Month: September 2015

Two Storage Pits from the Clunie Site

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 5

Feature 5 at the Clunie Site (20SA722)

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.

Feature 29

Feature 29 at the Clunie Site (20SA722)

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.


Michigan Archaeological Society Meeting Thursday, 1 October 2015

The October meeting of the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society will be held at the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History on Thursday, 1 October 2015, at 7:00 PM. Kate Frederick will present recent experimental archaeology research on storage pits. As always, the public is invited and encouraged to attend. The full meeting announcement is copied below.

Saginaw Valley Chapter October meeting:

Date: Thursday, October 1, 2015
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Castle Museum of Saginaw County History, 500 Federal Ave,. Saginaw, MI 48607
Please join us for our October meeting.
Kate Frederick will give the presentation “Holes: A Beginners Guide to Food Storage”.

The Michigan State University Subterranean Storage Research Experiment (MSU SStoRE) employed experimental archaeology to better understand the storage efficiency, capacity, and reliability of hunter-gatherer food storage pits. Drawing on archaeological, ethnographic, and ethnohistoric information the project accurately recreated below ground storage pits for the late Late Woodland period (A.D. 1000-1600) of northern lower Michigan. Over three consecutive yearly cycles, subterranean storage pits were constructed with appropriate lining materials, filled with dried blueberries, acorns, and corn, and cached from November until late March. During the five month period the pits were monitored for temperature and humidity multiple times daily. Revisions were made each annual cycle, culminating in a successful storage episode. The most recent caching of foodstuffs was tested for mycotoxins, pathogens, and water activity level in order to determine food safety.

This paper discusses the lessons learned, resulting degree of success, and the importance of MSU SStoRE for archaeological research.

Michigan Archaeological Society Meeting Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society will kick off the 2015/2016 archaeology season with their annual “show-and-tell” meeting, Thursday evening, 3 September 2015, at 7 PM, at the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History. Come share your archaeological adventures with the group!

Monica, Nick, and Ken had fun digging shovel-tests this summer. What did you do?


Monica, Nick, and Ken

Monica, Nick, and Ken


As always, the public is welcome to attend.