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December 07, 2009

Archaeological artifacts found on campus show long history of Native American presence on UW grounds

Burke Museum identifies archaeological site

Artifacts recently discovered near the University of Washington Botany Greenhouse, along with previous archaeological data, indicate a long history of Native American presence on the grounds of the current UW campus.

On October 22, 2009, a UW student volunteer for the Botany Greenhouse, Ellen Van Wyk, found a stone projectile point buried in the ground and Greenhouse staff notified the UW's Burke Museum archaeology division. Laura Phillips, Burke Museum archaeology collections manager, estimates the point to be between 4,000- 7,000 years old. As a follow up, Burke archaeologists then excavated three test pits near where the point was found. The test pits yielded two more stone tool fragments. Historic General Land Office maps document an "Indian Trail" bisecting the UW campus area, very near where the projectile point and other artifacts were found. The area in which the artifacts were found has now been registered with the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation.

Archaeological data, along with historic research and oral history, show that Native American people lived on what are now the grounds of the UW campus for thousands of years. As late as 1900, the Chesiahud family still lived on the property that became the University of Washington only five years later. Several other artifacts have also been found on and around the UW Seattle campus and are currently held at the Burke Museum.

Phillips, who manages the archaeology collection at the Burke Museum, says, "With this discovery, the University of Washington has the opportunity to be a steward of cultural heritage and to consult with area tribes. The Burke Museum remains committed to that sense of stewardship."

Julie Stein, director of the Burke Museum, remarked that "This point is exciting because we know exactly where it was found. Other points in our collection have a vague provenance, such as 'near the fountain.' We can now add to the history of the landscape on which the UW is built."

Phillips commented that Doug Ewing, UW greenhouse manager, did the right thing by contacting the Burke Museum upon finding the point. She said further that it is illegal to knowingly disturb an archaeological site in Washington. The University has now promised to survey that area and other parts of campus with pending construction projects for other potential sites. If you suspect an archaeological site has been found, contact the Burke Museum archaeology department at 206-685-3849.

(206) 543-9762; FAX (206) 616-1274