Ozette Village, Cape Alava

Ozette Village, Cape Alava

by | Apr 30, 2019

The ancient Makah village of Ozette is located at Cape Alava, the westernmost point of the Olympic Peninsula, about 15 air miles (24 km) southwest of Neah Bay, Washington. The village was established at a prime location for intercepting migrating gray whales and was occupied for over two thousand years.

Ozette was home to people that lived in cedar-plank houses, hunted and fished in the ocean, collected shellfish from the intertidal, and hunted and gathered plants from the forest. The Ozette houses were large, up to 70 feet (21 m) long and about 35 feet (11 m) wide and built of planks split from cedar logs and lashed to a framework of upright cedar posts. Each house was occupied by several families and visiting relatives. About 300 years ago, during especially heavy rain and perhaps initiated by an earthquake, the hillside above the village slumped and a mudslide buried 5 longhouses. Some people escaped but others were caught inside. A layer of clay capped the destroyed houses preserving them and all their contents. Makah families continued living at Ozette until the 1920s.

In 1970, the buried longhouses were exposed when a storm caused severe wave erosion at the site. Archeological excavations revealed houses and their contents including ordinarily perishable wood, basketry, blankets woven from dog hair, and dentalium shells. Based on excavations and oral tradition, daily life in this village could be portrayed, including longhouse construction, clothing, whale and seal hunts, fishing, social structure, slavery, ceremonies, and potlatches. The archeological work culminated in the creation of the Makah Museum in Neah Bay, where more than 55,000 Ozette artifacts are curated and displayed. Read more here and here. Explore more of Ozette here:

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