Sunday, June 28, 2015

Drills, Awls, or ??

Last week was both eventful and mundane. As our crew battled the flood waters nearly every day, we managed to make good progress on the excavation of the midden deposits surrounding the upper clay floor in Units 496N 512E and 514E. We also worked on midden remnants on the north side and began a new excavation unit on the northeast at 498N 516E. We made a good start on this last unit with the assistance of the Museum’s Student Naturalists, who visited us for the day on Wednesday (Figure 1). Our hope is that this new unit will expose the northern margin of the upper clay floor.

Figure 1. Student Naturalists dig in Unit 498N 514E.

We are not finding lots of artifacts in this area, which suggests that not much deer butchering or stone tool making went on in the vicinity of the clay floors. We did find several smudge (hide-smoking) pits cut into the upper clay floor, but this type of activity would not leave much stone tool debris behind. One exception to this basic pattern has been the discovery of several flint drills in the midden deposits close to the edges of the upper clay floor. These specimens look to have been heavily worked and re-sharpened many times. The three examples shown in Figure 2 are made from the three primary chert (flint) types we find at Burrell Orchard: Upper Mercer from Coshocton Co., Columbus-Delaware from northcentral Ohio, and Flint Ridge from Licking Co., Ohio. We have always called these objects “drills,” and indeed many were probably used for boring holes in wood, bone, and even stone. But a recent use-wear study of Burrell Orchard drills found in previous seasons revealed that several showed microscopic wear patterns from use on wet hide rather than on hard materials. Thus, it seems that at least some of these “drills” were not used for drilling at all, but instead were somehow used in the processing of animal hides. Perhaps they were used like the bone and antler awls (perforating tools) we commonly find at other sites.  So, we have another mystery to solve.

Figure 2. Drills from midden contexts near the upper clay floor (left: Upper Mercer chert; center: Columbus-Delaware chert; right: Flint Ridge chert).            

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