Geoarchaeological Context of Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene Occupation at the Cooper’s Ferry Site, Western Idaho, USA

Loren G. Davis and Charles E. Schweger

Archaeological excavations at the Cooper’s Ferry site (10IH73), located in the lower Salmon River canyon of western Idaho, revealed a stratified sequence of cultural occupations that included a pit feature containing stemmed points. However, radiocarbon ages determined on charcoal and bone in the pit feature range between ca. 12,000 yr B.P. and 7300 yr B.P. By considering the effects of postdepositional processes on dated samples, and by comparing the lithostratigraphy, pedostratigraphy, and stable isotope geochemistry of pedogenic carbonates from Cooper’s Ferry with other well-dated stratigraphic sections in the canyon, site geochronology is clarified. Based on the presence of key radiocarbon ages and distinctive stratigraphic criteria, we argue that the initial occupation and interment of lithic artifacts in a pit feature at Cooper’s Ferry occurred during the late Pleistocene, between ca. 11,410 and 11,370 yr B.P., and not during the early Holocene. Records of geomorphic change and paleoenvironmental proxy data from the site reveal that early occupation in the lower Salmon River canyon corresponds with evolving riparian ecosystems, which must be considered as a contextual aspect of local prehistoric cultural ecology. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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