Monday, July 23, 2012

Village Storage Pit

Over the last several field days, a good assortment of our crew have helped excavate an unusual pit feature.   This rectangular-shaped pit measures over two meters in length and has a flat bottom.  Initially, we uncovered only one end, which made us think it was a typical circular basin.  In fact, we did not learn otherwise until we exposed the northern ''half" and found the remaining two-thirds.  Below is an image of Michelle N. standing in the excavated pit. It looks kind of dinky in this photo, but you must remember that at least a foot (30 cm for you field vets.) of soil once existed above the pit shown here.  

When created, I think this feature was used for storage.  Its flat bottom points to this function, but unlike more traditional Late Prehistoric storage pits found elsewhere, the wide and shallow form seems a bit unusual. Perhaps it served as a cool "cellar" for temporary within a house structure.

Whatever its function, this pit ended its use-life as a trash receptacle.  The fill was loaded with food remains (bone and seeds), fire-pit scrapings (ash, charcoal, and fire-cracked rock), old tools (celts, grinding stones, arrowpoints, and anvilstones), and the remains of at least one pottery vessel.    Most striking was the abundance of fish bone and masses of fish scales.  Of particular note was the discovery of the proximal fragment of an elk ulna (elbow), as seen below.  Even dog bones were apparently on the menu as revealed by our discovery of canine longbones and teeth.

Here are some shots of other artifacts discovered in the pit.

One of the best finds was a large section of pottery vessel.  It is shown below, in situ.

In the close-up below, you can see that the rim is decorated with a complex, stamped motif.  This is an example of Mixter Tool-impressed, which is a diagnostic ceramic type for the Late Prehistoric village component at Heckelman.  Although the pottery and celts are fun to find, I think the really informative stuff are the plant and animal remains recovered.  We only have small samples of such subsistence remains up until now, so the discovery of this unusual pit is a real bonus.

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