Journal of World Prehistory

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 47-118

First online:

The Archaeology of the Plateau of Northwestern North America During the Late Prehistoric Period (3500–200 B.P.): Evolution of Hunting and Gathering Societies

  • William C. PrentissAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, The University of Montana Email author 
  • , James C. ChattersAffiliated withAMEC Earth and Environmental Inc.
  • , Michael LenertAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, University of California
  • , David S. ClarkeAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, The University of Montana
  • , Robert C. O'BoyleAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, The University of Montana

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The Plateau of northwestern North America offers one of the world's most important records of hunter–gatherer cultural diversity and evolutionary process. During the late prehistoric period, Plateau hunter–gatherers participated in a wide variety of mobile and sedentary mobility regimes, maintained diets emphasizing anadromous fish, roots, and larger game animals, and held patterns of social organization spanning egalitarian through ranked societies. In this paper, we provide a broad overview of the final 3500 years of human occupation on the Plateau that includes two primary goals. First, we provide a new chronology of late prehistoric cultural change and stability that integrates data from the Northern or Canadian Plateau and the Southern or Columbia Plateau. Second, we offer new ideas concerning the emergence, dispersal, and diversification of Plateau hunting and gathering societies. We close with recommendations for Plateau archaeology in the 21st century.


Plateau Late Prehistoric period Hunter–gatherers Social organization