Tuesday, November 17, 2009

High Country Archeology

A neat newspaper article: Unearthing secrets of the ancient Cascades:

Archaeological digs in two Washington national parks continue to reveal artifacts that debunk the myth that indigenous people didn’t gather food and plants from the upper reaches of the Cascades. A dig near Cascade Pass in North Cascades National Park has revealed evidence that humans used the area 9,600 years ago. At Mount Rainier National Park, a site on the northern slope of the mountain has produced artifacts dating back 7,600 years.


I am not sure why archeologists have been slow to accept the idea that precontact Indians might have ventured into the high county on a regular basis. Why wouldn't they? Mountain goat horns are useful for bowls and spoons, the summer flies are not so thick up there, and fresh glacier lilies are mighty tasty. And I think I disagree with this passage, from anthropologist Bradford Andrews:

Although today it’s more recreational, in the past they were more worried about finding food to eat.

Why couldn't it have been both? That 20th century Americans find the Cascades high country beautiful is not some modern refinement. We have abundant evidence that American Indians had a highly developed aesthetic sense for the outdoors as well. Maybe the Indians who left the fire pits and tools that archeologists are finding in the high county were there on vacation!

(I don't normally link to newspaper articles but this one is bringing back memories. I worked for four seasons in the North Cascades National Park, the last few on trail crew, and frequently hiked across Cascade Pass and similar places. I have fond memories of feasting on huckleberries and blueberries at 6000 feet.)

1 comment:

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