Par-Tee Tools

Phebus and Drucker recovered over 7000 artifacts from the Par-Tee site. This is the largest artifact assemblage from the Oregon coast and is over 10 times larger than the next largest assemblage from this coast. The assemblage is dominated by bone and antler tools that are extremely well preserved due to their burial with dense shell deposits, which act to dampen the acidity of the local acidic soils. The diverse nature of this assemblage of tools is testimony to remarkable ancient lifeways of Seaside’s earliest inhabitants.

Perhaps the most remarkable tools recovered from the site are the remains of at least 23 whale bone atlatls or spear throwers. These objects are used to throw a projectile such as a dart or harpoon. Atlatls were probably widely used along the Northwest Coast at the time the Par-Tee site was occupied. However, only one other bone and three wood atlatls have been recovered from the Northwest Coast archaeological sites. The relative abundance of these items at Par-Tee remains a mystery. Several of the Par-tee atlatls are extremely small and were probably used by children. During the ethnographic period, small versions of tools used by adults were given to children so they could gradually learn to master them.

Nearly complete atlatl of spear thrower from Par-Tee.

Series of atlatl grips from Par-Tee. Smallest specimens on bottom row likely made for use by children.


Other hunting related tools recovered from the site include several hundred single piece harpoons heads that were likely used for taking sea mammals like otters, seals, and sea lions. Some barbed bone and antler points were also possibly used for taking birds, fish, and terrestrial mammals. About 90% of the harpoons were made from antler, the remaining 10% being of bone. The entire harpoon manufacturing process is discernable through the modified bone and antler in the assemblage.

These harpoons heads are believed to have been used to hunt otters, seals and other sea mammals.

Multi-piece toggling harpoon points and a wide array of chipped stone projectile points were also found at the site. Toggling harpoons similar to these were used during the early ethnographic period for taking salmon, seals and sea lions, sea otters, and many other animals. Some projectile points from the site have very narrow necks, suggesting that the bow and arrow came into use sometime during the occupation of the village. Unfortunately, no bow fragments have been identified in the assemblage. Broad necked projectile points are also present in abundance at the site and were likely used to arm darts thrown with atlatls (see above).

Multi-piece toggling harpoon points (left). A variety of types of projectile points were used for hunting game at Par-Tee (right).

Another set of subsistence related items recovered from the site are elk antler digging stick handles. These items were fitted with a sharpened wood stake about 1 m in length and were used during the ethnographic period by women to dig roots, clams, and other items. Several of these items have incised decorations near their ends. Some anthropologists have suggested that the use of antler for the construction of digging stick handles is likely a sign of the presence of elite women among Northwest Coast cultures. At least one digging stick handle pictured below was in the process of being manufactured when it was left behind (third handle from the top on left).

Elk antler digging stick handles used to dig for roots and clams. Some have incised designs near their ends.

Extensive woodworking activity is represented in the Par-Tee tool assemblage. The most common woodworking tools are elk antler wedges, likely used to split planks from standing trees. These planks were used to construct homes and other structures. Also present are chisels and adzes made from elk metapodials (lower leg bones), chisel tips made from beaver teeth, and choppers of basalt. The abundance of these items is not surprising given the emphasis on woodworking on the Northwest Coast during the ethnographic period.

Bone and antler handles for holding adze blades. Such implements were used for woodworking.

Weaving or sewing of fibers is also evident from the Par-Tee artifacts. The tool assemblage includes many large needles made from the shafts of bird wing bones. These items have a sharp tip, a notch at the base for the attachment of fibers, and are highly polished from use. Also likely related to weaving is a whale bone spindle whorl recovered at the site. This item was mounted on a wood spindle that was use for spinning fibers into cordage. Weaving baskets, mats, and cordage were extremely important tasks for Oregon coast peoples who used perishable materials for the bulk of their technology.

Bird wing bone needles believed to have been used for weaving or sewing.

Possible whale bone spindle whorl from Par-Tee

A number of items from the site also display zoomorphic or anthropomorphic designs. At least three items have possible face designs, including one item of sandstone with a wide ‘smiling face’ design. Several pendant-like items from the site have carefully incised geometric designs and somel harpoons are also decorated with similar designs. The meanings behind these designs is unclear, but some similarities to ethnographic items are evident. Similarities can also be seen in the embellished items recovered from the Palmrose site, also excavated by Phebus and Drucker (and report by Thomas Connolly).

Sandstone object with an embellished face-like end. Opposite end of object is broken off.

Carved bone artifact with anthropomorphic/zoomorphic face design. An arched Y design seems to form a nose and brow with two raised circular areas forming eyes.

Embellished harpoons from Par-Tee. The majority of the embellished harpoons are of bone, not antler.


A full report on the Par-Tee site is in preparation. Please contact Robert Losey for questions regarding the Par-Tee tool assemblage.