Vehicles and equipment sit at the Port of Port Angeles log yard on Marine Drive on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Vehicles and equipment sit at the Port of Port Angeles log yard on Marine Drive on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Artifacts found at Port Angeles log yard

Some Native, some from mill

PORT ANGELES — A five-week archaeological survey uncovered 1,800 mill and Native artifacts at the Port of Port Angeles log yard on Marine Drive.

The haul far exceeds the 100 human-made objects that port officials assumed would be discovered under the survey contract, a port official said this week.

The extra work prompted the need for a contract amendment that boosted the $125,000 survey agreement with Australia-based Cardno engineering services by 44 percent, to $185,000, port Director of Engineering Chris Hartman said Monday before port commissioners approved the additional expenditure.

The survey was conducted in preparation for construction of a $10 million to $15 million stormwater drainage system at the 20-acre log yard that the port must install under a state Department of Ecology administrative order.

Hartman said the port will seek a two-year extension of the December 2020 deadline to build the facility.

The contract amendment will be funded with a $250,000 grant administered by the state Department of Commerce.

Five additional days on site and about 475 hours of staff time were required to perform lab analysis, document findings and prepare the items that were uncovered for curation, Hartman said in a staff report.

Curation of the artifacts will incur additional costs, Hartman said.

The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s Tse-whit-zen village, covered by earth and hidden from view, borders the log yard to the west.

The intact archaeological site, among the largest is Washington state, was uncovered in 2003-04 during a failed state Department of Transportation drydock project. Excavation yielded 80,000 artifacts and more than 300 sets of human remains before the state, under pressure from the tribe, halted the effort, and the parcel was restored to its present natural condition.

Hartman said the archaeological materials found at the log yard range in age from about 50 years to before Port Angeles was settled by non-Native Americans, in the mid-1800s.

Report expected

Cardno will complete a survey report in about four weeks that will outline the discoveries.

“There were far more items found during the survey than originally identified in the agreement under the assumptions, something like 100, whether it’s artifacts which would be precontact civilization from the Tse-whit-zen village that we know was there or from the historical operations of the mill,” Hartman told the commissioners.

“All those items need to be categorized and analyzed per our Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation permit.

“There were 1,800 items of varying degrees, whether it was pieces of rebar from mill operations to fire-modified rock and that sort.

“A lot more cataloguing and staff time is required to finish the report.”

Hartman said he does not know how much of the report will be made public due to legal restrictions intended to protect Native American cultural resources.

“It’s really too early to say what was found,” he added in an interview.

“Their significance is being determined.”

The fire-modified rock he described Monday could be from tribal fire pits used for cooking, Hartman said.

The stone pits were a common site on the adjacent Tse-whit-zen tribal parcel, where the artifacts that were uncovered are stored at the Burke Museum at the University of Washington.

The collection spans from about 600 B.C. to 1900 A.D. and includes spindle whorls, stone bowls, combs, needles, harpoons and other typical objects of daily life found in Native American villages along the Puget Sound coastline.

The Burke Museum also will curate the items recently uncovered at the log yard.

“There’s a lot of culling of artifacts that are happening to see what is significant enough to curate,” Hartman said.

“There will be an ongoing cost of curation outside this agreement.”

Bone fragments

Cranial bone fragments were found at the log yard during the survey May 5 through June 8, as well as shell-midden material and glass, according to the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation and Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal Chairwoman Frances Charles.

State Physical Anthropologist Guy Tasa said Tuesday the bone fragments, discovered at a shell midden at the log yard, were likely Native American.

The survey was conducted with participation by the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, where Tasa works.

Hartman said Tuesday there are no other known human bones or bone fragments among the items uncovered in the survey but that animal bones have been identified.

The archaeological survey consisted of 170 test pits typically dug up to 12 inches below the ground surface or up to 12 inches below the bottom of the asphalt layer. The pits were dug up to 2 feet.

The stormwater project will entail “very little ground disturbance,” Hartman said Tuesday.

“We are already looking at bringing in fill material and raising the grade of the site in many areas, and installing new asphalt or concrete surface instead of installing it below ground in vaults and pipes.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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