Skip to main content Skip to navigation
Washington State University
Museum of Anthropology Lind Coulee (45GR97)

Field Methods

The two test trenches excavated in 1950 were each five feet wide and extended ten feet into the exposed coulee side walls where the in situ stemmed point base and keeled scraper had been located. The units were aligned with magnetic north (the coulee runs in an almost true north and south direction) and a permanent datum was established at the edge of the coulee opposite the excavations (Daugherty 1956:231).

In 1951 a grid system was established at the site. The zero-east-west point was set at datum which was also the arbitrary 100 feet north line. A one-foot contour topographic map of the site was made using a plane table. The intent was to keep the site units within the NE quadrant of the grid system. Test excavations continued until the surface of the culture bearing strata was accurately defined and the sterility of the overburden was confirmed. At that time John McGregor of Hooper, Washington, provided the use of a bulldozer and operator to mechanically remove between 10 and 12 feet of sterile sediments covering the site. The tractor cut about 50 feet deep into the coulee wall. The cut was wedge-shaped and about 100 feet wide at the edge of the coulee and 35 feet wide at the end. Before the end of the 1951 season, a similarly shaped and sized tractor cut was made north of the first cut to facilitate excavations in 1952 (Daugherty 1956:231). Excavations began using arbitrary six inch levels. However, as the natural and cultural stratigraphy became apparent, the workers shifted to excavating in stratigraphic layers. All materials were sifted through one quarter inch mesh screen. Materials were collected in level bags. Standardized forms were used to record discoveries and a large number of photographs were taken (Daugherty 1956:231-233).

Over 600 cubic yards of sediment were excavated at Lind Coulee in the 1950s. Daugherty reports locating only 186 artifacts. He was unable to detect any stratification within the cultural materials and so considered the cultural horizon to be a single unit. Radiocarbon dates on bone from the cultural level done by W.F. Libby at the University of Chicago produced average dates of 8,700 B.P. +/-400 years.

A plan view of the 1950s excavations.
Plan View of the 1950s Excavations. Click on the image for a larger, clearer version.


Depositional History

Daugherty recognized five distinct strata at the Lind Coulee site. He labeled these Beds A-F. Bed F, which lay atop basalt bedrock, was composed of several feet of sand, gravel, and angular cobbles. Bed E consisted of fine grained pro-glacial deposits containing clastic dikes that Daugherty believed were analogous to the well known Touchet deposits. Bed D was a thick layer of firmly packed, water laid sand. This was the layer that contained artifacts and other cultural remains. The layer also contained a few glacial erratics that were thought to have been deposited from floating ice. It was also suggested that the fines may have been redeposited sediments eroded from Bed E. The cultural material was in a distinct band within Bed D. Daugherty did not find any color or texture differences between the culture-bearing and non-culture bearing parts of the strata. His interpretation of the strata was:

A number of stone flakes and a few artifacts were observed to be lying in the sand in a tilted position as if they had been dropped on soft sand. It appears probable from the analysis of the deposits and the situation of the artifacts and cultural debris contained therein, that we are dealing with a campsite which was situated on the shore of a sluggish stream of lake. Seasonal camping on the soft beach sands, along with the possible yearly inundation of the locality during periods of high water, combined to arrange the present distribution of cultural material. [Daugherty 1956:234]

Bed C consisted of scattered lenses of coarse sand and gravel resting unconformably on Bed D and were believed to occupy a stream meander scar.  Bed B also rested on the eroded surface of Bed D and was made up of a layer of unstratified wind-deposited silt and fine sand.  Scattered throughout this bed were lens and pockets of volcanic ash associated with the eruption of Mt. Mazama.  The uppermost Bed A was made up of lighter colored wind-deposited silts and sands.

Stratigraphy at Lind Coulee (Daugherty 1956)
Stratigraphy at Lind Coulee (Daugherty 1956). Click on the image to see a larger, clearer version


The Artifacts

Although the number of artifacts recovered during the first era of excavations at Lind Coulee was not large, they were remarkable for their similarity to items from ancient sites elsewhere in North America. The artifacts consisted of chipped and ground stone and bone tools. The chipped stone tools were all manufactured of locally available stone, mostly what Daugherty characterized as chalcedony and opal formed in the local basalt flows and some fine grained basalt. One hundred seventy-two chipped stone tools were recovered during the 1950s excavations. Of these most were various forms of scrapers, flake knives, and gravers. The most common form of scraper was an irregular, thin flake scraper with a single worked edge. Most notable among the of the scrapers were several keeled scrappers that were distinguished by having a ridge running along the upper surface. Daugherty noted the similarity of these to finds at the Lindenmeier site (1956:242). Also important were the projectile points found at the site. Twenty-one projectile points and fragments were found. Only a few of the points were complete. Most were stemmed points including tapered and parallel sided base styles. Some exhibited basal grinding some did not. Other points were well made, non-stemmed types. Daugherty stated

The projectile points from the Lind Coulee Site show no resemblance to recent points from the Columbia Basin, nor do they resemble any of the points from “Early Man” sites with which the author is familiar.  It may be that we are dealing with localized variants of stemmed and non-stemmed projectile points with well-controlled flaking, having a wider distribution in early archaeological horizons. [1956:247]

Two crescentic blades were found in the 1950s excavations at Lind Coulee, one was complete and the other was fragmentary.  These forms were recognized by Daugherty as quite widespread in early sites west of the Rocky Mountains (1956:248). Two classes of ground stone were also identified and are of special interest.  These were palettes and hand stones for grinding pigment.  There were two palettes.  Both were relatively small, naturally flat pieces of stone with worn areas forming shallow depressions on one face.  Both specimens were stained with red pigment.  Four fist-sized hand stones, also stained with red pigment, were also recovered.  There was no indication of these tools being used in food preparation (Daugherty 1956:250-252). The four bone tools recovered consisted of a single serrated bone point and three bone shafts.  In addition, a  fragment of long-bone exhibited numerous cuts on the surface that Daugherty suggested might be evidence of the use of the piece as an anvil for cutting or chopping (1956:252-255). Daugherty’s conclusions at the end of the 1950s excavations were that during a moister-than-present period at the end of the Wisconsin glaciation, the Columbia Plateau was occupied by a small population of hunters who, at Lind Coulee, were relying primarily on bison and small game with no evidence for plant food resource use.  He further contended that the stemmed and concave based points, heavy keeled and domed scrapers, bone shafts, and extensive use of ochre, and crescentic blades fit a generalized model of early period occupation in western North America that included “localized cultural manifestations”(1956:259).

List of lithic artifacts from Lind Coulee (Daugherty 1956) giving category, number of items, figure which includes an illustration, minimum, maximum, and mean weights for the category, and the form or style category assigned to that type of stone artifact
Lithic artifact list from Lind Coulee (Daugherty 1956).