Thursday, June 19, 2014

Digging Down To the Midden

Over the last two days at Burrell Orchard, we completed our shovel-testing and began work on three 2x2meter units near the edge of the old orchard.  Two of these units were placed adjacent to a 2x2 opened in 2008 that penetrated through the midden deposits and exposed a layer of yellow-brown clay.  This layer may represent a house floor similar to ones that have been recorded on Late Archaic sites in Illinois and Kentucky.   Or it could simply be subsoil backdirt from the digging of pits below the midden, but further work will tell.

As we removed the plow zone soils today, several interesting discoveries were made.  A nearly complete, stemmed lanceolate projectile point was found in the upper layers of the midden in Unit 490N 497.5E.  As shown below, this point is only missing its tip.  It is extremely well made and very thin.  Even the edges are still sharp!  It is made of a dark blue-black flint most likely from Coshocton County, Ohio.  This artifact was either a butchering knife or perhaps a spear point.

An even rarer artifact is a stone adze found in the upper midden layer in unit 498N 512E.  It is a complete, undamaged specimen of a wood-working tool that was carefully ground and polished from a very attractive variety of igneous rock called porphyry.  In the image below, the distinctive crystals of feldspar, called phenocrysts, can be distinctly seen.  This tool was most likely made from a glacial cobble found in French Creek or another local stream. The discovery of an undamaged tool like this seems unusual in a refuse context such as a midden.  Perhaps this particular stratum is more significant than we first assumed. 

Next door in the adjoining excavation unit, a hard day of plow zone excavation resulted in the complete exposure of the midden deposit.  At first glance, it looks something like an asphalt pavement--and is nearly as hard to dig--but on closer inspection dense concentrations of charcoal, burned soil, burned bone, flint flakes can be seen between the large chunks of fire-cracked rock.  Shown below is a view of the midden floor at the end of the day.  This floor has not seen the light of day for some four thousand years!  And much more undoubtedly lies beneath.

No comments: