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Artifacts from the Cascades give scientists a window 9,600 years ago

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Atlas
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« on: November 16, 2009, 10:20:23 pm »

ESTABLISHING CONNECTIONS

A piece of white translucent stone no bigger than an adult’s thumbnail, discovered in 2007, has become one of the most important artifacts to come from the Mount Rainier site. The piece of chalcedony, a silica mineral, is one of thousands of artifacts and pieces of debris found by Burtchard and his team at a site near Buck Lake.

It is the artifact that dates back 7,600 years, the oldest known evidence of human use on the mountain. The previous oldest artifact dates to 5,600 years ago.

An ancient Indian flaked off sharp pieces of the chalcedony from what Burtchard described as a microblade core. Those razor-edged pieces were glued to wood or bone with tree resin to make a knife.

“There is no doubt that the Indian people living around the mountain today, that these were their ancestors,” Burtchard said.

The Buck Lake site was likely used by ancestors of today’s Muckleshoot Indian Tribe and other local tribes, Burtchard said. The Muckleshoots supported the Buck Lake research by supplying manpower, material and use of a helicopter. Muckleshoot officials would not comment for this story.

Evidence indicates that the Buck Lake site was used seasonally for gathering plants and animals for food, Burtchard said. The Indians likely lived in woven mat-and-wood frame structures or bark slab structures. There is no evidence of permanent structures.

The seasonal-use theory is based on Mount Rainier’s weather.

“The best season for (gathering food) starts when the snow cover is off in late June and July, to when the snow flies again in October,” Burtchard said. “We have such heavy snowload that it made it a seasonal use area.”
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