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.


One comment

    The story as told by Chief Fisher of the Chippewa tribe… “Many years before the white man came to Michigan, there came a very cold, severe winter; hunters could not hunt, animals died of the cold, and the Chippewa tribe was in danger of starving to death. The corn was frozen before it was ripe and even nuts did not bear. The wise men had told them that the roots of the water lily, which grew and blossomed so beautifully all summer in the shallow water near the banks, were poisonous. In their desperation, the Chippewa Indians dug a big hole and built a fire in it. When it got hot enough, they raked out the coals and piled in the water lily roots. The roots were sometimes as large as a man’s arm. When smoked in this way, they were found to be very palatable, and they were thereby kept from starvation. In gratitude, the Chippewa tribe named the lake “Opin,” which means bread and “Neconic,” which means lake. Together – “Opin-neconic” means Lake of Bread.” At some point the “C” was added to the front of the name. The time and reasons for this addition are unknown to-date. In 1917, the camp was named after the lake – YMCA Camp Copneconic.

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