Makah Cultural and Research Center Online Museum

Makah Longhouse


View animation of Longhouse construction

View film of plank found at Ozette site

The rare preservation at Ozette gives a detailed look at the houses of the past. From beneath the mudflows, archeologists have recovered timbers and planks, and with them has come a unique chance to see household arrangements from the distant past. In the part of one house, where a woodworker lived, tools were found and also goods in all stages of manufacture; there even were wood chips. Where a whaler lived, there lay harpoons and also a wall screen carved with a whale. Benches and looms were inlaid with shell, and there were other indications of wealth.

A single house had five separate living area centered around cooking hearths, each still safeguarding evidence of what its occupants did. More bows and arrows were found in one living area than any of the others, indication that hunters lived there. Another had more fishing gear than other subsistence equipment. Some had everyday work gear and very few elaborately ornamented things. The whaler's corner was just the opposite.

The houses were built so that the planks for the walls and roofs could be taken off and used at other places as people moved seasonally. Paired uprights supported rafters, which, in turn, held roof planks that overlapped like tiles. Wall planks were lashed between sets of poles depended on the length of the boards they held, and they evidently were set and re-set through the years the houses were occupied. Walls met the corners by simply butting together. They stayed structurally independent allowing for easy dismantling. There were no windows. Light and ventilation came by shifting the position of roof planks, which were simply weighted with rocks, not in position.

Benches raised above the floor on stakes provided the main furniture of the houses. They were set near the walls. Cuts and puncture marks indicated they served as work platforms; mats rolled out onto them tie with elders' memories of such benches used as beds.

Storage concentrated behind the benches, alongside the walls, and in corners between benches. These locations within the houses have yielded the most artifacts. The rafters may also have supplied storage, but the mudflow carried away this part of the houses.


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All content for this exhibit is © Makah Cultural and Research Center.

The Community Museum is a project of community organizations and Tribes across the Olympic Peninsula, and the University of Washington.
Support for the project comes from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Preston, Gates and Ellis, LLP.