Monitoring Sites in the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge

Last week, between working at our Swan Creek Area and Steltzriede Farm projects, I found time to visit the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, where we have been conducting fieldwork annually since 1999. Although our efforts in the Refuge have been scaled back somewhat in recent years, we continue to monitor areas known to contain sensitive archaeological sites. Because some of the sites in the Refuge are located along waterways, artifacts are occasionally exposed through riverbank erosion. When we encounter such material, we map in the location and collect the artifacts to preserve as much information about the site as possible.

Erosion in progress.

Erosion in progress.

One site where artifacts are sometimes exposed is 20SA1251. We found the site in 1999 and between 2000 and 2002 conducted shovel-testing and test excavations. Our previous work revealed that the site contains material dating from the Late Archaic/Early Woodland Period through the Historic Period. The primary occupation, however, was during the Middle Woodland Period (roughly between 100 B.C. and A.D. 400). We obtained a single AMS date of 1960+/-40 BP (2 Sigma cal. 40 BC to AD 120) from a sample of charred organic residue scraped from the interior of a ceramic sherd (Sommer 2003).

2002 excavations at 20SA1251.

2002 excavations at 20SA1251.

One of the more diagnostic hallmarks of at least some Middle Woodland sites in the Saginaw Valley is the presence of rocker-stamped ceramics. Rocker-stamping refers to the method by which the ceramics were decorated. Rocker-stamping was accomplished by pressing the edge of a mussel shell (or similarly shaped object) into the wet clay of a pot (before it was fired) and rocking it back and forth to create a curved zig-zag pattern. If small notches were cut into the edge of the shell, the resulting pattern would be “dentate rocker-stamping.” Rocker-stamping can be found on the rim, neck, and/or body of a vessel. It can be used to fill zones delimited by incised lines, or it can be free and unconstrained by zonal boundaries.  During last week’s visit to 20SA1251, two rocker-stamped sherds were found and recorded. The sherd on the left exhibits zoned dentate rocker-stamping, while the sherd on the right has plain rocker-stamping without zones. These sherds would be classified as types of Green Point ware, as defined by Fischer (1972) at the nearby Schultz site.

Rocker-stamped sherds from 20SA1251.

Rocker-stamped sherds from 20SA1251.

In addition to the ceramic sherds, two flaked-stone artifacts were recorded. The one on the left in the following image (both faces depicted) is a retouched flake knife made from a large Bayport chert decortication flake. The one on the right (both faces depicted), also Bayport chert, is a core, or preform, with a bifacially flaked edge. Neither of these is temporally diagnostic.

Retouched flake knife and core/preform from 20SA1251.

Retouched flake knife and core/preform from 20SA1251.

Aside from the great archaeology, an added benefit of working in the Refuge is the chance to see lots of wildlife – sometimes up close and personal! While hiking out at the end of the day I nearly stumbled across this fawn doing its best to become invisible. I took a quick snap with my cell phone and continued on my way and this little guy never moved a muscle!

White-tailed deer fawn.

White-tailed deer fawn.

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