CORVALLIS - Archaeologists from Oregon State University are analyzing and cataloguing a number of artifacts recovered this summer from two sites at nearby McDonald-Dunn Forest - one of which appears to be at least 2,000 years old.
The other, more recent site may have been used as a seasonal camp by the Kalapuya Indians.
The findings are significant, the researchers say, because they will help shed light on the activities of the indigenous peoples of the area, and provide more data for cultural research management decisions in OSU's McDonald-Dunn Forest.
The sites just north of Corvallis were excavated this summer by students in OSU's summer archaeology field school under the direction of Barbara Roth, an assistant professor of anthropology.
"We didn't find much at the first site, the Cool Guy Russ site," Roth said. "We mostly came up with projectile points; spear points. We think that the area was occupied at least 2,000 years before present based on the style of points we found.
"But when we moved to the Lara Gayle site, it was a different story," she added. "There were a ton of artifacts and evidence of what appears to be a plant processing operation and a hunting base."
Roth said the archaeologists discovered what she described as a "camas oven" for heating the roots of the camas plant, which used to grow abundantly in the Willamette Valley. The researchers found a number of fire-cracked rocks used to slowly roast the camas roots. They also uncovered a mortar and several pestles for grinding plant materials.
The students uncovered only a few small animal bones, but the heavy clay soil of the area "is horrible for preservation," Roth pointed out.
"We think the Kalapuya were using the whole Jackson Creek area regularly," Roth said. "They probably had several camps in the area. The vegetation was lush, they had a good water source and edible plants like camas, and the game was abundant."
Roth estimated the second site to be about 500 years old.
The Kalapuyas, she said, were hit hard by disease and many died from malaria, measles, smallpox and influenza. Their descendants today are part of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde and the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz.
The McDonald-Dunn Forest is managed under a forest plan and one of the goals of that plan is to identify and protect cultural resources in the university's forests, said Ann Rogers, cultural resource manager for the OSU College of Forestry.
"We look at archaeological sites as a non-renewable resource," she said. "They provide a lot of valuable information on pre-contact ecosystems and how those ecosystems were managed and changed through time. They also provide some real educational and interpretive opportunities for our students and the general public."
Roth and several of her students will continue analyzing the artifacts this winter.