Tuesday, April 29, 2008

On to Burrell Orchard in 2008

In the summer of 2008, the Department of Archaeology will carry out test excavations at the Burrell Orchard site. The site is located in the French Creek Reservation of the Lorain County Metroparks in Sheffield, Ohio. It is situated on a high and narrow shale ridge overlooking French Creek and is covered by an overgrown fruit orchard. At the extreme south end of the property is the Burrell house, a ca. 1820 homestead that is now owned and managed by the Lorain County Metroparks.

Burrell Orchard (33Ln15) was entered into the Ohio Archaeological Inventory in 1975 following limited test excavations by CMNH staff in 1971. This investigation recovered a distinctive type of long and narrow (lanceolate) spear point which resembles Late Paleoindian (ca. 8500-6500 B.C.) artifacts known from the Great Plains and the Upper Great Lakes. Since such early occupations are poorly documented in Ohio, the similarity between the Burrell Orchard points and these early types led to the listing of the site on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. The 1971 excavations also recovered Early Woodland (ca. 1000 B.C.-100 B.C.) points, stone axes, grinding implements, grit-tempered pottery, and butchered animal bone (food) remains. One pit feature was discovered and found to contain thin grit-tempered pottery and small, triangular arrow points which belong to the Late Woodland period (ca. A.D. 800-1200).

Stemmed point (left), stemmed lanceolate point (center) and a drill (right) from the 1971 excavations at Burrell Orchard

More intensive excavations were carried out around the Burrell Homestead and in the orchard by archaeologists from the University of Akron under the direction of Dr. John Marwitt in the summer of 1987. Examination of the archived field notes indicate that numerous test units and a few trenches were placed within and around the foundations of former out-buildings (the barn and grainery) in the vicinity of the Burrell House. Some small test units were placed along the western bluff edge to the northwest of the house.

In the Orchard, at least 15 1.0 x 1.0 m to 2.0 x 2.0 m units were excavated along a north-south-oriented transects. These units revealed what appear to be stratified midden deposits below a shallow plow zone. At least five test units exposed small to medium-sized, basin-shaped pits and hearth features and a few post molds. The deepest pit features extended to nearly 80 cm beneath the surface. Diagnostic artifacts were not described in detail, but the report concludes that at least four occupations are represented in the orchard. These are a late Paleoindian(?) component represented by thin, lanceolate and stemmed lanceolate points; a transitional Late Archaic-Early Woodland component; a later Early Woodland “Adena Culture” occupation; and finally a Late Woodland (Late Prehistoric period?) component. Unfortunately we are unable to verify this chronological sequence since the collections resulting from this excavation have net yet been located.

In 2008, we hope to test the Late Paleoindian affiliation of Burrell Orchard and to learn more about the Woodland period settlements. The first objective will be met by the identification of undisturbed pit features or midden (trash) layers with associated lanceolate projectile points. Radiocarbon dating of charcoal or bone samples found with the lanceolate points should provide a more precise age for this earliest occupation. The excavation of small test units across the site will help to identify the sizes and extents of each prehistoric campsite or settlement. Finally, the excavation of a sample of pits and other features will provide information on the prehistoric activities and life ways of the ancient inhabitants of Burrell Orchard.

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