Duck Duck Book

55 – archaeology in washington
07.20.2008, 12:01 am
Filed under: history & geography

Archaeology in Washington / Ruth Kirk and Richard D. Daugherty.
Seattle : University of Washington Press, c2007.
[MCL call number: 979.7 K59a 2007; two copies, no holds]

It’s not always obvious at first, but there is a lot hidden in any inhabited land to show evidence of the people who have lived there over time. The area now occupied by the state of Washington is large, and it has supported human communities for many thousands of years. The exact range of time is a matter of some dispute, since scientists have competing theories about how people arrived there, and many indigenous peoples maintain that they have lived in their homelands from the beginning of time. But regardless of whether archaeological exploration in Washington can reveal traces of human habitation stretching back 14,000, or 20,000, or uncountable years, there is no doubt that there is plenty of evidence to show that people have been there, and have made an impact on the land.

Archaeology in Washington provides a friendly, sensible introduction to archaeological sites in the state, as well as to the state’s history of archaeological exploration, controversy, and accomplishment. One interesting story relayed in the book is the discovery and excavation of the Manis mastodon. In 1977, a couple living in the northern Olympic Peninsula began excavating a mucky portion of their land with a backhoe, with the intention of creating a pond where migrating water birds could rest. When Emanuel Manis dug up a pair of what seemed to be tree trunk sections from about six feet below the original surface of the site, he and his wife Clare Manis noticed the broken tips of the two chunks were white at the tips. They realized the chunks could be tusks, and called the an archaeologist at Washington State University who happened to be working on an excavation at another site on the peninsula. Seven years of excavation work later, bones of three mastodons had been recovered, along with seeds, bits of wood, other animal remains, and various human tools. Clare Manis eventually donated the site to the National Archaeological Conservancy.

Overall, Archaeology in Washington has the mainstream, open minded sort of bias familiar to readers of well-written American middle school text books — information is presented clearly, in a logical order that is meant to encourage the acquisition of knowledge, nearly every page contains at least one beautiful and useful photograph or illustration, the bibliography is helpful and the index decent, and although the writers definitely present their own perspective in subtle ways, matters of scientific and political debate are laid out in a more or less objective fashion that allows readers to mostly make up their own minds. You don’t have to know anything much about archaeology, or about Washington’s human past to understand this book, but you should know quite a bit about both when you have finished reading it, and it is interesting just to leaf through and look at the pictures.


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