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September 01, 2004

Burke Museum Teams with Lopez Island Groups on Archaeological Dig

SeattleThe Burke Museum recently partnered with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Samish Nation's Center for Coast Salish Environments, and the Lopez Island Historical Society to study and preserve an archeological site frequented by early Native Americans on Lopez Island. Excavation of a shell midden on Watmough Bay was conducted through August under the supervision of the University of Washington and the Samish Indian Nation.

Recent winter storm surges in Puget Sound have contributed to ongoing erosion along Watmough Bay on Lopez Island. The archaeological data recovery will take place before the BLM implements stabilization measures needed to control further loss and degradation of archaeological materials at the site.

Heading the excavation and data recovery was BLM Archeologist Richard Bailey, Russel Barsh of the Samish Nation's Center for Coast Salish Environments, and Julie Stein of the University of Washington. Stein specializes in shell middens and directed excavations at British Camp on San Juan Island for more than 8 years.

Laura Phillips, Archeological Collections Manager at the Burke Museum, worked with the Lopez Historical Society to present tours to the public and provide education on the heritage of the site. Phillips commented that, "By providing the public with the history and giving them access to a site, we find that people are inspired to become stewards and caretakers of the land."

Within the San Juan Islands, only a handful of archaeological sites have been excavated in the last 50 years. Little is known about the resources that prehistoric people collected in this region, the time at which they inhabited different areas of the islands, or the nature of the technology they developed. The archaeological research gathered from this site will be compared to what is known from other sites in the region and added to written and oral histories gathered.

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ARCHAEOLOGICAL DIG