HSSC Archaeology Update – 22 April through 11 May 2016

It has been a few weeks since the previous update and much has been accomplished in the Swan Creek study area. With an indefatigable crew consisting at various times of Nick Bacon, Brad Jarvis, Ken Kosidlo, Patrick Lawton, and Maynard Lockwood, we have completed our survey work for the year at Swan Creek. We revisited most of the areas surveyed in 2015 to obtain a larger sample of artifacts and better define the locations of the artifact clusters we mapped last season. As expected, we found a nice variety of mid to late 19th century artifacts in two large, dense clusters and one smaller, less-dense cluster. Artifacts consisted primarily of flat and curved glass fragments and white paste ceramics with a few pipe fragments, buttons, and other artifacts mixed in. A gunflint, probably British, is likely one of the earlier 19th century items from one of the clusters. Also significant, and something I don’t recall seeing last year, was the presence of numerous small calcined (burnt) bone fragments (I noticed both fish and mammal) in one of the clusters. If trash pits or other features remain intact below the plowzone, there may be some good subsistence data preserved.

Gunflint from Swan Creek Area.

Gunflint from Swan Creek Area.

Working off a tip from one of the landowners, we also surveyed a new area reported to be yet another location of a school, or perhaps some other structure (we have received conflicting reports from the locals), that was still standing in the early 20th century. This location revealed two clusters of late 19th/early 20th century debris, at least a couple of early to mid 19th century items, and a wide scatter of prehistoric material. One of the more interesting historic period items we recovered is a badly worn token bearing the date of 1812. Just enough of the design remains that we are able to match it with half penny tokens produced in Canada with King George III on obverse and a seated woman representing commerce on the reverse. So, it may appear that a War of 1812 era token made its way from Canada to Swan Creek. Or, perhaps not! According to at least one website, in the 1830s, a Montreal grocer named Tiffin produced half penny tokens that were imitations of the earlier 1812 tokens. Tiffin’s tokens, which became quite popular, were much lighter and made of copper or brass. More research is needed, but the Swan Creek example is quite thin, crudely stamped, and possibly made of brass. It appears to be one of Tiffin’s imitations.

Half Penny "Tiffin" Token from Swan Creek Area.

Half Penny “Tiffin” Token from Swan Creek Area.

Prehistoric material in the new survey area included a wide scatter of flakes and fire-cracked rock, a celt fragment, and two bifaces, both made of Bayport chert. One biface is a small, Late Woodland, triangular point. The other biface is corner-notched/expanding-stemmed example that closely matches the Middle to early Late Woodland Schultz expanding-stemmed type (Fitting 1972).

Celt fragment from Swan Creek Area. Both faces shown, bit to the left.

Celt fragment from Swan Creek Area. Both faces shown, bit to the left.

Bifaces from Swan Creek Area.

Bifaces from Swan Creek Area.

Last week, Patrick brought the magnetic susceptibility meter from Central Michigan University out to Swan Creek and the Steltzriede Farm site. We’ll have more on those surveys in a future update.

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