Document Type


Date of Degree Completion

Spring 2020

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Cultural and Environmental Resource Management

Committee Chair

Patrick Lubinski

Second Committee Member

Patrick McCutcheon

Third Committee Member

Randall Schalk


The Sam Israel site is a precontact archaeological complex with numerous fish bones at the north end of Soap Lake, Washington. Excavated in 1976, the fish remains recovered from there were never fully analyzed prior to this research. Since this inland Columbia Plateau site had thousands of fish bones, it contained untapped potential for our understanding of ancient local fish procurement. As such, I conducted a detailed analysis of 2,862 fish bone specimens from the Sam Israel House Pit locus to: study a larger sample of fish bones in greater detail than was done before; compare the distribution of fishes by taxon and skeletal parts (including comparisons of density-mediated attrition) between areas of the house pit and the field recovery methods used; compare my findings with other local sites; and to prepare the collection for future studies. My study, of roughly half the fish remains recovered from the house pit, resulted in the identification of five species of fish (tui chub, bridgelip sucker, largescale sucker, longnose sucker, and Chinook salmon). Order Cypriniformes (sucker and minnow) bones outnumber Family Salmonidae (salmon/trout) bones (64%/36%) at the site, and sucker specimens outnumber minnows (81%/19%). The majority of specimens were broken (2,615/2,862, 91.3%), but only a few showed definitive modification: cutmarks (n=1), crushing (n=2), and burning (n=7). None showed signs of carnivore or raptor modification such as adhering pellet material or digestive rounding. I compared my fish to a sample of ten other Plateau sites (three inland and seven riverine) with fish, finding a larger proportion of cypriniform fish remains to salmon at inland locations compared with sites on the Columbia River. I found evidence supporting the idea of local cypriniform fish catch from the lower Grand Coulee. My results show that ¼” dry screening recovered fewer cypriniform fish vertebrae and pharyngeal bones compared to flotation. Additionally, I obtained three new radiocarbon dates that show an age range of 1455-1656 cal AD for the site, and submitted five salmonid specimens for genetic analysis, which led to the identification of the Chinook salmon.