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9000 years of salmon fishing on the Columbia River, North America

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Virginia L Butler*
Department of Anthropology, Portland State University, Portland, OR 97207, USA
Jim E O'Connor
U.S. Geological Survey, 10615 SE Cherry Blossom Drive, Portland, OR 97216, USA
*Corresponding author. Fax: (503) 725-3905. E-mail (V.L. Butler).


A large assemblage of salmon bones excavated 50 yr ago from an ∼10,000-yr-old archaeological site near The Dalles, Oregon, USA, has been the primary evidence that early native people along the Columbia River subsisted on salmon. Recent debate about the human role in creating the deposit prompted excavation of additional deposits and analysis of archaeologic, geologic, and hydrologic conditions at the site. Results indicate an anthropogenic source for most of the salmonid remains, which have associated radiocarbon dates indicating that the site was occupied as long ago as 9300 cal yr B.P. The abundance of salmon bone indicates that salmon was a major food item and suggests that migratory salmonids had well-established spawning populations in some parts of the Columbia Basin by 9300–8200 yr ago.

Research Article
University of Washington

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