Bill R. Roulette, MA, RPA

Principal Investigator
Applied Archaeological Research
4001 NE Halsey Street, Suite 3
Portland, Oregon 97232
Telephone: 503-281-9451
Fax: 503-281-9504


Presentation Time

Friday, September 8, 2006: 6:00 PM


A Contribution to a New Interpretation of Willamette Valley Mound Sites: Archaeological Investigations at Site35LIN468

Baby Pyramids Along the Calapooia River: Mound Sites in Kalapuyan Prehistory [WORD: 26 pp.]

Baby Pyramids Along the Calapooia River: Mound Sites in Kalapuyan Prehistory [HTML: w/Links]


This paper is a study of the role of mound sites in the settlement and land use systems of the prehistoric Kalapuya of the Willamette Valley. It is based on data recovery excavations conducted in the summer of 1992 at the Calapooia Midden site, 35LIN468, a mound site located near the Calapooia River in the central portion of the Willamette Valley. The excavations exposed nearly 100 m2 of site area and included the hand processing of more 75 m3 of the site deposits. More than 28,000 pieces of lithic debitage and 1,700 stone, bone, and antler tools were recovered as were more than 6,000 pieces of economic bone and more than 100 charred botanical specimens. The excavations sampled all parts of this complex site which included mounded midden deposits, non-midden cultural deposits, and non-mounded midden deposits. Unlike past investigations at mound sites, excavations at site 35LIN468 were guided by the principals of site formation and structure. Formal analyses were conducted on all of the recovered tools and debitage, and specialized analyses included floral, faunal, blood residue, osteological, pathological, and pollen studies, radiometric analysis, and obsidian sourcing and hydration analyses. Data from the various analyses, and from the interpretation of site formation and structure, form the underpinning of a new interpretation of mound sites as a site type and inferences regarding the role of such sites in Kalapuyan prehistory.

It is proposed that mound sites represent a new variety of site that is related to the development of a system of individual-family control over specific resource areas that began ca. 2,000 years ago. As a result of this shift in landuse, warm weather settlements, "established camps," were created by individual families at or near camas patches for the purpose of acquiring sufficient stores for use during the winter (and/or for trade). The allotment of productive camas plots to individual families is seen as an adaptive response to an imbalance between an increasingly less mobile population and a resource within circumscribed areas. The artifact assemblage recovered from the Calapooia Midden site suggests that mound sites became centers from which work groups involved in a variety of procurement tasks originated and returned. Camas harvesting and processing arguably were the most important economic activities conducted at these sites, but these activities were probably interrupted at various times while segments of the population resident at the sites were at other procurement locales. Based on evidence recovered from the Calapooia Midden site, the site was used for hunting activities after the camas season had passed.

Prior to ca. 2000 years ago there is limited evidence for accumulation of midden deposits in the Willamette Valley, proper, and from this it can be inferred that subsistence activities were spread more widely over the landscape without large scale refuse accumulation. As a response to an imbalance between population, resources, and landuse systems, subsistence and settlement systems became localized and people intensified their activities at selected points of the landscape. A logical consequence of such a shift in settlement and landuse would be greater cultural deposition, which in the Willamette Valley took the form of refuse aggregates recognizable as mound sites.