Waldbillig Site Artifact Analysis, Seeley Lake Historical Museum

Western Cultural identified and cataloged a large and extensive collection of artifacts for the Seeley Lake Museum as part of our pro bono program. 24MO1082, the Waldbillig site, is an extensive prehistoric use/occupation area and possible travel corridor and is located on private property. The extensive artifact collection from the site compiled by the Waldbillig family and the various investigations indicate use of the area from at least the Early Archaic into Historic times. Initial analysis of the collection may have been conducted around 1973, with the collection having been cleaned, sorted, and some of the specimens tagged with small pieces of paper. The analysis consisted of inspecting each individual artifact with identification, weight, measurement, artifact number, and box location recorded in an electronic database as well as on individual note cards. The inspection was visual, using a magnifying glass and microscope as needed. The weights and measurements were taken with digital scales and calipers. In addition, the artifacts were digitally photographed and each photograph was put into an electronic database and labeled with the appropriate artifact number. The collection includes both prehistoric and historic elements and therefore, weights and measurements were taken in grams or ounces, centimeters, millimeters, or inches, as necessary.

Historic artifacts that had diagnostic elements were researched and the information added to the database. The collection analyzed for the Seeley Lake Museum consists of prehistoric and historic artifacts. The prehistoric artifacts include pestles, grooved mauls, hatchets, knives, and a variety of scrapers, spoke shaves, drills, projectile points, and a multitude of flake reduction debitage. Prehistoric materials include siltstone, granite, quartzite, chert, chalcedony, Knife River Flint, and obsidian. The projectile points indicate an extensive timeframe, from at least the Early Archaic to the Late Prehistoric. In addition, historic artifacts include bullet casings from the late 1800s, glass bottle parts, beads, buttons, ceramic sherds, a metal lock piece, a pocket knife, a file, square and hand-forged nails, metal fragments, a brass token, a possible lead weight, a Civil War era belt buckle, and a Bennington marble. Other materials located include a single seashell, a bison tooth, a rodent frontal incisor set, and bone fragments.

The Seeley Lake Historical Museum originally contacted Western Cultural about identifying portions of the collection for display in their new facility. The collection consists of approximately 4,000 artifacts that were primarily collected by Joe Waldbillig from the surface of the site over several decades. After receiving the vast collection, Western Cultural reconsidered the original request. The antiquity, scope, and size of the collection were immediately obvious and during a staff meeting it was agreed that rather than identifying a few pieces, the entire collection needed to be properly cataloged to archaeological curation standards. The information potential presented by this collection was deemed important to warrant complete cataloging and this information is now available to future archaeologists who may wish to study this important resource in greater detail. Western Cultural conducted the project as part of our pro bono program. We recognize that all too often local historical societies and museums across Montana are faced with difficult situations and that professional assistance is beyond their reach. Our pro bono program acknowledges the important work that these institutions conduct in trying to preserve our heritage.


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