Prehistoric settlement patterns in southwest Oregon
Winthrop, Kathryn R.
This study addresses the problem of prehistoric culture change in interior southwest Oregon as reflected in subsistence/settlement patterns. Eighty-three sites, excavated during cultural resource management projects, constitute the database. This study also demonstrates the applicability of cultural resource management data to questions of regional interest and of general importance to anthropology. Two contrasting subsistence/settlement regimes are modeled based on regional ethnographic and archaeological studies. One pattern is that of a mobile subsistence regime; the other is that of a more sedentary regime associated with permanent villages and the collection and processing of foods for over-winter storage. The first is reflected in the archaeological record by a settlement system consisting of seasonal camps and short-term task sites; the second is represented by a settlement system consisting of villages, seasonal camps, and task sites. To test these models against available data, sites were first placed in functional categories (village, seasonal camp, task site) based on qualitative and quantitative assessments of their archaeological assemblages. This analysis represents the first quantitative assessment of a large database of archaeological sites in this region, and also provide a means of testing previous archaeologists' intuitive judgments about site type. Quantitative measures distinguishing sites, based on the density and diversity of stone tools present in their assemblages include: (a) density measures for chipped stone artifacts; (b) a multidimensional scaling exercise which distinguishes sites based on assemblage diversity (richness and evenness); and (c) cobble and groundstone density measures compared with excavated feature data. The quantitative analysis also offers a methodological contribution for avoiding problems associated with comparison of archaeological samples of greatly varying sizes. Next, sites were assigned to the Middle Archaic (6,000-2,000 BP) or Late Archaic (2,000-150 BP) period. Finally, a comparison of site types manifest in the two periods shows that the predominant settlement pattern during the Middle Archaic consisted of seasonal camps and task sites, indicating a more mobile subsistence/settlement regime. A more sedentary, village-centered regime, appeared along major waterways at the end of the Middle Archaic, and spread throughout the region during the Late Archaic.
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