Bovy, Kristine, M.
Sociology and Anthropology
Whale Cove; bird bone; seasonality
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The northwest coast of the United States was one of the first regions to receive Homo sapiens immigrants in the Western hemisphere and is rich in archaeological sites. The Whale Cove site, first excavated in 1985, was initially analyzed by Ann C. Bennett-Rogers and R. Lee Lyman. Their findings included an introductory analysis of lithic, bone, antler, and shell artifacts and general inventory of all pieces examined. Bennett-Rogers found preliminary evidence for changes in vegetation and shellfish taxa at the Whale Cove site over time and has hypothesized that these changes were due to a tsunami event. Robert J. Losey later examined the impact of Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquakes on fauna from archaeological sites along the Oregon Coast.
By comparing a collection of avian bone fragments from the Whale Cove excavations with modern avian skeletons, I examined Bennet-Rogers’ hypothesis by looking for sudden changes in the taxonomic representation of birds through the site’s timeline. Although the assemblage is small, consisting of approximately 150 identifiable bones, a number of different taxa have been identified, such as albatross, diving ducks, shearwaters, murres, puffins, cormorants, and loons. We borrowed 25 bird skeletons from the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, WA to use as a comparative collection in the Chafee laboratory and later visited the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University to finish taxonomic classifications. Following my original research question, I used the presence of seasonal and juvenile birds to further test the hypothesis that native peoples living at the Whale Cove site became more sedentary through time.
The Whale Cove avian bone collection will eventually be returned to be curated at Oregon State University, but as part of the final classification system I labeled each recognizable bone fragment and recorded its information in an excel database. A complete analysis of the Whale Cove bird bone collection required both laboratory observations and library research en route to my final product, a scholarly journal article.