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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Interpreting Late Prehistoric Use of a Desert Marsh: The Tule Springs Hearth Site, Alvord Basin, Southeastern Oregon


The Hearth site was named for a large charcoal stain in a stabilized spring dune near the eastern edge of the Alvord Basin. Wheeled traffic on a narrow desert road had exposed the shallow hearth in a swale between higher dunes. The feature was associated with numerous lithic artifacts apparently eroding from either side of the linear dune. Deflated areas to the east and west of the hearth contained abundant artifacts, including fire-cracked rock, ground stone artifact fragments, flakes, and occasional manufactured tools. We were further drawn to the site by its proximity to several small springs and the Tule Springs marsh to the south. The site offered an opportunity to study the relationship of settlement location and water resources in the dry Alvord Basin during the later prehistoric past.

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