Net Weight Manufacture and Use in the Pacific Northwest
Blog and Videos by Archaeological Investigations Northwest, Inc.
For much of their history in the Pacific Northwest, Indigenous people have used nets to catch fish in rivers. Various styles of fishing nets were used for different environments (riverine, reef, lake) and types of fish. The base of the fishing net was held in place with stone net weights. At the water’s surface, nets were supported with wooden floats. The gauge, or space between the cordage in the net, was carefully planned to catch specific fish. Different gauge sizes at different levels of the net allowed people to capture fish that swim at different depths. Salmon, the most important fish species in the region, were caught in large quantities to be stored and eaten throughout the year when other foods were scarce.
Experimental replicas of different styles of net weights
Net weights are made by pecking, grinding, or flaking a rock so they can be tied with cordage. Perforated, notched, and grooved or banded net weights are common in this region. The size of the net weights depended on their function. Smaller net weights kept the fishing net vertical, while larger net weights served as anchor stones and would keep the net from drifting downstream. The size and number of net weights depended on the speed of the water current. In swift currents, more and heavier net weights were needed to keep the net in place.
Experimental replicas of cobble choppers
Indigenous people made cord, twine, and rope from a variety of fibrous plants throughout the world. Cordage was used in numerous ways from clothes and tools, to fishnets and bow strings.
You can make rope or natural cordage from many different fibers including dogbane, milkweed, nettles, hemp, flax, cattail, yucca, agave, iris, willow, maple, cedar, lupine, tule, and straw.
Each type of material has specific requirements for extracting and preparing the fibers (which typically involves crushing the leaves, roots, or shoots and pulling out the stringy strands of fiber).
Long strands of cedar bark were used for our net weight cordage
The fibers had been dried and needed to be reconstituted
The fibers were placed in a bucket of water
A rock was used to ensure all the fibers were submerged in the water
The fibers were soaked for 3 hours
The fibers were then laid out before beginning to make the cordage