was missed by the two crews. The surface surface crews missed 78% of isolates and 20% of sites/clusters in high visibility good weather conditions in an open desert!