In light of Kate Frederick’s upcoming presentation “Holes: A Beginners Guide to Food Storage” at the October meeting of the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society (announced here), I thought I would share photos of two large pit features from the Clunie site (20SA722). The Clunie site is a late Prehistoric/Protohistoric site, ca. AD 1400-1650, located along the Tittabawassee River in Saginaw County. Excavations conducted by the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History between 2005 and 2013 revealed a number of features including two interpreted as having initially functioned as a storage pits with subsequent use as hearths and/or trash pits.
Feature 5 was a large deep pit extending 130 cm in length, 90+ cm in width, and 126 cm deep. It was likely circular in plan view, but it was not fully excavated so the exact size and shape is unknown. The bottom and perhaps sides of the pit were lined with thick bark, which was later burned. The burning process may have served to sterilize the pit for reuse. Reddened and blackened soil along the walls of the pit is evidence of the intense heat caused by burning the bark lining and subsequent use of the pit as a hearth. The question of what was stored in Feature 5 during its initial phase of use may be answered in part by the presence of two or three charred aquatic tubers identified as Fragrant Water-Lily (Nymphaea odorata).
Feature 29 appeared quite similar to Feature 5 in form and, presumably, function. Like Feature 5, Feature 29 was only partially excavated so full dimensions are not known. The excavated portion extended 150 cm in length, 50 cm in width, and 115 cm deep. Botanical remains from the flotation samples have not been analyzed and no tubers or other possible stored items were noted during excavation.
It should be interesting to see how insights from Kate Frederick’s experimental work may inform our interpretation of these features from the Clunie site.