Fragments of old Port Townsend found in Memorial Field

PORT TOWNSEND — Archaeological materials such as pieces of tiny animal bones, broken glass and ceramic kitchenware fragments dating back to the city’s early days were uncovered at Memorial Field, county and state officials said last week.

Jefferson County officials said the finds occurred earlier this month during excavation for the stadium’s $326,000 LED lighting project, which is close to completion.

State Physical Anthropologist Guy Tasa determined the bones are animal remains, “just a handful at this point,” Allyson Brooks, director of the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, said last week.

“There were not full skeletal remains of anything.”

Assistant Public Works Director Eric Kuzma, who met Friday with representatives of the Jamestown and Port Gamble S’Klallam tribes to discuss the project, said the discoveries included fragments of bones, none of which were longer than 6 inches.

“The majority of them were smaller than that,” he said.

Brooks said the glass and other materials looked like they were from “historical” Port Townsend, with no indication they were Native American in origin.

“They are not hundreds of years old,” she said.

“They relate to the history of Port Townsend, not the Native American settlement of Port Townsend.”

The first non-Native Americans arrived in Port Townsend in 1851, according to historylink.org at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-Townsend.

Brooks said Tasa determined the bone pieces were animal in origin by their shape and size.

Some bones were cut, indicating they may have been from butchered animals.

Kuzma said the finds have not disrupted events at Memorial Field and won’t have an impact on Port Townsend High School football games, which start Friday.

Kuzma said the old lighting will be used Friday if the new lighting, which will be more efficient and provide better light quality, is not operational.

Kuzma stressed that any unauthorized disturbance of the field by the public would violate state law.

The city has hired Mount Vernon-based Equinox Research and Consulting International under an hourly contract to oversee the archaeological review process now taking place for the project. The consultant’s hourly rate was unavailable Friday.

The county conducted an environmental assessment before excavation that did not turn up any bones or archaeological materials.

“These things are hit or miss,” Jefferson County Administrator Philip Morley said.

Kuzma said the first archaeological materials were found Aug. 13, during the excavation for the last of four new light poles, and last week.

The finds, including “pieces of old, broken bones,” were discovered while a 7-foot hole for a light fixture was being dug, he said.

More archaeological material, not including bones, was found Tuesday in a test pit for the fourth pole.

The foundation for the last light pole was completed Thursday.

Kuzma said under state law he could not supply photographs of the bone pieces or other materials.

Kuzma said the city is installing the new light poles in consultation with the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, local tribes and the state Recreation and Conservation Office.

The Recreation and Conservation Office, the lead agency in the project, has funded 45 percent of the total through its Youth Athletic Facilities program with the remainder from community donors.

They include Port Townsend and Chimacum school districts, Port Townsend Boosters Club, Jefferson Healthcare hospitals, Friends of Parks and Recreation, Port Townsend Rotary, Sunrise Rotary, East Jefferson Rotary, Chimacum Boosters Club, Rakers Car Club and Jefferson County.

The construction is being monitored by the county, state and tribes under state Executive Order 05-05, at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-Order.

It was signed Nov. 10, 2005, by then-Gov. Chris Gregoire in response to a massive archaeological discovery that was made almost 15 years ago to the day that animal bone fragments were found at Memorial Field.

On Aug. 16, 2003, the state Department of Transportation uncovered a shell midden on Marine Drive that led to the discovery of the buried, largely intact Klallam village of Tse-whit-zen, occupied seasonally for more that 2,700 years before the 1800s (https://tinyurl.com/PDN-Village).

A few days later, human remains and artifacts were found, leading Transportation to abandon its Hood Canal Bridge graving dock project after $60 million.

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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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