Several lines of evidence were used to determine the age of the Lind Coulee occupations. These include radiocarbon dates, volcanic tephra, and characterization of the stratigraphy.
Five radiocarbon dates resulted from analysis of organic materials from Lind Coulee. The first two samples were submitted by Daugherty in the 1950s and the remaining samples were submitted by the WSU research team in the 1970s. The 1950s dates produced a weighted average of 8,799 B.P. (bone) while the 1970s dates were 8,600 +/- 65 B.P. (humus); 8,720 +/- 200 B.P. (bone) and 12,830 +/- 1050 B.P. (bone). The oldest date was from a bison scapula found in association with volcanic ash from the younger St. Helens J series that was assigned a date of 8,700 years ago. The bone was poorly preserved and contained little collagen, leading the researchers to suspect the accuracy of the radiocarbon date and to favor the more reliably dated tephra (Irwin and Moody 1978:224-225). In addition, there is no discussion of butchering evidence on the scapula or any other indication of associated human activity, so even if the date from the scapula is correct it is not clear indication of human activities at the site 12,000 years ago.
The stratigraphic and faunal evidence suggests a relatively short occupation period — 100 to 150 years — for the site. This information, along with the general agreement of the younger radiocarbon dates, argues for use of the site sometime between 8,000 and 9,000 years ago.
Stratigraphic and faunal information indicate that at the time of occupation the local environment at Lind Coulee was cooler and moister than modern, pre-irrigation conditions. The coulee probably carried a perennial supply of fresh water, which supported a few deciduous trees in some areas along the coulee. The surrounding area was more of a mesic grassland than present. There were probably a number of microhabitats in the area around the site that supported animals not found in the immediate area today.
The culture- bearing sediments represent overbank deposits associated with flooding of the coulee. Mollusk remains collected from these sediments do not include terrestrial species, suggesting that the overbank sediments were not stable for more than a few years before new sediment was deposited.
Two erosional episodes were recognized in the Lind Coulee stratigraphy. The first appeared to be the result of a former tributary stream located about seven meters north of the northern boundary of the site and deeper in the profile than the culture-bearing sediments (Irwin and Moody 1978:143). The second erosional episode, indicating a period of increased moisture, was represented by gravel channels that capped the overbank sediments containing the cultural material. The gravels also contained some artifacts and faunal remains, indicating that some cultural materials had been disturbed or removed from the site. How much disturbance was associated with this erosion was not clear (Irwin and Moody 1978:154).
The Lind Coulee assemblage contains chipped and ground stone and bone artifacts. Daugherty defined three styles of chipped stone projectile points in the Lind Coulee Assemblage. These were
- stemmed points with tapered stems, rounded shoulders, and a convex base;
- stemmed points with sharp lateral shoulders; and
- stemmed points with parallel-sided stems (Daugherty 1956:246-247).
Irwin and Moody believed these different styles represented variations of a basic Lind Coulee Point type that could be defined as “a well-made leafshaped point with weak to distinct shoulders and a stem with slightly converging sides and a convex base” (Irwin and Moody 1978:257). Basal grinding was present on some specimens.
The different styles were not seen to have any temporal or cultural significance. Daugherty also found a single concave-base point fragment (WSU inventory number 5845). No similar points were found in the 1970s excavations. Irwin and Moody noted that this piece resembled the basal portion of Marmes Points from Marmes Rockshelter (45FR50).
Perhaps the most distinctive chipped stone tools collected from the Lind Coulee Site are two crescents found by Daugherty in the 1950s (WSU inventory numbers 122, 124, and 134). No similar artifacts were found during the 1970s fieldwork. The crescents are all broken with two of the pieces refitting to form a complete tool. The refitted tool was examined for phytoliths but none were found (Irwin and Moody 1978:49).
Second Lind Coulee Crescent.
These two pieces refit into a single tool.
Other classes of chipped stone were noted as distinctive features of the Lind Coulee assemblage either because of their form or the quantity present. A group of thick, steep-end scrapers, including those Daugherty referred to as “keeled scrapers”, were considered a distinctive form relative to other early sites in the Pacific Northwest (Irwin and Moody 1978:257). These scrapers were made on unifacially worked thick and thin flakes and occur in round and oval shapes.
The Lind Coulee assemblage is also characterized by a large number of unifacially and bifacially worked large, flat flakes. Debitage from the Lind Coulee Site is abundant and dominated by large and small biface thinning flakes. Core trimming flakes as well as primary and secondary decortication flakes also occur but in much smaller numbers.
Most of the chipped stone artifacts are made of various types of chert and chalcedony. Basalt is relatively common in the debitage but few basalt tools were recovered. Obsidian is very rare, occurring only as a few small flakes.
During the 1950s Daugherty uncovered several small grinding stones and hand stones stained with red ochre. No similar artifacts were found during the 1970s, although red ochre was fairly common. One piece of graphite that had evidence of use was recovered.
The bone tool assemblage at Lind Coulee included eyed needles, serrated and non-serrated bone points, beveled bone shafts with rounded and rectangular ends, and several broken bone beads. One unique bone tool is a composite of two rib segments that have been shaped to fit together. Although found disarticulated, the position of the tool pieces suggested an original form interpreted as a possible bow saw that might have been wrapped in sinew for extra strength.
Many of the bone tools represent various stages of manufacture, suggesting a significant amount of bone tool manufacturing and/or maintenance may have taken place at Lind Coulee. Whether or not these bone tools — especially the barbed points — were used, and how they might have been used at the Lind Coulee site remains unclear.
The faunal remains collected from the Lind Coulee Site include mammals, birds, and mollusks. Materials were collected that resulted from ancient human activities, as well as remains that were not the result of human activities but which provide important information about the ancient environment.
Four freshwater and three terrestrial species of mollusk were identified among the faunal remains and were used to interpret the depositional history at the site. The low diversity of terrestrial mollusk species suggested that very short periods of surface stability were likely for each of the microstratigraphic units recorded (Irwin and Moody 1978:241).
Bird species include goose (Black Brant) and duck (Mallard and Green-winged Teal). All of these are present in the area today. Many of the Mallard bones were charred suggesting they were eaten (Irwin and Moody 1978:241).
The mammalian remains include large and small species that were used as food and materials resources by the inhabitants of the Lind Coulee Site as well as some that serve as environmental indicators. The species showing evidence of cultural use include: bison (Bison bison), elk (Cervus cf. elephus), deer (Odocoileus sp.), skunk (Mephitus mephitus), badger (Taxidea taxus), muskrat (Ondatra zibethica), beaver (Castor canadensis), marmot (Marmota flaviventris) and rabbits (Sylvilagus cf. idahoensis and Lepus sp.).
The faunal remains were considered to have a cultural association if there was evidence of butchering, if they were associated with other utilized bone, or if they were burned. In addition to butchering evidence on some of the badger bones, the skunk and badger remains were considered cultural because they were believed to be too numerous to have resulted from natural processes alone (Irwin and Moody 1978:235). Bones without evidence of the mineral staining common on older bone, bones found in intrusive sediments such as krotovinas, or fully articulated skeletons were considered to be more recent and/or the result of natural rather than human processes.
Deer remains were rare. A single split phalanx was the strongest evidence Irwin and Moody found for the presence of deer at the site (1978:237). Elk and bison make up most of the assemblage of culturally modified animal remains. The elk remains include fetal, immature, and adult individuals. Many of the elk bones are charred and show evidence of butchering. Unlike the early elk at the Marmes site, the elk at Lind Coulee fall within the size range for modern elk. Bison remains are even more frequent than elk in the faunal assemblage. While elk occur in many cultural levels, bison occur in all cultural levels. Immature, and at least ten mature, individual bison are represented. Many of the bison remains are charred and show evidence of butchering.