MAS Honors Castle Museum Archaeology Team Members

On Sunday, 28 April 2019, Dave Hamilton, John Heintz, Ken Kosidlo, and Mike Mauer received the Volunteer Award from the Michigan Archaeological Society. They were recognized for their sustained contributions and dedication to the Castle Museum’s Clunie Site project. From 2004 through 2013 these guys formed the core of the team that conducted the field and lab work associated with the project.

John and Ken, 2004.


Ken, Dave, and Mike in 2006.

To be sure, many individuals volunteered for the project and the contributions of all are greatly appreciated. However, the sheer amount of time and effort donated by these gentlemen sets them apart from the group. Their consistent presence was relied upon throughout the project’s duration. Indeed, the Clunie site project simply could not have succeeded without their efforts.

Ken and John in 2008.


John, Mike, Ken, and me, 2008.

The hours they spent in the field number in the thousands. During that time they dug shovel-tests, excavated units and features, drew floor plans and wall profiles, swatted mosquitoes, took field notes, bailed out flooded excavation units, mapped the site, supervised less experienced volunteers, scratched poison ivy, walked miles hauling equipment and flotation samples, swatted more mosquitoes, loaded and unloaded canoes,  and much more. Their efforts in the lab are even more impressive!

Ken, Dave, and Mike in the Lab, 2005.

The contributions of Dave, John, Ken, and Mike far exceed simply the time spent. They freely shared their expertise and enthusiasm with other team members and could be relied upon to tackle and complete all the necessary tasks associated with field projects. I am truly grateful for having the opportunity to work with them for so many years. Individually and as a group these guys deserve the recognition they received from the MAS for their extraordinary contributions to the field of archaeology.

Mike, Dave, and Ken taking a well-deserved break in 2005.

And it doesn’t end there! Julia Joblinski, a frequent volunteer over the past two years in the lab and at the Steltzriede Farm site, received the Michigan Archaeological Society Student Award! Julia was recognized for her scholarship and activities in the Anthropology/Archaeology program at Eastern Michigan University, her volunteer work at several archaeological sites in Michigan, and her active involvement in the MAS. Just more evidence that the Castle Museum Archaeology program attracts the best and brightest!

Julia with Nick Bacon in 2017.

Congratulations to all for these well-deserved awards!


Michigan Archaeological Society Meeting Thursday, 2 May 2019

A bit last minute, but posted below is the notice for the May meeting of the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society. This will likely be the last meeting before the summer break. There are all sorts of ties between the Early and Middle Woodland cultures of Ohio and Michigan and I am certainly looking forward to what should be an interesting program. As always the public is invited and encouraged to attend. See the notice below for details.

img064 MAS May 2 2019

Michigan Archaeological Society Meeting, 4 April 2019

The April meeting of the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society will be held at the Castle Museum on Thursday, 4 April 2019, at 7:00 PM. Dr. Scott Beld with be the featured speaker. He will be presenting an update on his ongoing research at “The Sias East Site: a late Middle Woodland (400-600 A.D.) Site at the Chippewa Nature Center in Midland, Michigan.” Dr. Beld and his crew have recovered Reuben Linear and other late Middle Woodland ceramics at the site and obtained several radiocarbon dates. Reuben Linear is an interesting ceramic type first described at the the Schultz site in Saginaw. It often features prominent striations on the interior surface of the rim and neck. To whet your appetite, here is an example of a Reuben Linear sherd from the Castle Museum’s work at site 20SA1276.

Reuben Linear Rimsherd from 20SA1276

As always the public is invited and encouraged to attend. The official meeting announcement is copied below.

Archaeology Day Recap

Saturday, 23 March 2019 was Archaeology Day at the Castle Museum and with well over 100 attendees the event was a great success! We had a wide variety of Prehistoric and Historic Period artifacts from Huron, Genesee, Livingston, and Saginaw Counties on display and several representatives from the Castle Museum and the Michigan Archaeological Society on hand to talk about the collections, answer questions, and share our enthusiasm for local archaeology! People brought in several fossils, a couple of rocks that look like they could be artifacts, but probably are not, and one gentleman brought in a really nice grooved ax.  The goal was to engage the public in a positive way about archaeology and we certainly accomplished that. So, a huge “Thank You!!!” to all who participated. I think it is definitely worth doing again.

arch day 1

Archaeology Day 2019

Archaeology Day at the Castle!

I am excited to announce that the Castle Museum, in partnership with the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society, will be hosting Archaeology Day on Saturday, 23 March 2019! This should be a fun and interesting event with lots of really cool artifacts on display from the Saginaw Valley and elsewhere in Michigan. Do you have an old bottle, an arrowhead, or some other artifact (or a weird rock that looks like it might be an artifact) from Michigan that you’d like to know more about? Bring them in and see if you can stump the experts! If not, come anyway and enjoy the displays, chat with the archaeology folks, and check out the rest of the museum. Please note, monetary appraisals will not be conducted at this event.

Archaeology Day

Notes on a Recent Donation: Bone Beamers from SH-200

A recent donation to the Castle Museum included dozens of stone artifacts, a few grit-tempered ceramic sherds, and several hundred fragments of animal bones from an archaeological site (assigned the provisional name of SH-200) located along the Shiawassee River in Saginaw County, Michigan. Diagnostic lithic and ceramic artifacts indicate the site was occupied, at a minimum, during the Middle and Late Woodland periods. The large animal bone assemblage includes 22 specimens that were intentionally modified into awls, points, hafts/handles, or scraping tools. The latter category includes 10 fragments of bone beamers.

Beamers are hide-working tools used to scrape hair and tissue from the hide prior to tanning. They functioned in a manner similar to a drawknife. The name “beamer” appears to reference the practice of stretching the hide over a wooden beam during the scraping process. Although other bones were sometimes used, beamers were generally manufactured from the metapodials (cannon bones) of members of the deer family (Cervidae). All of the specimens from SH-200 are derived from White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus).

Lateral and anterior view of beamer from SH-200 made from White-tailed Deer metatarsal.

Beamers were made by removing either the anterior or posterior border of the central shaft of a metapodial (metacarpal or metatarsal) and then grinding the two parallel lateral edges into blade-like forms. The specimens from SH-200 include two metacarpal (front leg) fragments modified on their posterior margin, three metatarsal (rear leg) fragments modified on their posterior margins, four metatarsal fragments (three of which refit – see image above) modified on their anterior margins, and one undetermined metapodial modified on its anterior margin.

Additional beamer fragments from SH-200.

Over time the blades would dull, necessitating occasional re-sharpening. Eventually the tool would become too thin to support the stresses of use and it would fracture. The specimens from SH-200 were likely used to this point and discarded. In 2002, a nearly complete example (after refitting) was excavated by the Castle Museum archaeology team at the nearby site 20SA1251 (Sommer 2007:4-5). This specimen was made by modifying the posterior border of a White-tailed Deer metatarsal. Two additional bones, the naviculocuboid and cuneiform pes, were found in articulation with proximal end of the metatarsal indicating either this end of the beamer was wrapped in some manner during use, or that connecting ligaments/tissues remained intact during what must have been a relatively short use-life.

Lateral and posterior view of beamer excavated at site 20SA1251. Made from White-tailed Deer metatarsal.

Compared with stone and ceramic artifacts, bone tools are relatively infrequent in prehistoric archaeological assemblages from the Great Lakes region. This is especially true of surface-derived collections. The beamer fragments (and other modified bones) from SH-200 bolster our inventory of what is likely an underrepresented technological aspect of local material culture.