Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Anthropology

Committee Chair

Douglas MacDonald

Commitee Members

Anna Prentiss , Steven Sherriff


Archaeology, Survey, Yellowstone National Park, Lithic Artifacts, obsidain source, Snake River


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Cultural History | Other History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology | Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures | United States History


This report presents the summary of work completed by the University of Montana in 2013 and 2014 along the Lewis and Snake Rivers of southern Yellowstone National Park. This project, known as The Snake Headwaters Project (the Snake and Lewis River Survey) is ongoing and has been initiated as part of the Wild and Scenic Rivers designation. This designation would help preserve these rivers natural setting for future visitors. This project falls under the auspices of Section 110 of the NRHP, which allocates funding for federal agencies to conduct preemptive archaeological inventories No current developments are planned in these river corridors, although ongoing road, trail and campsite maintenance occurs in the area and historic impacts on the landscape are evident. This report summarizes the methodology, survey results, and proposed interpretations and hypothesis associated with historic and prehistoric human use of the southernmost sections of the park. The two seasons of survey covered more than 60km of river shoreline and canyon rim survey, with a survey corridor of ±40m wide. Some areas allowed for much larger or multiple transects, with the University of Montana surveying around 16 sq. km., or 3954 acres. Survey identified 54 (36 in 2013 and 18 in 2014) previously undocumented historic and prehistoric archaeological sites, along with 16 isolated finds. 48YE418 (SLS-42) was previously identified, but survey in 2014 dramatically expanded the site. The University of Montana identified four sites as eligible for NRHP listing, two of which were previously identified. Most sites were very small or sparse, lacked diagnostic artifacts, or require future investigation and subsurface testing. The crew also identified two low quality obsidian outcrops that are likely to have been utilized as quarries, as well as an orthoquartzite outcrop and isolated tested cobbles of both materials. One significant historic site was documented at a previously documented lithic scatter, 48YE1268, which also contains the remains of a historic cable car. Four historic gravel pits and several artifact scatters and hearths of unknown age were also identified. Shovel test pits were also conducted in areas of high potential and very low surface visibility, which occurred in four places along the Lewis River. None were conducted along the Snake River Six diagnostic prehistoric projectile points were identified and collected for analysis. They include two Paleoindian points, one Late Archaic point, and three Late Prehistoric arrow points. A number of other formal but not temporally diagnostic tools such as bifaces were identified as well. Total lithics collected tallied 112 artifacts, consisting of diagnostic 3 artifacts and artifacts for EDXRF sourcing. In addition to artifacts for sourcing, 52 natural obsidian samples were taken from the quarries and isolated cobbles. Eighteen historic artifacts were collected for analysis as well, all of which came from 48YE1268. The vast majority of lithics identified throughout the survey are made from orthoquartzite and spherulitic obsidian, referred in this report as welded tuff obsidian.



© Copyright 2015 Justin M. Pfau