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K. Kris Hirst

Fieldwork in Focus: Cooper's Ferry, Idaho

By January 12, 2010

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Today's Fieldwork in Focus comes from Loren Davis, field director at the Cooper's Ferry Site, an early Paleoindian site located on the Salmon River of Idaho, to be held during from June 21 to August 13, 2010.

The Cooper's Ferry site is located in the beautiful lower Salmon River canyon of western Idaho and contains some of the earliest evidence of humans in the Pacific Northwest. Previous work at the site, conducted by Davis in 1997, revealed a long record of repeated human occupation, beginning with a Western Stemmed Tradition/Paleoarchaic artifact assemblage associated with radiocarbon dates of 11,370 and 11,410 radiocarbon years ago (RYA). These dates are controversial and, if true, support current arguments that peoples bearing the Clovis tradition were not the first to settle the Far West.

2009 Cooper's Ferry field school
The 2009 Cooper's Ferry field school crew at work. Photo Photo taken by
Marcos Villasenor

In 2009, we began a multi-year excavation at the Cooper's Ferry site in order to build upon the exciting information collected in 1997 and will seek to address many archaeological questions related to the evolution of technology, economic patterns, and environmental conditions during the late Pleistocene to early Holocene period (ca. 12,000-8,000 RYA). Ultimately, these new excavations at Cooper's Ferry will hopefully contribute critical data to answer many questions about the first peoples of the Pacific Northwest and, by extension, the Americas.

Excavation Block at Cooper's Ferry, Idaho.
The block excavation, as it appeared by the end of the 2009 field season.
Photo Credit: Photo taken by Loren Davis

As part of the 2010 excavations at Cooper's Ferry, Oregon State University's Department of Anthropology is offering an eight-week Archaeology Field School and is currently seeking applicants for a limited number of spaces on the expedition crew. Join us this coming summer to learn professional archaeological excavation, recordation, and field curation skills as we seek clues about the first peoples of Far Western North America. Students will also get an introduction to landscape and site-level approaches to geoarchaeological study--perspectives that are important in the search for and study of the First Americans.

2009 Excavations at the Cooper's Ferry Site, Idaho
View of the 2009 OSU excavations at the Cooper's Ferry site, lower Salmon River Canyon, Idaho. Photo taken by
Marcos Villasenor

All participants must sign up for 12 credits of Archaeology Field School (ANTH 438) through Oregon State University, which is expected to cost about $1,800 in 2010. Current OSU students and non-OSU students are welcome to apply. In addition to tuition, students will be responsible for paying for their own food, laundry, and entertainment. Food costs vary, depending on the individual, but might be expected to cost $50-$75/week or more. A van will bring students from the OSU Corvallis campus to Idaho and back again. Students wishing to bring their own vehicles will be responsible for all associated costs. Visitors are welcomed during the 2010 field season.

For more information on how to apply, see the field school webpage or contact Dr. Loren Davis: loren.davis@oregonstate.edu

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