Monday, June 1, 2015

New Field Season at Burrell Orchard Underway

On May 17, preliminary test excavations began at the Burrell Orchard site with volunteers from the Firelands Archaeological Research Center (FARC). A 1x1m excavation unit was laid out in the area surveyed with Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) in October last year. At this spot, the GPR detected a particularly strong reflection beneath the surface that is similar in form to the signal made by the clay floor feature we identified last summer (see Blogging Archaeology post for 7-12-2014). So, in this new spot, we hope to find evidence of a second structural floor dating to the Late Archaic period, about 4000 years ago.

Figure 1. Excavating the first test unit of the season.

Excavation through the plow zone deposits quickly turned up flint flakes and fire-cracked rock (FCR). Going deeper, small amounts of burned (calcined) animal bone and a few fragments of flint projectile points were recovered. Although fragmentary, these artifacts were easily identified as the long, narrow, stemmed lanceolate knives and spear tips that were used by the Late Archaic peoples who lived here.

At the 40 cm deep level, several patches of burned soil were detected, one of which was covered with a small amount of FCR. These features appear to represent locations where surface fires were made or are the very bottoms of small roasting pits. Elsewhere on the unit floor, careful troweling exposed small concentrations of charcoal. During the past two field seasons (2008 and 2014) we have identified similar features at approximately this level, some of the features were accompanied by flat-lying concentrations of siltstone fragments. These stone “pavements” may represent flat work areas or possibly the paved bottoms of cooking facilities. In any case, these clusters of thermal features, FCR, and burned bone likely represent living floors on which daily food processing and preparation activities took place. Interestingly, past experience at this site tells us that such floors are stratified into at least two levels at Burrell Orchard, and, thus reflect repeat visits to this site over a period of centuries. On our next visit, we will section the features and continue excavation of the midden soil to see if any clay surfaces appear.

Figure 2. The floor of the test unit showing two of the burned soil features (raised areas) at left. (If you look closely, you can just see the orange tint to the soil at these spots.)

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