Sunday, June 15, 2008

Exploring the Midden Layer

By the end of our first week at Burrell Orchard, we identified at least one midden stratum below a 20-25 cm thick plow zone. This midden consists of scattered charcoal, burned bone, and small pieces of FCR (fire-cracked rock). Chert (flint) debitage is present, but in moderate quantities below the plow zone, and historic artifacts are nearly absent. We are just beginning to identify possible features which may intrude into (through) the midden zone, perhaps from a later occupation. These possible pit features (such as the ones shown below) appear as dark zones within the midden stratum (brown soil) on the floors of the excavation units.

A surprising find was this broken sandstone grinding stone or mortar. It has the characteristic dished-out surface, as well as deep incisions on both faces which were made by sharpening wooden or bone tools. This fragment is about 15 cm across.

Only one unit has produced pottery, which consists of relatively thin, grit-tempered, cordmarked and plain body sherds. I suspect that this pottery is derived from one of the aforementioned pit features, but we will see. Otherwise, the midden is aceramic (without pottery) which suggests that it dates prior to 1000 B.C., which is the approximate date when pottery begins to be used by Native Americans in northern Ohio. This same excavation unit also produced two celts (ground stone axes).

We are very pleased that several fragments of lanceolate points have been found in situ (in place) in two excavation units. These fragments exhibit the parallel thinning flakes and marginal retouch (sharpening of the edges) that is typical of the purported late Paleoindian points found previously at this site. All these fragments--including the point tip shown below--are made of "Nellie" chert from Coshocton County. This same stone was used to make most of the lanceolate

points found at other sites in northern Ohio. We still have not found anything in association with these point fragments--such as charcoal or animal bone--which can be radiocarbon dated. Nevertheless, we have found nothing to suggest that these points did not originate within this midden stratum. Hopefully, more answers will come next week!