Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Invisible Pit Feature

Another last day surprise was the discovery of another large concentration of pottery--while cross-sectioning a post mold! Usually this doesn't happen, since you can't cram many pot sherds into a tiny post mold. It does happen, however, when the post mold is within a previously unidentified pit feature. This was the case with Feature 11-52 shown below.

Michelle N. spent all the remaining day exposing one pot sherd after another in a necessary hurry. Her careful and efficient efforts revealed a large concentration of sherds sitting in a small basin. I assisted with the final removal using my trusted long-handled trowel (no pictures permitted!). The vessel came out in a minimum of fragments and quick examination revealed it to be a plain-surfaced vessel, somewhat rare in our Woodland assemblages found to date.

I find all these busted vessels in small pits quite interesting. I suspect that we will not find all the pieces to any of these pots, which would seem to suggest that these are places of disposal rather than storage. But we need to remember that more than 100 years of plowing at this site very likely removed significant portions of the upper sections of these vessels. In fact, we tend to recover a lot of base sherds and few rim sherds, which seems to support a view of these features as small "pot pits"(not to be confused with "post pits"). Some historic Native American households were known to place storage vessels within shallow pits dug into the floors of their dwellings. This practice would have been most practical with large storage pots, which are less amenable to suspension on the walls or from rafters. We won't be able to confirm this, however, until the laborious washing and inventorying are underway, and we see what parts of the original vessels have survived.