Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bailing, Bone Beads, and Bioturbation

Week One got underway with a bit of a snag.  Torrential rains prior to our first day of excavation soaked the west end of our bulldozer transect and made it impossible to begin work there as planned.  Our new students did get a chance to learn the fine art of bailing water with a plastic scoop and bucket.  This tutorial repeated itself on Tuesday after another rainstorm.   So, I decided to move south

and begin the excavation of 2x2 meter units.  My original plan was not to begin this stage of our test excavations until later in the summer, but we needed dry places to dig.  My goal with this testing is to recover a statistically significant sample of the remaining portion of the site within the large area enclosed by the parallel ditch features found in 2009.   The results so far are unspectacular but not uninteresting.

In unit 486N 505E we found three very dark feature stains which looked like pit features but seemed rather fresh to me.   Once we began to cross-section the first pit, we soon found small pieces of plastic and paper.  Uh oh!   We have learned over the last three years that such debris most likely mark the former excavation of our Kent State University colleagues who preceded us in investigating the Heckelman site back in 1968.  This proved to be true as we cut into the other two features.  Yes, they had once been prehistoric pits but were probably excavated before the Beatles broke up.  And we get to dig the backfill.   This outcome was a bit disappointing for our new students, but it proved to be a good lesson in how to read a pit profile.  This is because the cross-section of one feature revealed that it still retained a bit of its original fill, as shown by the image below (the upper dark soil stratum is the recent backfill).   Even better, this bit of dirt contained a small bird bone bead.  So, all was not lost.

 After a few days of hot sunshine, we were able to begin work on our transect.   Our crew shovel-scraped, troweled, and brushed like old pros and soon we found more stockade posts, which aligned with those found last season.  We noticed that these units, which are "beyond the pale" so to speak, don't contain many features.  Just a few small pits and additional, scattered post molds.

One unit provided another example of recent digging but not by archaeologists.  As we cleaned the floor of unit 514N 503E, we found the remains of a veritable rodent rendezvous marked by many sinuous burrows and vertical tunnels, as shown below.   This was an illustration of "bioturbation" at its finest.  A suitable discovery in a week filled with disturbances, both human-made and natural.

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