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Washington State University
Museum of Anthropology The Marmes Rockshelter Site

The 1994-1995 Curation Project

In 1994 and 1995, the Center for Northwest Anthropology (CNA) conducted an inventory of the collection in compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). The Marmes collection contains more than 15,000 individual artifacts as well as more than 3000 kg of soil samples, animal bone, and shell.

In order to fulfill the curation requirements of legislation 36 CFR Part 76, CNA received two contracts to catalog and preserve the artifacts and samples and records from the Marmes site. Repository staff cataloged and preserved the project records, photographs, soil samples, floral and faunal remains, and artifacts. Project records were photocopied onto acid-free paper for archival storage and onto plain paper for research use. Photographs and negatives were stored in archival quality polyethylene sleeves. The artifacts and other remains were counted, described using the CNA coding system, repackaged and labeled when necessary, and assigned inventory numbers. These items were then boxed by inventory number and stored in sealed boxes

Artifacts, samples and original paperwork are housed at the Museum of Anthropology at Washington State University.

Project Records

Most project records are from the 1968 field season. These consist of field notes and catalogs, soil and carbon dating analysis forms, stratigraphic drawings and descriptions, correspondence, newspaper and magazine clippings, and report drafts as well as copies of publications.

One of the greatest shortcomings of the existing collection is the loss of the field catalogs for the 1962 and 1963 field seasons. A reconstructed 1964 catalog is present but incomplete. Catalog entries are limited to formed tools and shell artifacts (Hicks 2004:34).


Photographic media from Marmes Rockshelter include black and white prints, color slides, film strips and movies. Multiple copies of many photographs are present. They include excavation records, 8-x-10-inch black and white formal prints and oversized prints mounted on display board.

Soil Samples

There are about 3000 kg of soil samples in the extant Marmes collection, as well as soil peels and monoliths. Most of the items inventoried as soil samples are actually the material which remained in the water screen after washing. These materials were saved with the intent of sorting through them for bone and small artifacts (Fryxell and Keel 1969:11). Soil samples may also contain small animal bones, plant remains, and artifacts.

Floral and Faunal Remains

Botanical samples include fruits and seeds, wood and bark, fungi, and artifacts such as cordage and matting. Joy Mastrogiuseppe of Washington State University (Hicks 2004:347-372) analyzed samples and artifacts collected during the excavations as well as specimens separated from sediment samples through flotation. The 1968 catalogs include large and small mammal bone, fish bone, bird bone, shell and seeds.


The Marmes collection contains more than 15,000 individual artifacts. This includes materials from all four years of excavation at the site and the laboratory excavation of materials from the burial casts. Nearly all of these items were cataloged at the time of excavation.

When the 1994 inventory began, artifacts were stored in boxes and bags by artifact type rather than by excavation unit or field season. Efforts to assign inventory numbers and proveniences were hampered by lack of catalogs for the 1962 and 1963 field seasons, and only a partial catalog for 1964. While many of the artifacts have numbers painted on them, in many instances the numbers have partially worn off. Most stone artifacts have multiple numbers on them, only some of which can be identified as catalog and provenience information. Some letter designations are thought to be associated with Rice’s 1969 classification. The key for this classification has not been located.

Collins and Andrefsky (1995) reported that 695 artifacts were missing and that 1527 artifacts were unprovenienced. Over half of all formed stone tools are missing or without provenience information.

Missing Artifacts

The number of missing artifacts was determined in the 1994 inventory using one of two methods. First, artifact bag numbers were compared against field catalog entries. If an item matched the description in the field catalog the item was identified as present, and the newly assigned WSU inventory number was written next to the original catalog entry. Items that did not match the field catalog description were recorded as missing and did not receive a WSU inventory number. When the entire collection was inventoried, the field catalog was examined for entries lacking WSU inventory numbers. These were recorded as missing items.

The second method was to compared the results of the WSU inventory with Rice’s report of the artifacts found inside the rockshelter (Rice 1969), Keel and Fryxell’s list of floodplain artifacts (Keel and Fryxell 1969), and Breschini’s results of the laboratory excavation of the burial casts (Breschini 1979). This process also required correlating our artifact classification system with those of the other investigators.

A few items have subsequently been found in boxes associated with other site collections (see Hicks 2004:35).

Missing Proveniences

Many of the items identified as missing may be among the materials for which there is no provenience. Hicks was able to reduce the number of unprovenienced artifacts to 1497 through careful examination of the database (Hicks 2004:36), however, the absence of artifact catalogs and field notes has precluded any additional resolution of this problem.

Marmes Rockshelter: A Final Report (Hicks 2004)

In 1998, the History/Archaeology Department of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (CCT) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Walla Walla District, entered into a contract to analyze and interpret the curated archaeological collection and its associated records, and present the results. The research was conducted in three phases. The first phase examined all records and the condition of the collection. The second phase included analysis of stone tools and debitage, fish bone and shellfish, and botanical materials. The third phase consisted of follow-up analyses and preparation of the final report. The report was organized, edited, and compiled by Brent Hicks, then of the CCT History/Archaeology Department. Contributors include Peter E. Wigand (Environmental Overview), Gary Huckleberry, Carl E. Gustafson, and Shawn Gibson (Stratigraphy and Site Formation Processes), Terry L. Ozbun, Daniel O. Steuber, Maureen Zehender, and John L. Fagan (Lithic Debitage and Formed Tools), Matthew J. Root (Modified Bone and Antler), Robert M. Wegner (Faunal Remains), Virginia L. Butler (Fish Remains), Pamela J. Ford (Shellfish), and Joy Mastrogiuseppe (Botanical Materials).

The report was published in 2004 and is available through the WSU Press.


In 2005, the Archaeological Repository cataloged and curated the various project records. Original project records are stored in fireproof cabinets at the Repository’s warehouse. Copies of original documents are available for research purposes and are stored in College Hall on the WSU campus.