Yellowjacket - Passport in Time

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Yellowjacket Passport in Time

Malheur National Forest, Oregon, 2000
by Kurt Perkins, FS Archaeologist

This was our second PIT project on the Burns/Snow Mountain Ranger District of the Malheur National Forest. During the week of July 17, FS archaeologists and 18 PIT volunteers conducted test excavations and surveys in the Emigrant Watershed of the Burns Ranger District. The crew worked at five different sites, most of which were located around Yellowjacket Lake. Subsurface testing was undertaken at four of the five sites.

There were no intact buried deposits or heavy accumulations of artifacts and, unfortunately, no evidence of plant processing (hearths, rock ovens, or ground stone tools). However, the sites did yield approximately 54 obsidian artifacts, 27 of which were projectile points. Most of the points were Elko series atlatl dart points, which date from 3,500 to 1,000 years ago. Also found were two Rosegate series arrow points, estimated to be around 1,200 years old. The oldest points found were one Northern side-notched and two Gatecliff split-stem points, believed to date to 4,500–7,500 and 5,000–3,500 years ago, respectively. Several of the points had impact fractures, which indicate that they were broken during use rather than during the manufacturing process. Other artifacts included preforms, blanks, bifaces, cores, and tool fragments.

The number of subsurface and surface artifacts found leads us to believe that the area was not used heavily but, rather, represents a series of briefly occupied hunting camps. The tool fragments and waste flakes suggest that hunters replaced their damaged points with new ones made in camp. We plan to have the obsidian tools tested to determine the origin of the obsidian used. More than likely it came from either Burns Butte or Radar Hill or possibly both. The testing will give us information on travel patterns into the area.

We extend our thanks to the volunteers. They did a great job working in the heat, sun, and an unexpected hailstorm. Altogether, our volunteers contributed 720 hours to this project. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Don Hann, Winnie Browning, Karlene Burman, Ben Swearingen, and Paul Sheeter for all of their help. Also, thanks to Bonnie Wood and Mary Joe Higgins and all of you who came to visit us during the excavation.
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