Sunday, May 11, 2008

More on Prehistoric Site

Today I washed and catalogued the artifacts that the team had recovered from one of the fields. I have some further observations on the prehistoric sites that I discussed Friday and Saturday. The image below provides a more detailed view of the distribution of prehistoric artifacts.

Toward the bottom of the map are a series of symbols representing fire-cracked rock. These are pebble fragments shattered by excessive heat alone or coupled with a douse of cold water. They represent stone cooking platforms for roasting roots or nuts, or 'potboilers'--heated stones immersed in wooden vessels, pitch-covered baskets, or earthen pots to heat liquids and cook foods. Given the relatively few pieces recovered, the potboiler interpretation more likely is the correct one.

We also recovered 44 quartz and quartzite flakes (see Table below). These include examples of various stages of stone tool manufacture, from initial breaking of a pebble (decortication flakes), to the creation of suitable flakes on which a tool might be made (primary flakes), to the shaping and sharpening (and resharpening) of the tools (secondary and tertiary flakes); as well as those shatter pieces that could not be classified. These artifacts indicate that the aboriginal occupants collected local pebbles (there are very few on the site, but plenty nearby) and made tools on site. The crew even recovered two bifaces (we can think of them as knives).

The decortication flakes are particularly interesting. These are flakes that retain some of the outer rind of the pebble whence they were struck. They comprise 28 of the 44 flakes and many are of a size and shape that they could have been intended for use as tools; that is, I could have classified them as primary flakes. All of the flakes were recovered from a portion of the field that had few cobbles and pebbles, and even fewer that were large enough to serve as raw material for a stone tool.

Precisely when these folks were cooking and making tools along the river bank remains uncertain. The crew recovered a piece of Accokeek pottery, a style that dates to roughly 1000 BC, as well as a Savannah River projectile point (see previous posting) that dates between roughly 3000 and 1000 BC. The Claggett projectile point and the historic period artifacts came from elsewhere in the field.

This is a neat little site. If the remains of hearths, storage pits, and molds of wooden posts for dwellings survive beneath the plowed soils, the site could have valuable information on the lifeways of the region's aboriginal inhabitants.


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