Skip to main content Skip to navigation
Washington State University
Museum of Anthropology Granite Point (45WT41)

Excavation: 1967-1968

Excavation of Granite Point Locality 1 took place during the summer of 1967 under the direction of Richard Daugherty and field direction of Roderick Sprague, and continued during the summer of 1968 under the field direction of Frank C. Leonhardy. The site was excavated in three areas; Areas A and B were designated in locations where sufficient cultural deposits were found eroding from the bank, while the third location, Area C, was a culture-bearing area discovered during a geological study that had previously taken place at Granite Point. Test pits on the inland side of the railroad that ran adjacent to the site found no cultural deposits, so all excavation activities were done in the small area between the north shore of the Snake River and the railroad. At each area separate horizontal grids were laid out, but all vertical measurements were taken from a common datum point.

Vertical Aerial of the Granite Point Locality Showing Major Geomorphic Features and the Position of Excavation Areas and Key Stratigraphic Sections, from Leonhardy 1970, Figure 25)</a>
Vertical Aerial of the Granite Point Locality Showing Major Geomorphic Features and the Position of Excavation Areas and Key Stratigraphic Sections (Leonhardy 1970, Fig. 25)



Area A

Excavation of Area A

Area A was described as a “small, generally triangular protrusion formed between the river bank and the bank of a short arroyo” (Leonhardy 1970).  A horizontal grid of 11 two-meter-squares was laid over the site. All 11 units were excavated. Nine units were excavated down to what was designated Stratum 6, approximately 2 ½ meters below surface, while two units (S22-24/W18-20) were excavated down an additional two meters.

Excavation Plat, Area A (Leonhardy 1970, Fig. 2)

Features identified in Area A primarily consist of living surfaces identified by concentrations of fire-cracked rock and thin configurations of shell, rock and other occupational debris. Most features were located in Stratum 5 and Stratum 6 and many of the artifacts uncovered in Area A were found in association with occupational features. Large flat basaltic rocks associated with shell lenses were uncovered, and in some cases shells were positioned directly on top of the rocks. Two stones found in association with mussel shells were identified as having minimal abrasions on them, leading to the inference that these stones may have been used in shellfish preparation. Additional elongated cobbles with battered ends were found that may have also been used during mussel preparation.

Occupational Features, Area A (Leonhardy 1970:22)

Feature No. StratumDescription
1, 1a1a Living surface marked by fire-cracked rock and bone fragments
111aLiving surface marked by fire-cracked rock, shell, bone fragments, ash and artifacts
321aRock-lined fire-pit
42Disarticulated, incomplete dog skeleton
173a Living surface marked by fire-cracked rock and bone fragments
253a Two deer mandibles and bone fragments
123cSmall concentration of bone fragments, fire-cracked rock, and shell
3, 3c, 53c Living surface marked by bone fragments and river pebbles
363c Large flat rocks and charcoal stains
2, 13, 13b, 27, 295Living surface marked by fire-cracked rock, bone fragments, shell, and associated artifacts
105Diffuse layer of fire-cracked rock
155 Concentration of fire-cracked rock and bone fragments
195Concentration of fire-cracked rock
7, 14, 15b, 16, 22, 28, 30a, 30b, 365Prominent living surface at Strata 5-6 boundary composed of fire-cracked rock, bone fragments, shell lenses, and associated artifacts
206Concentration of fire-cracked rock and shell
266Diffuse layer of fire-cracked rock
316 Cluster of 16 small, flat river pebbles
33, 346Living surface marked by shell lens, fire-cracked rock, bone fragments, and associated artifacts
Feature 4, located in Stratum 2 contained the disarticulated, incomplete skeleton of a dog which were the only canine remains recovered at the site.

Some of the river mussel shells at Area A were noted to have a small, ragged hole through the umbo joint just posterior to the hinge. The number of shells that had these holes, as well as the ragged and irregular appearance of the holes led Leonhardy to suggest that they were made by humans, but no further analysis was conducted.


Area B


Excavation of Area B

Area B was smaller than Area A and cut into the bank at a steeper angle, requiring excavators to work from the face of the cut bank. Like Area A, Area B was excavated in two-meter squares. Squares S10-12/W12-18 comprised the primary excavations in the bank, revealing Stratum 1 through Stratum 4. Units S12-14/W12-18 were excavated at the base of the bank, with excavation activity occurring primarily in Stratum 4

Area B Excavation Plat, 1967 Excavation (Leonhardy, 1970, Figure 2)
Area B Excavation Plat, 1967 Excavation (Leonhardy, Fig. 2)

Materials recovered from living surfaces in Area B were mainly comprised of stone, shell and animal bone fragments. Identification of these features was problematic,  with some layered directly on top of one another, making their vertical distinction difficult.

Occupational features, Area B (Leonhardy 1970:27)

Feature No.Stratum Description
11a Living surface marked by fire-cracked rock, bone fragments, grinding stone, hopper mortar stone, and other associated artifacts
51bLiving surface marked by fire-cracked rocks and bone fragments
13, 151b/2 Living surfaces at Stratum 1b-Stratum 2 boundary marked by fire-cracked rock
22Living surfaces marked by fire-cracked rock
6, 72Living surfaces marked by fire-cracked rock
92Living surfaces marked by fire-cracked rock, bone fragments, and charcoal stain
232Living surfaces marked by fire-cracked rock
272Living surfaces marked by fire-cracked rock, bone fragments, and associated artifacts
12b, 292Living surfaces marked by fire-cracked rock, bone fragments, shell, and associated artifacts
9b, 11, 123Living surfaces marked by fire-cracked rock, bone fragments, shell, and associated artifacts
33Living surface marked by river cobbles, bone fragments and shell
83Large flat rock, associated smaller stones, and bone fragments
10a, 10b3Superimposed living surfaces marked by fire-cracked rock
4, 243Living surfaces marked by fire-cracked rock
12c, 12d, 12e, 12f3Superimposed living surfaces marked by fire-cracked rock
12g4Association of cobble chopper, bone fragments, and shell
184Small concentration of fire-cracked rock with associated artifacts
194Living surface marked by bone fragments, shell, rocks and charcoal flecks
214 Living surface marked by cobbles, small bone fragments, and chipping detritus
264Living surface marked by fire-cracked rock, partly articulated but incomplete skeleton of Lynx rufus, and associated artifacts
45WT41 Area B, Feature 26, July 28 1967
45WT41-B, Feature 26, July 28 1967

Feature 26 contained the only feline remains recovered at the site: A partially articulated skeleton of a bobcat (Lynx rufus) that was not believed to have been buried.

Area C


Excavation of Area C

Area C was positioned on a large sand dune at the upstream end of the site where cultural deposits were discovered during geologic investigations of exposed volcanic ash. A small test pit provided findings considered significant enough to warrant a large scale excavation along the bank. Unfortunately, it was found that there were three meters of sterile sediments above the culture-bearing layers and time limitations did not permit full excavation of Area C.

In 1967 a main trench, containing four two-meter squares, was excavated below the layer of volcanic ash to a layer of gravel at approximately 96.00 centimeters above the common datum (currently unknown).

In 1968, the excavation of Area C was conducted in two parts: the removal of the three meter overburden with a backhoe for Trench 1, and use of the backhoe to clean out the arroyo in preparation of Trench 2. A control block was left for hand excavation to provide a more complete stratigraphic sequence.

Trench 1, excavation of the sand dune, uncovered cultural deposits between the top of the volcanic ash down to floodplain deposits. Squares N22-24/W16-18 were selected for bulk sampling and their sediments were wet-screened to recover micro-vertebrate remains. Trench 2 partly overlapped with the main trench from 1967 and encountered complications in its excavation. Documentation of cultural materials associated with the gravel layer proved problematic. It was difficult to determine if these were primary or secondary deposits or to firmly establish the gravel’s stratigraphic relationship to the higher culture-bearing strata. As a result of these obstacles, it was decided to approach the excavation of Trench 2 differently and excavate two two-meter trenches that were one meter apart. Excavation within these two smaller trenches was then completed by working the vertical face of the gravel moving horizontally from one end of the trench to the other.

Excavation Plat, Area C, 1968 Excavation (Leonhardy 1970, Fig. 16)
Excavation Plat, Area C, 1968 Excavation (Leonhardy 1970, Fig. 16)

There were very few identified living areas, and those identified were not well defined, with limited findings of diagnostic fire-cracked rock. In the absence of fire-cracked rock, interpretation of living spaces were based on concentrations of animal bone fragments and chipped stone debris. Hearth areas were identified by small areas of burned earth and associated flecks of charcoal. Excavation of Area C uncovered Feature 67-2, which was initially thought to be pyrolized grass. However, later analysis determined this was desiccated, rather than pyrolized, grass. In an attempt to recover the plant remains for later study they were stabilized and removed with a vinylite resin. Unfortunately, this method proved to be an ineffective recovery technique as laboratory attempts to separate the plant remains from the resin were only partially successful.

Occupational Features, Area C, 1967 & 1968 (Leonhardy 1970:40)

Feature No.StratumDescription
67-110bLarge cobble, rock fragments, and bone fragments
67-210bDessicated grass, flecks of charcoal, and bone fragments
67-310b Burned earth (hearth), fragments of bone and shell, and associated cobble tool
67-410bBurned earth (hearth), flecks of charcoal, ash, and bone fragments
67-510bBurned earth (hearth), charcoal stain, ash, and burned shell
68-110bConcentration of chipping detritus and cobble fragments
68-310bLarge cobble, bone fragments, two edge-ground cobbles
68-410bPoorly defined living surface marked by association of cobbles, bone fragments, shell and artifacts
68-510bConcentration of bone fragments
68-612Living surface composed of rock, bone, chipping detritus, and artifacts
68-712Association of rock and bone fragments beneath Feature 68-6