Document Type


Date of Degree Completion

Winter 2019

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Cultural and Environmental Resource Management

Committee Chair

Patrick M. Lubinski

Second Committee Member

Steven Hackenberger

Third Committee Member

William Smith


From 1973-1975, William C. Smith of Central Washington State College led the “Mesa Project” excavating four sites on the Columbia Plateau in Grant County, Washington. These mesas are small isolated basalt buttes, 100 or more feet above the surrounding scabland channels, with cultural materials on the top and base. They are hypothesized by some researchers to be strongholds, refuges, or defensive sites. Faunal material recovered from these sites has been in storage unanalyzed for over 40 years. The largest excavation was at Mesa 12 where 33 units were excavated. Six radiocarbon dates indicate a Cayuse Phase (2070±90 B.P. until 565±80 B.P.) occupation. This thesis analyzed the approximately 4,500 faunal remains from the site, indicating the presence of suckers/minnows, turtle, rodents, rabbits, and artiodactyls including pronghorn and sheep. Interestingly, there was a large number of fish remains from atop the mesa (713 of 3,055 specimens, 23%) and none from the base of the mesa (of 937 specimens). The Mesa 12 faunal distribution was compared to 5 other regional coulee and 16 other Columbia River sites within 50 miles. Mesa 12 is broadly similar to other sites, but has a higher proportion of aquatic resources than any other site in the sample. The riverine and coulee site groups were not significantly different in taxonomic indices for importance of salmonids or aquatic animals, but were significantly different in the artiodactyl index, using the Wilcoxon rank sum test. Future studies of other faunal assemblages collected away from the Columbia River may reveal additional patterns that differ from sites located on the Columbia River.