Current topics in archaeology, cultural heritage & historic preservation

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cathlapotle Plankhouse, Pre-Stonehenge Complex, and an FBI Bust!

Taking my own advice from a previous posting ("What to do...over the long weekend! " May 22, 2009) I headed for Ridgefield, WA and the Cathlapotle Plankhouse on Sunday, June 14 to check it out. I wanted to see the presentation on rock art by the famous Dr. Jim Keyser and the native pigment demonstration by Greg Robinson (Chinook) and Greg Archuleta (Grand Ronde).

Having been to the plankhouse once before (when it was closed) I was confident that I could find it again...all I had to do was follow the signs to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge...right? Fancying myself something of a navigator I smoothly found the town of Ridgefield and quickly latched onto the prominent "National Wildlife Refuge" directional signs.

Within minutes I found the huge welcoming sign for the Refuge,
turned down the gravel road and headed for the Plankhouse. I came upon a prominent kiosk that offered a very nice brochure and informed me I should stop and pay the $3.00 entry fee to the Refuge. Not seeing anything resembling the Plankhouse...and observantly noting that nothing around me looked that much like it did on my previous visit, I turned to the map in the brochure. I quickly found that I was in the Refuge's "River S Unit"...but...the Plankhouse is in the "Carty Unit" just down the road...OOPS!

As retraced my steps and headed back into Ridgefield I blithely noted the "Plankhouse" directional signs that I missed the first time and followed them right to the spot. Really, its easy to find, just don't get tricked by the first "Wildlife Refuge" signs, note the "Plankhouse" signs, go on into Ridgefield where the road will make a right turn and lead you to the correct location. You can find a ton of information...and even a map...on-line at

The Plankhouse is striking as you can see in the photo. You can enter through the traditional circular "Chinook door" or through a less traditional "ordinary" door to the right. Being adventuresome I took the circular door route and was rewarded with a great view of the full interior of the house...all natural cedar, huge beams, draped animal skins, incredible carved wood images, people have to watch the video below to really get the experience.

I cruised the display area and talked to Chinook artist Greg Robinson (who also managed construction of the Plankhouse). Greg had a few pieces of his art on display and was working with Greg Archuleta showing interested people how pigments and paints were ground from minerals, mixed with oils and applied to wood, etc. Really fascinating. I was most impressed with the art. You can see more of Greg's work at

At 2:00 pm Jim Keyser started his talk on Columbia Plateau Rock Art. I have to say he entranced his audience of 50-some people. Jim is one of the best archaeological speakers I've heard and I'm sure everyone left both entertained and enlightened.

Share a small part of my experience in this video which I've titled "Ancient Images: Cathlapotle Chinookan Plankhouse". Music courtesy of Tom Mauchahty-Ware. Hope you enjoy it!

All in all a great experience and well worth the short trip north from Portland, OR!

James Owen in London
for National Geographic News
June 15, 2009

Given away by strange, crop circle-like formations seen from the air, a huge prehistoric ceremonial complex discovered in southern England has taken archaeologists by surprise.

A thousand years older than nearby Stonehenge, the site includes the remains of wooden temples and two massive, 6,000-year-old tombs that are among "Britain's first architecture," according to archaeologist Helen Wickstead, leader of the Damerham Archaeology Project...

Read the rest of the story at:

More on the story at:

Feds: Southern Utah history stolen from the Four Corners area.
By Patty Henetz
The Salt Lake Tribune
Updated: 06/11/2009

For two years, someone close to a large network of archaeological looters in southeastern Utah was wired with an audio-visual recorder when buying ancient baby blankets, stone pipes, seed jars, digging sticks, pots, even a pre-Columbian menstrual pad.

This "Source," as he or she is identified in a search warrant affidavit unsealed Wednesday, is an insider who worked with U.S. Bureau of Land Management and FBI special agents to nab two dozen suspects in the theft and sale of more than 250 American Indian artifacts from the Four Corners area...

Read the whole story at:

This is a fun new website with interesting stuff (don't worry, its not even PG13). In their own seeks to entice future generations of archaeologists by utilizing the image that popular media has created of archaeologists; brave, adventurous, attractive and intelligent. The program is interested in making archaeology attractive to people of all ages and sexes and proudly supports the promotion of smart archaeology and archaeological education.

Check it out at:

(Thanks to Oregon Heritage News, National Geographic, and the Salt Lake Tribune for some of the information contained in this post).


  1. Very cool video Mike. Thanks for posting it. Now I feel like I've been there.

  2. Mike,
    Thanks so much for posting the video on Cathlapotle. Our family visited that day, and enjoyed it immensely. Jim Keyser's talk was so engrossing!
    Beth and Art Johnstone

  3. Indeed it is an excellent video, I hope I can visit the place very soon.