The Wasden site proper consists of three proximal caves created by collapsed lava tubes. In the published literature “Wasden” is used interchangeably with Owl Cave to discuss the work done there. Of the three caves, Owl Cave (10BV30), Coyote Cave (10BV31), and Dry Cat Cave(10BV32), only Owl Cave has been extensively excavated. Coyote Cave received preliminary work, but because of heavy rock fall was never fully excavated. Dry cat cave received only initial testing. Starting late in 1965 work at Wasden consisted of limited pedestrian survey of the landscape surrounding Owl, Coyote, and Dry Cat caves.
The excavations of the site were continued in 1975, until 1977, under Susanne Miller and carried out by an Idaho State University field school with members of the Upper Snake River Prehistoric Society.
Of the two published occupations at Owl Cave there are very limited artifactual assemblages. The Bison bone bed had 62 artifacts, including flakes, organic material, projectile points, and worked bone. Butler (1968b:12) describes most of the projectile points being similar Agate Basin points (c.f. Sharrock 1966:52), which are included in the Plano series (Lohse 1995:20-21). The mammoth kill layer has a fluted point association. These points, based on the time of the occupation, are assumed to be folsom (Miller 1982).
However of the approximately 1600 artifacts recovered from Owl Cave, nearly the entire culture-historical sequence from Idaho has been found. The material culture of the past has specific biographies to be explored to tell us more about the past, or more accurately the specific way in which particular things were used in the past (Kopytoff 1986)
Method of Excavation
In the excavation at Wasden in 1965 the grid system was set up using two-meter excavation test units, with a North-South axis and an East-West axis. As such the grid system was labeled with a three character name, eastern side of the site carrying an “E” designation, western side of the site carrying a “W”, followed by a number (x-axis) and a letter (y-axis).
Most of the excavation took place in the eastern section of Owl Cave, at five centimeter arbitrary excavation levels. Although the unit that was selected for the recovery of microfauna, due to its location under ledge assumed to be used as a prehistoric owl roost (Guilday 1969:47), was screened in 10 centimeter arbitrary levels. The excavation used 3/8″ screen. Later excavations used the same grid system, but using varied excavation levels and screen.
The western part of the cave went unexcavated due to heavy rockfall uncovered less than meter below site surface (Butler 1968b:7).
The stratigraphy of the Wasden site exceed six meters in depth, and are made up of finely stratified, horizontally bedded loessial sediments (Butler 1968b:7). The strata held abundant microfauna, bird, and large faunal remains. Deposition consisted of fine laminae of wind blown and water deposited sediments broken up by periodic episodes of rock-fall caused by frost weathering of the laminar basalts constituting the walls and overhang.
The Wasden site has been dated using thirteen radiocarbon, fourteen obsidian hydration, and the inclusion of redeposited Mt. Mazama ash (Butler 1968b:7). The Mazama ash gives a date of 6900 B.P. for layer 15 in the Owl Cave stratigraphy, which is roughly a meter below the surface of the site. Layer 17, the bison bone layer is from two to two and half meters below the surface. Radiocarbon dates bracket the layer between 7800 and 8200 B.P. (Butler 1968b:8, Dort 1968b:34). A series of radiocarbon (N=7) and obsidian hydration (N=14) dates frame the temporal sequence for the lower levels, from four and half to five and half meters, which Miller worked. The dates range from 10,000 to 12,000 B.P. (Plew and Pavesic 1982, Miller 1989, Dort and Miller 1977, Butler 1972).
Figure 11. Table of Radiocarbon and Obsidian Hydration dates from the Wasden site.
|Lab and #, or specimen #||Date||Material||Feature||Reference|
|WSU-561||3340±575||Charcoal||Layer 13||Butler 1968b: 7|
|WSU-680||“modern”||Unknown||Layer 14, Layer15||Butler 1968b: 7|
|WSU-641||7750±219||Charcoal||Layer 16||Butler 1968b: 8|
|M-1853||7100±350||Bone||Layer 16||Butler 1968b: 8|
|WSU-560||8160±260||Bone, burned||Layer 18||Butler 1968b: 8|
|WSU-758||*8000±||Bone||Layer 18||Butler 1968b: 8|
|WSU-2485||10145±170||Bone||4.52-4.54 m b.o.d.||Plew and Pavesic 1982|
|WSU-2484||10470±100||Bone||4.70-4.80 m b.o.d.||Plew and Pavesic 1982|
|76465||11627±375||Obsidian||4.72-4.82 m b.o.d.||Miller 1989|
|WSU-1259||12250±200||Bone||4.80-5.10 m b.o.d.||Butler 1971|
|76439||11938±499||Obsidian||5.05 m b.o.d.||Miller 1989|
|76439a||11587±422||Obsidian||5.05 m b.o.d.||Miller 1989|
|76439b||11657±494||Obsidian||5.05 m b.o.d.||Miller 1989|
|WSU-2483||*9735±115||Bone||5.10 m b.o.d.||Plew and Pavesic 1982|
|WSU-1786||10910±150||Bone||5.09-5.14 m b.o.d.||Dort and Miller 1977|
|76438||11733±431||Obsidian||5.09 m b.o.d.||Miller 1989|
|76436||11424±206||Obsidian||5.12 m b.o.d.||Miller 1989|
|76394||12008±285||Obsidian||4.80 m b.o.d.||Miller 1989|
|76437||12293±435||Obsidian||5.19 m b.o.d.||Miller 1989|
|76464||11587±564||Obsidian||5.22-5.32 m b.o.d.||Miller 1989|
|WSU-1281||12850±150||Bone||5.20 m b.o.d.||Butler 1972|
|AA-6833||10640±85||Charcoal||5.2-5.4 m b.o.d.||Miller unpublished m.s.|
Redeposited Mazama Ash Layer 15 (c.6900 B.P.)