Section 106 requires federally assisted projects to take into account their effects on historic properties included in or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. So in 2012, ITD performed a pedestrian survey of the project area.
An initial cultural resources investigation identified a pre-contact (short term occupation) lithic (debitage) scatter site in the project’s area of potential effect (APE)). Debitage is the collective term used by archaeologists to refer to the sharp-edged waste material left over when someone creates a stone tool (knaps flint). Some of the waste flakes may be used as tools themselves, as expedient scrapers for example, but by and large the word debitage refers to those pieces which have not been utilized.
Testing the vertical and horizontal extent, content, and integrity of the site within the APE was recommended and SWCA was contracted to complete the evaluation as a result of consultation between the ITD and the Nez Perce Tribe.
Twenty-one shovel probes and three test units were excavated in and around the site along the road. Cultural materials were discovered between 0 and 138 centimeters (or 54.3 inches) below the surface in three of the 21 probes and in the test units. After careful examination of the artifacts found archeologists believe the site was used repeatedly for short periods of time, most likely as one of the Nezperce camps where activities focused on the hunting and processing of animal resources.
The site was recommended as eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Accordingly, Clearwater County will take whatever measures necessary to avoid any adverse effects to the site.
The people who lived on the property in question were in no way surprised to learn of the research to be carried out in their neck of the woods. Violet Bruce and her husband, moved to the area in 1949 and purchased the property which is adjacent to Orofino Creek Bridge to make there home, which is where the archeological tests were performed.
Neighboring residents who were more familiar with the area informed them that the Nez Perce were known to have frequently camped in the vicinity of their property. Various arrowheads and pieces of other elements resembling cultural artifacts surfaced as the Bruces settled in and established their garden and orchard, confirming the information shared by neighbors who had lived in the area over several generations.
Throughout the years, various items of interest have revealed themselves, but perhaps the most obvious and intact artifact discovered was a sizeable tool most likely used as a pestle for grinding, found by Violet Bruce in their orchard.
Brandy Rinke, with SWCA Environmental Consultants, explained “This project has followed the Section 106 process and is a good example of positive relationships between private landowners, the ITD, the Nez Perce Tribe, and the County. SWCA is especially grateful to the Bruce family for allowing us to access their property and for the history they shared with us.”
One of 21 shovel probes excavated to the depth of impenetrable cobbles, excavated in and around the site along the road.
The Orofino Creek Bridge soon to be replaced is subject to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, because it will receive federal funding through the Federal Highway Administration.
The north wall profile of one test unit showing the layers of soil and its distribution and composition. Testing the vertical and horizontal extent, content, and integrity of the site within the area of potential effect was recommended. The dark layer beginning about 110 centimeters below the modern surface is an old buried soil surface and artifacts were identified throughout the profile to about 140 centimeters or 54 inches deep – the black/red and white sticks are divided in 10 cm increments.