Sunday, August 10, 2008

Late Archaic House Sites?

Yesterday I wrote about the distribution of prehistoric Indian artifacts and what those distributions might tell us about the geological history of the Port Tobacco valley, especially about sedimentation. The PTAP team, of course, is interested in more than geology...we want to learn something about the various peoples who made the valley their home over the centuries. To that end, I've taken a closer look at the Indian artifacts that we mapped and recovered in what we call the Middle Field down near Warehouse Point.

The map below is an update of one that we've posted before. I drew 20 ft diameter circles around each flake, projectile point, potsherd, and fire-cracked rock that the team found. I then placed a 130 ft diameter circle (red) over each apparent cluster, placing the circles' centers over the approximate center point of each of four clusters. This simple form of graphical analysis produces results that suggest a degree of clustering consistent with what we might expect for the house sites of small groups, possibly extended families. There are statistical techniques that can be applied to the data...our rigorous data collection techniques allow that...and we will use them at some point; but I thought that the graphical technique would produce results readily understood by the largest number of readers.

Revised map of the Middle Field showing clusters of aboriginal artifacts.

The resulting model...a series of small settlements, probably seasonal...does not explain all of the data. There are other flakes and fire-cracked rocks that the team collected across the field and even one stemmed projectile point. These objects, however, appear to be scattered on the slopes descending from the northeast and the east, as depicted by the arrows. Those finds suggest eroded sites at the higher elevations that may extend into the forested areas that are not suitable for the surface collection and mapping strategy that we used in the plowed field.

We could take this analysis a step further by looking at the contents of each of the four clusters, or loci as archaeologists call such well-delineated scatters of material. Locus 4 has a number of fire-cracked rocks which are less common or absent in the other three loci. Did the inhabitants of Locus 4 roast acorns, hickory nuts, or various marsh plants on large stone hearths? Were they engaged in activities different from those of the occupants of the other three loci, or is this an artifact of sampling error? Perhaps test excavations will show that fire-cracked rock is equally common in all of the loci.

Locus 1 has a single pottery sherd associated with it. Does that sherd suggest that Locus 1 is later than the other loci, or is that sherd associated with another locus that extends to the banks of the creek? Might excavations at each of the loci produce pottery sherds sugesting that they all date to one of the Woodland periods?

The neat thing about these analyses is that they give us the opportunity to consider what might have happened in the past and how we might intelligently conduct additional fieldwork to collect data for even greater detailed analyses. Hopefully the team will return to these loci in the near future to further our understanding of early Indian life in the valley.


1 comment:

Cowherd said...

This is really interesting. And maybe there is some tie-in with the ossuaries found at Warehouse Point. There were no ceramics in those burials either.