Windust Caves Archaeological District

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Windust Caves Archaeological District
Windust Caves AD NRHP 84000479 Walla Walla County, WA.jpg
LocationFranklin County, Washington, USA
Nearest cityWindust, Washington
Area505 acres (2.04 km2)
NRHP reference No.84000479[1]
Added to NRHPOctober 29, 1984

The Windust Caves are a series of nine caves that have been eroded into the side of a basalt cliff on the north side of the lower Snake River. The caves were excavated from 1959 until 1961 by a crew led by Harvey S. Rice.[2] Some of the caves had been disturbed, though also somewhat preserved from looting by collectors, by rock falling off the roofs of the caves during construction of the Northern Pacific Railway. Other caves were damaged by collectors.[3] In 1961, upon completion of the Ice Harbor Lock and Dam, the caves were flooded by the reservoir known as Lake Sacajawea.

Archaeologists have determined that there were five separate periods of human cultural occupation of the site, though the periods are thought to have been in an unbroken succession, which ended during the historic period.[4]

The earliest finds at the site are very similar to the finds at Marmes Rockshelter, all of which have been classified as belonging to the archaeological phase known as the Windust Phase.[5] They point to a lifestyle that was seminomadic. The spear points differed from the earlier Clovis points, in that they were stemmed and leaf-shaped. Radiocarbon dating suggests that the points were made between 8,500 and 6,000 BCE.[6]

Roald H. Fryxell defined the ten layers (above the basalt floor) of stratigraphy of the site.[7]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. April 15, 2008.
  2. ^ American Antiquity
  3. ^ Davis, p.138
  4. ^ Davis, p.141-143
  5. ^ Fiedel, p.121
  6. ^ Keyser, p.24
  7. ^ Davis, pp.138-140


  • American Antiquity, Vol. 27, No. 4 (Apr., 1962), pp. 607–624 Published by: Society for American Archaeology
  • Davis, Loren G. Volcanism, Climate Change, and Prehistoric Cultural Succession in Southern Washington and Northern Idaho.
  • Fiedel, Stuart J. (1992). Prehistory of the Americas, Cambridge University Press.
  • Kirk, Ruth; Daugherty, Richard D. (2007). Archaeology in Washington, University of Washington Press, ISBN 0-295-98696-4.

External links[edit]

Media related to Windust Caves Archaeological District at Wikimedia Commons