Lab Update

More from the lab…

The piles are getting smaller!

The Castle Museum Archaeology lab crew (Jana, Nick, Rachel, and Roxanne) had a productive week processing artifacts from last year’s excavations at the Steltzriede Farm site. Here is a bit of their handiwork…

Freshly washed artifacts and faunal remains from the 19th century midden at the Steltzriede Farm site.

The 19th century midden area at Steltzriede produced a number of large mammal bone fragments and some smaller items including a few fish bones and even some egg shell fragments! Many of the bone fragments show butchery marks and a few show gnaw marks – likely from the family dog(s). This snapshot also shows a couple of ceramic sherds, a cinder, a brick fragment, and a piece of a white clay smoking pipe… enough variety to keep any historically-minded archaeologist happy!

A Quick Update from the Archaeology Lab…

Even as we begin to gear up for the 2017 field season, lab work is still moving along full speed ahead! Over the past few weeks we’ve had a reunion of sorts with the reappearance of long-lost volunteers Nick and Jana. They, along with two relative newcomers to the lab, Rachel and Roxanne, have been busy sorting and washing last year’s finds from the Steltzriede farm site. Much remains to be done, but the piles are definitely getting smaller!

Nick and Jana hard at work.

HSSC Lab and Field Update – 27 May 2015

Nearing the end of May, I think we’re long past due for an update on what the Castle Museum archaeology crew has been up to…

Swan Creek Township Survey
Fields in the Swan Creek area were being planted during the first week of May, thus ending our surface survey for the season. Lab work on the material we recovered is progressing. In fact, even as I type this, new volunteer Samra Akhtar is busily washing material from one of the mid to late 19th century artifact scatters we documented. As the artifacts get washed and catalogued, I’ll provide another update with some photos of what we found.

Samra, Ken, and John working in the Lab.

Samra, Ken, and John working in the Lab.

 

Shiawassee NWR Survey
We spent a couple of weeks working on various aspects of a survey project in one of the farm units located in the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. The survey area is slated for a future wetland restoration project. Of the few cultural items we encountered, none was temporally diagnostic.

Field Trip!
Last week we spent a day with CMU graduate student Patrick Lawton helping with his shovel-testing project located near Chesaning. It was great to dig some shovel-tests and hang out with Dr. Surface-Evans and the 2015 CMU Field School class. Cultural material was tough to come by, at least while we were there, but we did find a nice clay marble.

In the Lab…
In addition to working on the Swan Creek Township material we’ve been continuing to make headway sorting the 2<4 mm size flot. samples from the Clunie Site (see Ken and John in the photo above) and labeling artifacts from the Stadelmeyer site. We’ve also been fortunate to receive some new donations including another batch of material from the Stadelmeyer site and several flaked stone and ground stone artifacts from a site on the Cass River. Among the flaked stone artifacts in this assemblage is the mid-section of an Agate Basin-like point made of Bayport chert. These late Paleoindian/Early Archaic points are quite uncommon in the Saginaw Valley so finding this one in the assemblage was a nice surprise.

Agate Basin-like point from Saginaw County.

Agate Basin-like point from Saginaw County.

Our comparative faunal collection also received a boost in recent weeks. The first addition was a black bear (Ursus americanus) skull and mandibles with a complete set of dentition. Our other black bear skull is missing both mandibles and several teeth, including all of the canines and incisors, making this donation a welcome and needed addition. (We are completely lacking any black bear post-cranial material so if you have an extra bear skeleton laying around, we would love to have it!)

Black bear (Ursus americanum) skull and mandible.

Black bear (Ursus americanus) skull and mandible.

Finally, just yesterday, we received the generous gift of a mostly decayed and desiccated beaver (Castor canadensis) carcass. This specimen is not quite ready for prime time and will require a bit of soaking, cleaning, and other TLC before joining the comparative collection!

News from the Archaeology Lab

With the arrival of spring (according to the calendar if not the meteorologist), it’s a good time to provide an update on recent activities of the Castle Museum Archaeology team. Much of our time over the winter was spent processing artifacts from last summer’s work at the Hill House and the Clunie site. “Processing” includes the sorting, washing, cataloguing and data entry that must be accomplished before the artifacts can be analyzed and written up. We catalogued more than 11,000 objects from our 2013 work at the Clunie site alone… and this didn’t include the “small stuff” recovered in flotation samples! Sorting flot. samples from 2013 and previous seasons is a huge project, but Ken Kosidlo, John Heintz, Mike Mauer, Dave Hamilton and others continue to make tremendous progress. I completed a report on our 2013 work in the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, which includes last season’s work at the Clunie site, but it has not yet been posted online. However, reports from previous years can be found under the Archaeology tab on the Castle Museum website.

In addition to processing artifacts generated by our fieldwork, we have been working on recently donated collections from several archaeological sites in Saginaw County. These collections, which range from a single artifact to hundreds of objects, are especially important because we know the precise location of the sites from which they were derived. Five of the sites represented in these collections had not previously been recorded. Now that we’ve documented them, they push the number of recorded archaeological sites in Saginaw County over the 1,400 mark! Temporally, the donated artifacts span the Early Archaic (ca. 6000 B.C.) through the Historic periods.

We are currently cataloguing material from the Stadelmeyer site (20SA195). Excavations were conducted at this site by members of the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society in 1965 and 1966 and by the University of Michigan in 1967. The recent donation is from the 1965 and 1966 excavations and it supplements previously donated material from these excavations already in our collection. A report on U of M’s work at the site was published in 1970 in the Michigan Archaeologist (Vol. 16 No. 3-4) by Beatrice A. Bigony. This report describes a predominately Late Woodland occupation (ca. A.D. 800-1100) with a small amount of Late Prehistoric (ca. A.D. 1200-1400) and Late Archaic material. Copies of this volume are still available from the MAS website. The collections now held at the Castle Museum add evidence for an Early Woodland component and significantly more Late Prehistoric material.

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Our comparative faunal collection recently received an upgrade in the form of a wolf skull (Canis lupus) donated by Ken Kosidlo. After briefly puzzling over a large canine tooth found back in 2005 at the Clunie site we realized wolf was a likely candidate. However, with no comparative material on hand we couldn’t be sure of a match. Ken’s generous donation solved that problem! While we still can’t rule out a very large dog, the tooth is a good match for wolf and is much larger than any other Canid remains recovered from this late Prehistoric site.

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Data, including catalogue records, are only useful if they are organized and accessible. Entering our catalogue records into the museum’s Past Perfect database has been a long term goal towards which we had made only moderate progress. That is until Jana “Queen of Data Entry” Irving took up the challenge! Thanks to Jana’s hard work (and fast fingers) we are now caught up with this important task!

So, we have accomplished much during the past few months. There is, of course, always more to do. Over the next few weeks, while we wait for the snow to melt and the ground to thaw, we will continue to make progress in the lab and prepare for the coming field season. Watch this space for future updates, announcements and reports from the Archaeology Lab and Field.