The Indian Reader Studies


A quartz crystal microblade which was unearthed in Washington state is being recognized as a major find said an archaeologist at a 3,000year-old Indian village site on the Olympic Peninsula.

The dig is the result of a unique cooperation between Washington State University and the Makah Indian Tribe, whose artifacts are being recovered. A WSU student made the discovery on July 9 while working on the excavation project on the banks of the Hoko river in northwestern Washington. Found was a rare quartz crystal which shows exceptional skill and craftsmanship.

"It's a major discovery," said Dale Croes, a Washington State University archaeologist. "It's just beautiful. It was very well preserved. These blades are of real interest because they're very sharp and very specialized tools."

The tool is the only intact blade of its type ever to be found in the Western Hemisphere. Ten additional quartz crystal blades were found at the site, and other blades have been found along the West Coast.

"My guess is that it was used by the West Coast Indians to carefully cut leather, hides and skins that
were still wet", Croes said. "It could cut through them like butter." The blade, which is the first ever found with a handle, is not as thin as a metal razor blade, but its edges are just as sharp.

According to Croes, the blade could have been used for minor surgery among the Makah Indians. You can hold the blade in your hands just as you might have almost 3,000 years ago. The skills needed to produce the microblade equals any "high-tech" technology of today, yet it was made by Indians at the same time King Tut was just rising to power.

The microblade is close to an inch long, one-fourth inch wide and one-sixteenth inch thick, and has a 6-inch cedar handle bound with cherry bark. The handle shows that the artifact was a complete tool, and that crystal was used in fine craftsmanship.

Working on an archaeological dig is exciting, according to Croes, but still a lot of hard work. "We're having to work fast just to beat the winter floods," he said. "Just the other day we found a spruce-root basket which is spectacular; it looks like it was just made." Because of funding from the local phone company, Pacific Northwest Bell, digging has continued. The basket and, perhaps, the microblade, would have been washed out to the ocean had they not been found.

After each item is recovered it is cleaned and cataloged at Neah Bay, home of the Makah Tribe. Hopes are that the items may be placed on display at the Tribe's museum as a significant reminder of a rich cultural past by a people who continue to exist to this day.


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