Month: March 2014

News from the Archaeology Lab

With the arrival of spring (according to the calendar if not the meteorologist), it’s a good time to provide an update on recent activities of the Castle Museum Archaeology team. Much of our time over the winter was spent processing artifacts from last summer’s work at the Hill House and the Clunie site. “Processing” includes the sorting, washing, cataloguing and data entry that must be accomplished before the artifacts can be analyzed and written up. We catalogued more than 11,000 objects from our 2013 work at the Clunie site alone… and this didn’t include the “small stuff” recovered in flotation samples! Sorting flot. samples from 2013 and previous seasons is a huge project, but Ken Kosidlo, John Heintz, Mike Mauer, Dave Hamilton and others continue to make tremendous progress. I completed a report on our 2013 work in the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, which includes last season’s work at the Clunie site, but it has not yet been posted online. However, reports from previous years can be found under the Archaeology tab on the Castle Museum website.

In addition to processing artifacts generated by our fieldwork, we have been working on recently donated collections from several archaeological sites in Saginaw County. These collections, which range from a single artifact to hundreds of objects, are especially important because we know the precise location of the sites from which they were derived. Five of the sites represented in these collections had not previously been recorded. Now that we’ve documented them, they push the number of recorded archaeological sites in Saginaw County over the 1,400 mark! Temporally, the donated artifacts span the Early Archaic (ca. 6000 B.C.) through the Historic periods.

We are currently cataloguing material from the Stadelmeyer site (20SA195). Excavations were conducted at this site by members of the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society in 1965 and 1966 and by the University of Michigan in 1967. The recent donation is from the 1965 and 1966 excavations and it supplements previously donated material from these excavations already in our collection. A report on U of M’s work at the site was published in 1970 in the Michigan Archaeologist (Vol. 16 No. 3-4) by Beatrice A. Bigony. This report describes a predominately Late Woodland occupation (ca. A.D. 800-1100) with a small amount of Late Prehistoric (ca. A.D. 1200-1400) and Late Archaic material. Copies of this volume are still available from the MAS website. The collections now held at the Castle Museum add evidence for an Early Woodland component and significantly more Late Prehistoric material.

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Our comparative faunal collection recently received an upgrade in the form of a wolf skull (Canis lupus) donated by Ken Kosidlo. After briefly puzzling over a large canine tooth found back in 2005 at the Clunie site we realized wolf was a likely candidate. However, with no comparative material on hand we couldn’t be sure of a match. Ken’s generous donation solved that problem! While we still can’t rule out a very large dog, the tooth is a good match for wolf and is much larger than any other Canid remains recovered from this late Prehistoric site.

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Data, including catalogue records, are only useful if they are organized and accessible. Entering our catalogue records into the museum’s Past Perfect database has been a long term goal towards which we had made only moderate progress. That is until Jana “Queen of Data Entry” Irving took up the challenge! Thanks to Jana’s hard work (and fast fingers) we are now caught up with this important task!

So, we have accomplished much during the past few months. There is, of course, always more to do. Over the next few weeks, while we wait for the snow to melt and the ground to thaw, we will continue to make progress in the lab and prepare for the coming field season. Watch this space for future updates, announcements and reports from the Archaeology Lab and Field.