Summary of Early Analysis

B. Robert Butler's primary concern with the Wasden Site was the paleoclimatic implications that the site represented (Butler 1971a, 1972,1973). Butler's analysis focused on the bison bone bed (layer 17) as an indicator of what he saw as a changing environment. The faunal remains of the bison population captured in the site are representative of a population in flux. The bison represent the change of the population from relatively larger Bison antiquus to the smaller modern form Bison bison at 8000BP(Butler 1968a, 1978). Also captured at Wasden was shift in population from pocket gophers (Thomomys) to rabbits (Sylvilagus)(Butler 1972). This is significant because Sylvilagus thrives in sagebrush areas, which are representitive of the modern environment surrounding the Wasden site. Thomomys is more common in wetter environments, along streams, feeding on roots and stems of grasses. Butler (1972), based on the analysis that Guilday (1969) performed on the Wasden material, states that at 7000 BP, within the ratio of Thomomys and Sylivilagus, the Thomomys population declines and the Sylivilagus population increases based on raw bone counts taken from samples at Wasden. Overall both the populations decline at Wasden at this time period. Butler's interpretation of these data is that at the Wasden site at about 8000-7000 BP the wetter climate was changing to a dryer climate as evidenced by shifts in the representative faunal populations in the area and in the evolving bison population. Further Butler states that such a shift has major implications for the human populations changing the economy of the population from big game hunting to more generalized hunting and gathering (Butler 1972). Guilday (1969) takes a less radical view and states that the decline in Thomomys population is indicative of small changes in the overall vegetative cover. The composition of the vegetative cover does not change, but the ratio of the various plants change in respect to each other. The palynology analysis performed by Charles Schweger of the University of Alberta, on a sample from the lower mammoth layer, gave the following results: Artemesia (sagebrush), 88.6%; Granineae (grasses) 5.0%; Compositae (weeds), 3.6%; Chenopodiaceae, 1.4%; Pinus (pine), 0.7%; Ranunculus Type, 0.7% (Miller 1982:93). This vegetative composition is similar to the current composition of the landscape surrounding the Wasden site giving credence to Guilday's interpretation of the Wasden, and calling into question whether the shifting environment was a major or minor factor.

In the early analysis of the large faunal material was identified, to species and skeletal element, by members of the amateur society and B. Robert Butler. Microfauna was identified by John Guilday of the Carnegie Museum at the University of Pittsburgh, resulting in a count, by mandible, of 7248 individual small mammals (Guilday 1969:47). During the later investigation of the Wasden site, Miller analyzed the large faunal remains. Miller's primary concern with the Wasden site was in the early mammoth layer as a prehistoric workshop representing bone modification (Miller 1982, 1989). She framed her analysis in the paleonotological question of how humans act as modifiers of the found faunal remains, or more accurately the differentiation of those features of bone alteration caused by humans from other agencies or processes (Miller 1989:381).

Miller states that a reduction sequence is identified for the material recovered from Owl Cave, which shows that human agency is responsible for the patterns on the bone (Miller 1982:91). The patterning suggesting that bone was reduced for marrow extraction and used as raw material for bone artifact production (Miller 1989:381). Mammoth long bones have their epiphyseal and diaphsis removed by direct percussion and leverage. Percussion fracturing, evidenced by radiating spiral fractures, was identified. Isolated bone flakes were recovered, illustrating morphological features, platform angles, bulb of percussion, a lip produced on the ventral surface, and the concavity of the dorsal surface. A bone core was identified with the scars of three overlapping flake removals. Even the bone that was found in this layer of Owl Cave is indicative of human behavior. The selected skeletal elements were dense cortical bone, which is indicative of selective removal from the initial kill location (Miller 1989:391). These dense cortical bones were ideal for the "bone-knapping" that occurred in this occupation of the Wasden site.

The original excavation at Wasden sets the context for the data reclamation that the Wasden Project performed. How the site was excavated, the analyses used influences the type, quantity and quality of the information that is available. The accurate term would be that a meta-archaeology of the Wasden site was conducted. The Wasden documentation was excavated to reconstruct the excavation and to draw out new information. New analyses were used. The new analyses do not contradict the original interpretation of the site, they merely augment the interpretation of the site. The original interpretation of the site was about the site as a paleoclimatic indicator as change occurred from the Pleistocene to the Holocene. The interpretation in this paper is about the site as it pertains to human behavior.

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