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Research Projects

Featured Research

Settlement and Climate Change in Late Holocene East Timor
Since September 2003, Curator Peter Lape and UW students have been working in the eastern Lautem district of East Timor with traditional landowners, colleagues from the Australian National University, James Cook University and the East Timor Ministry of Culture to map landscape features and identify and test archaeological sites. Current data from Island Southeast Asia and the Pacific suggest a link between the development of fortified settlements and increased climate instability beginning 800 years ago. This project uses a combination of paleoclimate, archaeological and ethnographic research to investigate whether these links also occurred in East Timor. Current work focuses on refining the chronology of the fortification period on the island and testing various models that seek to explain why this shift happened in both the local and the Pacific-wide regional context. Dr. Lape is now continuing this work in the Banda Islands. For more info about Dr. Lape’s research , see his web page.


Dr. Peter Lape excavating in East Timor in Summer 2005.

Fishing weight after rehousing.

Recent Projects

Saving Ancient Basketry at the Biderbost Site (2006-2009)
In 2006, Dr. Astrida Blukis Onat, owner of BOAS, Inc., a cultural resource management firm in Seattle, donated forty-five cubic foot boxes of more than 3,000 artifacts and archives to the Burke Museum Archaeology Department. The single radiocarbon date from this site, which is located along the Snoqualmie River, indicates people lived there at least 2,400 years ago. A significant variety of artifacts were recovered, including hundreds of basketry fragments and fishing gear, as well as mineral-painted cobbles. The first excavations at this site were conducted in the 1950s and early 1960s by members of the Washington Archaeological Society. In the late 1970s, Dr. Blukis Onat, then professor at Seattle Central Community College, investigated the site with field school students. Recognizing the importance of the site, Dr. Blukis Onat purchased the property from the Milwaukee Railroad during bankruptcy proceedings in the 1980s. Since then, the collection has remained safely in private storage until its donation to the Burke Museum in 2006. Over the years, students helped to catalog collections, but no formal analyses have been published. The Archaeology Department has begun cataloging and rehousing the collection to encourage future research access. In early 2010, Archaeological Conservancy purchased this site ensuring its long tern preservation. For more information on this project, visit the project website


San Juan Islands (2005-2010)
In the summers between 2006 and 2009, the San Juan Islands Archaeological Project (SJIAP 2005) investigated shell middens on the islands.  Although shell middens are piles of prehistoric refuse, they provide invaluable information for archaeologists about what people were eating and where they were living on the landscape.  The goals of SJIAP 2005 are to contribute to the preservation of the archaeological record on the San Juan Islands and to conduct research to refine the chronology of occupation in this region.  The principle investigator of the project is Julie Stein, Burke Museum Director, and the field director is Amanda Taylor, University of Washington Anthropology Department graduate student.  For more information on the project, please visit the project website.

Dr. Julie Stein investigating a shell midden on San Juan Island.