Monday, June 15, 2015

Search for the Clay Floor Begins

Today we began our four week Archaeology in Action program at Burrell Orchard.  Despite the soggy conditions, we managed to make a start on three new excavation units located adjacent to two of last year’s units.  The reason we are returning to just about the same spot as last summer is to expose more of the Late Archaic clay floor feature found in unit 498N 512E last July.  This distinctive yellow clay layer was found near the bottom of the midden deposits at about 60 cm deep.  Its surface was burned to a bright red color in several areas, indicating the making of fires for cooking or some other function (Figure 1).  Along one edge of this clay floor we discovered an arc of post molds which may represent where the wall of a house was constructed.  By the look of things, it seemed that we had only exposed maybe one quarter or so of the floor, which appeared to extend

Figure 1. Exposed clay floor found in 2014. (White dots mark the locations of post molds)
southward into an unexcavated area.  So, this year we have returned to see if indeed this floor continues.  We hope to expose most of what is left and determine what it represents.  Perhaps it is a house floor or maybe a working surface for various open-air activities. In any case, nothing like it has yet been found in northern Ohio.

Today we proceeded to open the new 2x2m units and remove up to 20 cm of soil from the upper stratum or plow zone (Figure 2).  Here we found fire-cracked rock and chert (flint) flakes along with a few shards of historic dishware, mostly blue and red transfer-print ware. 

Figure 2. Work on new excavation units begins.

The find of the day was made by Marsha R. who turned up a complete triangular arrowhead, known as a “Madison” point, which was used from about A.D. 1200 to 1600.   It is a small point, possibly made from the broken tip of a somewhat larger arrow head (Figure 3).  It is made of lustrous gray chert known as Pipe Creek that outcrops just south of Sandusky, Ohio.    This point is some of the rare evidence we have collected for site occupants post-dating the Late Archaic settlers of the Burrell Orchard site.  These people of the Late Prehistoric period were apparently at this site for brief visits just a few centuries before Europeans entered northern Ohio and some 3500 years after the Late Archaic hunters and gatherers left.

Figure 3. Madison triangular arrow point found in the plow zone of unit 498N 514E.

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