Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Beaver for Dinner?

So far this season animal bones are scarce and, when we do find them, poorly preserved. A few bits of deer bone and teeth have turned up along with the occasional fish bone. One interesting bone did turn up late last week as we excavated Feature 09-33, a small pit feature left over from last season's dig. It contained a relatively rich assortment of artifacts including a Madison triangular point and several pottery sherds that I believe belong to a Late Prehistoric period vessel, possibly Mixter Dentate. One oddly-shaped bone that was found amid the cluster of pot sherds was the femur (thigh bone) of a beaver (do beavers have 'thighs'?). The image below shows the beaver bone (about 9 cm long) among several pot sherds (the one in the upper left corner is decorated).

In my many years working in northern Ohio archaeology, I have run across numerous fragments of beaver incisors (front teeth which made good chiseling tools) but rarely post-cranial elements from this animal. To find one complete femur among pot sherds and other debris seems odd to me, but I am at a loss to explain it other than as a random bit of food remains. The bone is poorly preserved, but I think we can reconstruct it in the lab to see if it was indeed from an animal that was cooked for a meal. Beaver for dinner may have been tasty!