Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Putting Together the Puzzle

Now that the conference season is behind me, I can turn my attention back to the Heckelman site.   Our dedicated volunteers here at the museum spent most of the fall washing and cataloging our many finds from the 2012 season.  And now I can turn to more closely examining the collections and putting together the annual technical report.   In the next few weeks, I plan to write additional posts describing some of the interesting discoveries we have made. 

One of our most significant achievements is the identification of a complete Late Prehistoric period structural patten that appears to represent a dwelling used by the village inhabitants of the site.   Over the last week or two of the field season, our crew mapped hundreds of possible post molds in the eastern end of our excavation area.   Among this dense accumulation of small soil stains, we found a clear eastward extension of the stockade line and just inside (south of) this line we recognized the complete post outline of a rectangular structure that measured about 9.0 m long and 4.5 m wide.   As can be seen in the drawing shown here, this house--called "Structure 3"--was oriented north-south and was situated just inside the the stockade line (the squiggly line of posts at the top of the map).   Several large post molds of from an earlier (Early Woodland?) occupation of the site were found on the western floor of the structure.

 The only feature which appear to belong to Structure 3 is the small round pit located in the very center of the floor.  This small basin was Feature 12-60 and it contained a few fragments of deer bone, charcoal, nutshell, and a small anvilstone.   Some of the nutshell was sent out for radiocarbon dating and returned a calibrated date range of A.D. 1410-1450.  This date range matches almost exactly that of a piece of charred stockade post found a bit farther to the west in 2011.   So, for now, I believe that Structure 3 (and at least the first phase of village construction) took place during the early fifteenth century A.D.   We recovered a good sample of carbonized botanical remains from Feature 12-60, which included eight fragments of maize kernels and five cupule fragments.   The maize remains help confirm the Late Prehistoric period affiliation of Feature 12-60 and Structure 3.  

One other feature of note are the lines of small posts found within the structure.  These may represent partitions or walls designed to separate the floor space into different activity areas or, perhaps, sleeping compartments.   The size of Structure 3 suggests that it was occupied by more than one family, so a division of interior space was probably desirable.   Finally, the absence of a formal fireplace or hearth feature inside the house indicates that it was not occupied during the cold months of the year.   This, and the generally light construction (small posts) of its outer walls, point to its use during the warm months of the year, most likely late spring through summer.   

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