Anadromous Fishing on the Snake River Plain as Seen Through the Archaeology of the Columbia Plateau

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date



College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Anthropology

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Pei-Lin Yu


Riverine ecosystems have been exploited in North America by indigenous people since the Pleistocene epoch. Among the resources that these ecosystems offer, freshwater shellfish and fish are the most commonly exploited resources. The Columbia Plateau region, Washington, is no exception to the rule. The archaeological evidence along with ethnographic accounts points to exploitation of anadromous fish during the Middle to Late Archaic periods. Archaeologists have sought to apply this same subsistence structure to the people of the Snake River Plain. The Snake River empties into the Columbia on the border of Washington and Idaho. It is well documented that the anadromous salmon, that were heavily exploited on the Columbia Plateau, were able to swim up-river to Shoshone Falls, or what is today known as Twin Falls, Idaho. Recently, counter-arguments have been made to the proposition that anadromous fish were heavily exploited on the Snake River Plain (Plew and Guinn 2015, Plew and Gould 1996, Plew 1990). My research offers a new perspective on this controversy using a combination of the Lewis Binford Database (Binford and Johnson 2014) and archaeological research to compare the riverine foraging adaptations of the Columbia Plateau and the Snake River Plain.

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