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The Archaeology of Antelope Creek Overhang

Monographs in Archaeology, Volume No. 2Creek Overhang

by Sharon Plager, Mark G. Plew and Christopher A. Willson (2006)
ISBN:  0-9639749-9-8
111 pp.

COST:  $15.95

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INTRODUCTION:

The Department of Anthropology at Boise State University and the Vale District Bureau of Land Management, Vale, Oregon, are engaged in cooperative efforts which fulfill the Bureau of Land Management’s stewardship responsibility of managing and protecting the district’s cultural resources.  Among the commitments of Boise State University are evaluations of archaeological sites that have been or are currently being vandalized. In 2003, Boise State University analyzed materials collected from Antelope Creek Overhang in southeastern Oregon. The site (Figure 1) is an extensively looted rockshelter located along Antelope Creek about a mile and a half upstream from the confluence of the creek and the Owyhee River about 45 miles south of Jordan Valley, Oregon.  It was excavated in 1969 by B. Robert Butler and Gus Roos, who were assisted by 20 members of the Upper Snake River Paleo-archaeological Society (USRPS).  Although Butler’s field notes document looters’ pits, his crew recovered a broad collection of stone and bone tools as well as a number of textiles that were, until recently, curated at the Idaho Museum of Natural History. Initially, the Bureau of Land Management wanted to evaluate the condition of the rockshelter and through limited test excavations determine if any cultural materials remained.  However, a visit in the summer of 2003 found the shelter heavily vandalized, and a determination was made that further testing would not contribute to understanding the cave’s occupation(s).

Although preliminary analysis of the recovered materials was conducted at Idaho State University and sections of a draft report prepared, publication of the results was interrupted. In spring 2003, the collection was returned to the Vale District Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which contracted with Boise State University to finish the analysis.  The site’s proximity to Dirty Shame Rockshelter makes the findings particularly interesting.  In 1973, Butler submitted a cordage sample to the Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory at Washington State University, and a date of 7960 ± 120 radiocarbon years was established. The laboratory had difficulty dating the cordage due to the high nitrogen content.  Boise State University sent four samples to Beta Analytic Radiocarbon Laboratory. Analysis of the data indicates both an early Archaic occupation (8690 +/- 70 B.P.) and a later Archaic occupation (1840 +/- 40 B.P.).  Based on Kittleman’s (1977:8) report that quality lithic resources for producing stone tools were limited in the area of Dirty Shame Rockshelter, obsidian samples were sent to the Northwest Research Obsidian Studies Laboratory.  The results of these analyses and additional analysis of the materials returned to the Bureau of Land Management from the 1969 excavation as well as supplementary information and photos from Roos’ field notes from the initial test trenches are reported herein.