A recent decision in Washington state protects the largest prehistoric village ever discovered in the state, but puts a $284 million highway construction project on hold.
repair the 40-year-old Hood Canal Bridge, which connects the cities
of the northern Olympic Peninsula with the Seattle area, the
Washington State Department of Transportation needed to build
floating concrete pontoons. For a construction site, it chose an
abandoned lumber mill in the sheltered harbor of Port Angeles.
The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe knew that there had once
been a tribal village on the harbor, but preliminary excavations at
the abandoned mill failed to find any evidence of the prehistoric
site. Within a few weeks, though, construction work uncovered a
1,700-year-old village containing eight longhouses and over 5,000
artifacts, and a cemetery with 264 intact human skeletons. "Day by
day, the evidence of the village (was) being destroyed," says
tribal chairwoman Frances Charles.
On Dec. 21, the state,
under pressure from the tribe, halted construction at the mill
site. Completion of the bridge project has been delayed
indefinitely while the state looks for another location.