July 20, 1998
Andrew Walgamott/staff photo
Snoqualmie Tribal Chairman Andy de los Angeles holds an ancient spearpoint he recovered from an archealogical dig east of Duvall. Standing next to de los Angeles is Diana Gale, Seattle Public Utilities Director. Third from right is Margaret Pageler, Seattle City Councilwoman.
by Andrew Walgamott
DUVALL--On a terrace above the Tolt River a people worked stone into delicate tools and deadly weapons over thousands of years.
What was left behind, buried in earth and forest duff, is coming back to light as archaeologists, working near a massive construction project, excavate small "peepholes" laden with worked rocks and other artifacts that are providing a glimpse into early human habitation of the Cascade foothills.
While the dig is still in the early stages, archaeologists believe they have discovered a tool manufacturing center used off and on as far back as 8,000 years.
Artifacts have been found near the surface and down more than three feet, showing the site was used repeatedly over a long period of time. Over 1,000 "objects" have been found with at least three dozen identified as tools so far.
Further investigation will determine whether the site, known in the Snoqualmie tongue as Stuwe'yuk, or "Throat," was a permanent encampment or a temporary one.
Archaeologists and Snoqualmie tribal officials are already heralding it as a significant find.
"If it's in the oral traditions of the tribe, it would have been an important place," said Dr. Astrida R. Blukis Onat, the principal investigator.
The site is eight miles east-southeast of Duvall on land Seattle Public Utilities swapped with Weyerhaeuser to build a new water filtration plant on. Artifacts were found where solids collected from the filtration process were planned to be dumped.
Speaking in front of reporters who had been trucked to the remote location, Andy de los Angeles, Snoqualmie Tribal Chairman, said the site was located in the "heartland of our people." The area is within the traditional territory of the Snoqualmies.
Trowel and tape measure at his belt, de los Angeles envisioned early peoples catching salmon off the rocks of the Tolt below, and said as the wind came down the canyon, "the throat," it would have dried fish hung on drying racks.
The Snoqualmies believe the site was located here to protect access to a copper quarry, but probably also served as a fishing and trade station.
"We want government agencies to be put on notice that villages can be found away from lakes and rivers," he said. "This find proves these (archeological) sites can be found elsewhere, and it takes more than a pedestrian review to find them."
Flakes of obsidian, a trade item which can't be obtained locally, have been found there, Onat said.
Artifacts were first discovered June 1 as clearing began for the $101 million filtration plant. An earlier survey of the area had turned up nothing.
So far, between 1,200 and 1,300 objects have been found from over 200 "probes," square holes over three feet deep and one foot wide dug into the earth over the 4.7 acre site, Onat said.
Of the objects, only 40 to 50 have been recognized as actual tools, though Onat expected that number to grow as more analysis is done. Implements were chipped from jasper, quartz and chert found along the river.
About 15 professional field assistants were at the site Thursday, sifting earth and plucking rocks from screens.
Onat, a Latvian-born anthropologist, has worked a dig on Tokul Creek and is widely published on Northwest Native American cultures.
While work goes on under a cool canopy of second-growth Douglas firs, hemlock and maple, the site looked far different between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago. Onat said it would have been part of an open plain after the glaciers had retreated.
Besides thumbnail-sized stone scrapers used to work hides, fibers and stencil leather, the most readily identifiable artifact discovered yet is a two-inch long, gray stone spearpoint de los Angeles found.
Onat said it is "thought to be rather old." Loath to touch it lest oils from her fingers contaminate the piece, she said chemical analysis of it and other stones may tell investigators what animal or plant the tools were used on.
"It will give us evidence of what was hunted, probably deer and elk, but it may show one more prominently than the other," Onat said.
While searchers say they haven't found anything besides stone tools, and say baskets and bones would have decomposed in the soil, Onat says that where the artifacts are most dense, there may be structural features.
"It's a place where the tools and the geological layers will tell us what went on here," Onat said, adding that evidence of pits and post holes for housing could turn up in wider excavations.
De los Angeles said that tribal members are beginning to work more on stressing the importance of these finds.
"We all need to move to educate people to be more respective of ancient things," he said.
Seattle Public Utilities and the Snoqualmie Tribe will work with Onat on a data recovery plan that will be reviewed by King County Cultural Resource Division and the Washington State Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation.
Recovery work is scheduled by the end of this November with a report of the findings published at the conclusion of excavations.
Diana Gale, Seattle Public Utilities Director, said the excavations weren't endangering work on the filtration plant. The city expects the facility to be online by 2001.