Our Cultural Heritage
A Fragile Record of the Last 12,000 Years along the Lower Salmon River
By studying prehistoric (before written records) and historic (after written records) cultural resources, archeologists can develop a cultural chronology which documents changes in artifact styles (i.e. projectile point shapes or bottle manufacturing techniques) over time. From this a culture history can be formulated which attempts to describe specific changes in cultural systems. What follows is a brief description of the cultures that have developed and changed in this area. The cultural development along the Lower Salmon River was similar to the cultural development in northeastern Oregon, eastern Washington, and north-central Idaho.
The culture history is described by phases. A phase is composed of similar kinds of artifacts (usually based on their shape, kinds of raw material used, frequency of different kinds of artifacts, and manufacturing techniques) as well as associations with other archeological features. A change from one phase to another may indicate a changing adaptation by the same people to the environment, the borrowing of ideas from a neighboring group of people, or the arrival of a new group of people. Not enough research has been conducted in this region to determine exactly why these changes have occurred.
The table below summarizes the culture history of the area. In addition to the cultural information, an outline of past climatic changes which may have affected the culture history of this region is included. Click on the different phases.
This information was derived from research conducted by Dr. Loren Davis, Oregon State University. Past temperature and precipitation data were gathered from oxygen and carbon isotopes collected from mussel shell and soil carbonates carefully excavated from archeological sites. Data revealed that the river supported a more robust riparian vegetation zone until about 2,000 years ago when the river began rapidly down cutting and the riparian zone diminished to its current form.