Materials and Contexts for a Culture History of the Columbia Plateau
Andrefsky, William, Jr.
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This chapter is an overview of the prehistoric occupation of the southern part of the Plateau cultural area (hereafter called the Columbia Plateau). It is important to remember that the Plateau in general and the Columbia Plateau in particular were defined as culture areas by anthropologists observing and working with relatively recent Native American inhabitants of the region (Driver and Massey I 957; Kroeber 1939; Murdock 1941). As such, the boundaries of culture areas were defined partially on the lifeways, economy, cultural traits, and language of inhabitants and partially on the geography and physiography of the region those people inhabited. Although the prehistoric picture of occupation in the Columbia Plateau is incomplete, it is apparent that artifacts, mode of habitation, subsistent practices, and human use of the land were dynamic and changed through time. It is also apparent that the environmental conditions of the regions shifted with regard to effective moisture, biotic communities, and even landforms (Daubenmire 1969; Wigand 1987). This necessarily means that the boundaries of the Columbia Plateau culture area may also have shifted over time as humans adapted to different social and environmental conditions. In fact, the Columbia Plateau culture area (defined by cultural traits) may have been drastically different 1,000 or 8,000 years ago than when it was originally defined by those anthropologists first working in the area. For this reason, the Columbia Plateau is defined for the purposes of this overview as primarily a geographic area, and the archaeological overview explores the human occupation of this geographic area even if such habitation does not conform to the Columbia Plateau culture area traits as originally defined by contemporary anthropologists.