Month: April 2016

Michigan Archaeological Society Meeting, 5 May 2016

The May meeting of the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society will be held Thursday, May 5th at the Castle Museum. Patrick Lawton, an archaeology graduate student at Central Michigan University, will discuss the use of Geographic Information Sciences (GIS) and remote sensing technologies in archaeology. As always the public is invited and encouraged to attend. This will be the final meeting of the Saginaw Valley Chapter before the summer break. We will reconvene in September. The Chapter meeting notice is copied below.

Saginaw Valley Chapter meeting.

Date:  Thursday, May 5, 2016
Time:  7:00 p.m.
Location:  The Castle Museum of Saginaw County History, 500 Federal Avenue, Saginaw, MI 48607

Applying Geographic Information Sciences (GIS) in Archaeology:
Two Techniques and two Mid-Michigan sites (20SA1417 and 20IB43)
Patrick M.W. Lawton

The power of Geographic Information Sciences (GIS) to enhance the presentation and analysis of data has been demonstrated in several scientific fields. In Archaeology, GIS can serve to remotely sense buried features, determine artifact distribution, and even model past human behavior. With regard to non-intrusive archaeology, geophysical techniques ranging from advanced to the most elementary can be invoked. The MS2 (Magnetic Susceptibility Meter) can perform surveys relatively quickly compared to other methods, not to mention the instrument’s user-friendly appeal. Through the use of basic statistical algorithms, clusters of significantly high readings can be detected and mapped in the project area, allowing researchers the potential to target more labor-intensive activities such as physical excavation. Two case studies will be discussed;

  • the use of Ground Radar and historic documentation in relocating subsurface building foundations from the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School and
  • prospecting a 10-acre property in Chesaning with the Magnetic Susceptibility Meter. Using the presence of features encountered during ground-truthing and weights (per test volume) of fire-cracked-rock, the ability of the device to detect archaeological deposits in a formerly plowed-context will be evaluated and discussed.

HSSC Archaeology Fieldwork Update 15-21 April 2016

The Castle Museum Archaeology crew enjoyed another week of survey in the Swan Creek study area. Last Friday (after I posted the previous update), Nick Bacon, Ken Kosidlo, and I completed the second half of Swan Creek Area 8, a 16 hectare (40 acre) parcel we had started the previous day. We hadn’t gone ten steps down our first transect when Nick picked up a fragment of a serrated corner-notched biface made of a pebble chert. It probably dates to the Archaic Period, but it’s tough to be sure with a fragmentary specimen. Overall, there was little material, prehistoric or historic, in the survey area.

Corner-notched biface from Swan Creek Area 8.

Corner-notched biface from Swan Creek Area 8.

This week, Ken, Maynard Lockwood, and I began working on Swan Creek Area 6, a 24 hectare (60 acre) parcel. As we found in Area 8, cultural material was exceedingly sparse. Aside from a few FCR, the entire prehistoric assemblage consists of one quartzite flake with bifacial “trimming,” one Bayport chert decortication flake, and one fragment of a Late Archaic/Early Woodland Meadowood point made on Onondaga chert.

Prehistoric items from Swan Creek Area 6.

Prehistoric items from Swan Creek Area 6.

After spending a wet Thursday morning slogging through the remaining portion of Area 6, Ken and I revisited one of the mid-19th century artifact clusters we had located during the 2015 survey. You can read about our 2015 efforts here. Despite a steady light rain for much of the afternoon, we recovered a substantial sample of artifacts from the area including a variety of transfer-printed, hand-painted, sponge-decorated, and blue-edged ceramics, as well as flat glass, bottle glass, pipe fragments, and a button. We also found a single blue seed bead, which, at 1.33mm in diameter, is certainly the smallest artifact I’ve ever located while doing surface survey!

Tiny seed bead.

Tiny seed bead.

Equally surprising, given the paucity of prehistoric material in this part of the survey area, is this nicely polished bit fragment from a celt.

Celt from Swan Creek Area 1.

Celt fragment from Swan Creek Area 1.

We returned to the Swan Creek area today and, if the weather cooperates, expect to finish up our surface survey next week.

2016 HSSC Archaeology Field Season gets Underway

A question as familiar as it is awkward to archaeologists… Have you ever found a dinosaur??? Now, instead of explaining the difference between archaeology and paleontology, we can simply answer… Yes!

Our first dino discovery!

Our first dino discovery!

We also managed to work in a little bird watching.

Must be migrating!

Must be migrating!

Yes, the Castle Museum’s 2016 archaeology field season is definitely off to an auspicious start! We have returned to the Swan Creek Township study area to continue our search for evidence of the 19th century (and earlier) inhabitants of the area. Some of our previous work in the Swan Creek area is described here and here. On Wednesday and Thursday this week Nick Bacon, Ken Kosidlo, Maynard Lockwood, and I surveyed approximately 10 hectares (25 acres).

Ken, Maynard, and Nick getting the 2016 field season off to a good start.

Ken, Maynard, and Nick getting the 2016 field season off to a good start.

In addition to the dinosaur and the duck, we did find some archaeologically significant material. In one roughly 30X50 meter area we found a dense cluster of glass fragments along with a few ceramic sherds, brick fragments, pieces of coal, and parts of several shoes. The material ranges in age from the mid-late 19th century through the late 20th century. It may be associated with an 1860s through early 20th century school, possibly early to mid-20th century housing for migrant workers, and a mid to late 20th century dump. In another location we found a light scatter of mid-19th century material including a few scroll flask fragments, the base of a bottle with an open pontil scar, and a few ceramic sherds. Scroll flasks were quite popular during the 1840s and 1850s and most predate the early 1860s (Lindsey 2010).

Fragments of a mid-19th century scroll flask and pontilled bottle.

Fragments of a mid-19th century scroll flask and pontilled bottle.

Lastly, we found a few widely scattered Bayport chert flakes and FCR from the prehistoric inhabitants of the region. We plan to continue our survey in Swan Creek area in the coming days and weeks, so watch this space for future updates.

Project 1893 Back on Display

On May 20th 1893, a devastating fire swept across a major portion of Saginaw’s residential and business district. Over the course of a few hours, more than 250 buildings were destroyed and hundreds of people lost their homes and possessions. Headlines in the local newspapers hint at the enormity of the tragedy.

Headline from Saginaw Newspaper

In 2010, preliminary archaeological testing revealed traces of the fire. In 2011, the Castle Museum initiated Project 1893 to engage the community in learning more about this important event in our city’s past. Project 1893 entailed inviting the public to visit the site as we excavated a portion of a basement from a house destroyed by the fire. It also included historical research, public presentations and tours and the development of an exhibition about the project. The original exhibit, Unearthing Saginaw’s Great Fire, was on display at the Castle Museum from May 20  – Sept. 29, 2012. In 2013, the museum was proud to receive a prestigious “Leadership in History” award from the American Association for State and Local History for our work on Project 1893. More about Project 1893 can be seen in this previous post.

Digging STPs

Digging Shovel Test Pits.

 

Recording stratigraphy in a shovel-test pit.

Recording stratigraphy of an STP.

 

Finishing up the excavation in bad weather.

Finishing up the excavation in bad weather.

Now, as we approach the 123rd anniversary of Saginaw’s Great Fire, I am happy to announce that Project 1893 has been incorporated into our permanent archaeological exhibit at the Castle Museum. Once again, visitors to the museum can see artifacts recovered from the museum’s excavation of the remains from the McMaster residence at 1005 S. Jefferson. This exhibit includes photos of the devastation taken in the days following the fire, a map showing the fire’s path, images of the archaeological excavation in progress and additional images of some of the artifacts we found.

Fire of 1893 Exhibit Case in Preperation

Fire of 1893 exhibit case in preparation.

So, if you’ve been to the Castle Museum to see our archaeology exhibit, please come again to see the new addition! If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?

Michigan Archaeological Society Meeting 7 April 2016

The April meeting of the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society will be held 7 April 2016 at the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History. Dr. Michael Cherney will discuss how the weaning age of Siberian woolly mammoths during the late Pleistocene is evidence supporting hunting-induced extinction of the species. The official announcement and synopsis of the presentation are copied below. As always, the public is welcome and encouraged to join us for this event.

Though not directly related to anything Dr. Cherney will be discussing, here is an image of the mammoth molar currently on display in the archaeology exhibit at the Castle Museum.

Mammoth Tooth from Michigan

Mammoth Tooth from Michigan

Date: Thursday, April 7, 2016
Time: 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Location: Castle Museum of Saginaw County History, 500 Federal Ave,. Saginaw, MI 48607

Dr. Michael Cherney
Weaning age in late Pleistocene Siberian woolly mammoths supports hunting-induced extinction

Synopsis:

Did hunting cause the extinction of woolly mammoths or did populations fail as a result of vegetational changes at the end of the Pleistocene? Hunting pressure usually results in faster life histories, but nutritional deficiency causes life processes to slow down. Evidence from tusk growth records suggest that Siberian woolly mammoths were weaning earlier at the end of the Pleistocene than during the last glacial maximum. This is consistent with hunting as the cause of their extinction and is contrary to predictions of climate-induced population decline.