Test Excavations in the Wawona Valley: Report of the 1983 and 1984 Wawona Archeological Projects, Yosemite National Park, California

Author(s): Richard G. Ervin

Year: 1984


This report summarizes the results of two field seasons of archeological work in the Wawona Valley, Yosemite National Park, California. The investigations were necessitated by plans to construct new water and sewage treatment facilities in the Wawona area. Each site was chosen for investigation because of the possibility of adverse impact as a result of construction activities. However, in every case of potential impact, planners and designers associated with the construction projects were able to modify plans so as to reduce or eliminate damage to the sites. Recommendations of action proposed for the proper management of archeological resources are made in Chapter 9 of this report.

During the course of the archeological work, 17 previously documented archeological sites and 1 nonsite artifact scatter were investigated. Also, seven previously undiscovered archeo1ogical sites were found on surveys. Auger testing, surface examination and mapping were carried out at all of the sites, and more extensive test excavati OI1S were conducted at nine sites. The results of the investigations demonstrate that the Wawona area contains significant archeological resources that can contribute important information to our understanding of Yosemite and Sierra prehistory. The assemblage of sites around Wawona includes a number of deeply buried sites with rich, diverse assemblages of artifacts. Diagnostic artifacts and radiocarbon dates demonstrated that the Wawona area was first inhabited at least by the early part of the Crane Flat complex (which began at an unknown time before the birth of Christ and lasted until about A.D. l, and was occupied continuously throughout the prehistoric period and up to present.

The prehistoric sites in the area are characterized by a marked continuity in tool and debitage assemblages. The procurement and refined reduction of obsidian bifaces is the most important activity represented in the artifact assemblage. The continuity through time of the archeological record suggests that a sophisticated obsidian exchange

network was in operation as as early as the beginning of the Crane Flat

complex, and continued to operate throughout the prehistoric sequence. Also found at the Wawona sites are tools representative of a variety of maintenance activities that would have been necessary to keep a

settlement in operation while residing in the Wawona area.

A number of sites are identified as habitation sites, based on the variety of artifacts recovered from the sites and the extremely dense

concentrations of obsidian debitage. Bedrock mortars are present

at most of these sites. Several other sites have similar artifact assemblages to those identified as habitation sites, but with considerably lower densities of debitage and higher relative frequencies

of tools. These may represent habitation sites occupied by small groups

or for limited periods, or specialized resource procurement sites.

Special function sites also include several bedrock mortar sites with no

associated flaked stone artifacts.

Several important historic period components were also investigated during the projects. These include evidence relating to the U.S. Cavalry encampment at Camp A. E. Wood, as well as structures and artifacts dating to the late 19th and early 20th century use and occupation of Wawona. Much of this latter material relates to the early period of operation of the Wawona Hotel. Together, the historic and prehistoric sites investigated in the Wawona area represent an important archeological resource with great potential for informing us about the past.

Cite this Record

Test Excavations in the Wawona Valley: Report of the 1983 and 1984 Wawona Archeological Projects, Yosemite National Park, California. Richard G. Ervin. Publications in Anthropology ,26. Tucson, Arizona: Western Archeological and Conservation Center. 1984 ( tDAR id: 4261) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8WS8S2Z

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 0 to 500

Spatial Coverage

min long: -119.673; min lat: 37.512 ; max long: -119.627; max lat: 37.549 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contributor(s): Craig Bates; Scott Carpenter; Lisa Huckell; A. J. T. Jull; Austin Long; Kerry Seih; John Sheppard; Robert Thompson; Keith Weaver

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