Archaeology Meeting, 3 January 2019

Please join the Saginaw Valley Chapter of Michigan Archaeological Society for their first meeting of 2019. The meeting will be held Thursday, 3 January 2019 at 7:00 PM here at the Castle Museum,  500 Federal Ave., Saginaw. Chapter president Don Simons, who always provides an interesting program, will be the featured speaker. As always, the public is invited and encouraged to attend. The meeting notice is copied below.

img014 MAS Jan Notice


Michigan Archaeological Society Annual Potluck Thursday, 6 Dec. 2018

The December meeting of the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society will be held Thursday, December 6th, here at the Castle Museum. The meeting will be the group’s annual potluck. Though there will be no formal presentation, members and visitors are encouraged to bring in artifacts to show and discuss. All are welcome. The informational flier is copied below.

Archaeology Meeting Thursday, November 1, 2018

Please join us for the November meeting of the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society to be held next Thursday, November 1st, here at the Castle Museum. Dr. Scott Beld will present a wide-ranging talk covering 50 years of archaeological work at Chippewa Nature Center in Midland County. The sites he will discuss span the Archaic through Historic periods so there will be much of interest for everyone! And, there will be treats! The program is free and, as always, the public is invited and encouraged to attend. The official announcement from the chapter is copied below.


Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society

November meeting notice

Thursday November 1, 2018

At the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History

7:00 p.m.

50 Years of Archaeology at Chippewa Nature Center 1968-2018

Dr. Scott Beld will present an overview on various sites they’ve excavated at the nature center (Naugle, Sumac Bluff, Cater, Ponton, Sias East)

Dr. Beld is the staff archaeologist at the Chippewa Nature Center in Midland and the Research Assistant to Dr. Daniel Fisher, Paleontologist at the University of Michigan, Museum of Paleontology, Ann Arbor.

Bring an artifact to share with the group.

Steltzriede Farm Site – End of 2018 Field Season Wrap-Up

Well, we’ve wrapped up another field season at the Steltzriede Farm site in Saginaw Township and, in terms of area excavated, it was the biggest one yet! This year, the Castle Museum archaeology team excavated 13 1X1 meter excavation units. This compares with 11 in 2015, 10 in 2016, and six in 2017.

During the 2018 field season, we worked in two areas of the site. We spent the first part of the field season expanding our excavation in the “cabin area” where we had previously found the cellar of the Steltzriede’s original house/cabin. You can read updates from the first part of the field season here, here, and here.

Kiersten and Andy excavating at the Steltzriede Farm site.

The second half of the field season was spent excavating a 2X5 meter excavation block in yard area between cellar and the still-standing 1848 frame house. Shovel-testing in 2017 indicated the presence of early to mid-19th century (and more recent) material in the general area. We were hoping to find midden deposits or a well, privy, or other feature associated with the early-mid 19th century period of the Steltzriede occupation. In addition, we were hoping to learn more about the timing and extent of landscape modification / fill deposition across the site. We were only partially successful in meeting these goals.

Nick excavating at the Steltzriede Farm site.

Unfortunately, features and dense midden deposits were not to be found. Instead we uncovered a light scatter of mid-19th through 20th century debris across the area. Bricks and nails were especially common, but we also found ceramics, bottle fragments, lead shot, a slate pencil, a button or collar  stud, and lots of bone fragments from cows, pigs, and even a cat! Ceramics included a few red paste and yellow paste earthenware sherds, but most were white paste wares. Decorative types present in the white paste ceramic assemblage include blue and green shell-edged, painted polychrome floral, dipt/annularware, and transfer printed.

Slate pencil and button or collar stud from the Steltzriede Farm site.

Ceramics from the Steltzriede Farm site.

In terms of identifying changes in site’s landscape during the 19th and 20th centuries, we had some success – assuming our current interpretations prove correct. Wall profiles in the yard area show the extent of a probable mid-20th century deposit of clay and gravel fill that appears to have been used to level the yard. Immediately below the clay and gravel fill layer is thick layer of sand, possibly derived from digging the basement under the frame house in the mid-late 19th century. The surface of this second fill layer was stable long enough to begin forming an A-horizon (a dark, organic-rich zone in the soil). The bottom of the second fill layer merges with what is probably the disturbed (plowed?) early to mid-19th century surface over a natural, relatively undisturbed, soil profile.

East Wall Profile of units 522-523N 501E.

Our attention now turns to the lab where we have already begun processing artifacts from this year’s excavation. We have many hours of sorting, washing, cataloguing, and analysis ahead of us. A lot to look forward to!

Michigan Archaeological Society Meeting Thursday, 4 October 2018

The October meeting of the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society will be held this Thursday, October 4th, here at the Castle Museum. As always, the public is invited and encouraged to attend! The official announcement from the Chapter is copied below.

When:       Thursday – October 4, 2018
Where:      Castle Museum of Saginaw County History
Time:        7:00 p.m.
Program:  Don Simons will present a slide program of artifact
collections and single finds, several of which were made by 19th
and early 20th century farmers.
Bring recent finds to share & discuss during the meeting.

Michigan Archeological Society Meeting, Thursday, 6 September 2018

Nick and Julia excavating at the Steltzriede Farm Site.

The Castle Museum Archaeology team spent the summer working at the Steltzriede Farm site in Saginaw Township. What did you do???

Please join the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society for their annual Show and Tell meeting to kick off the 2018-2019 schedule. Members will share tales of their summer archaeological adventures and finds. Did you find an artifact you can’t identify? Bring it along! Many knowledgeable members will be happy to assist. As always, the public is welcome and encouraged to attend.

Time and Location:
Thursday, September 6, 2018
7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
In the Morley Room of the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History
500 Federal Avenue, Saginaw, MI 48607

Notes on a Recent Donation: a Celt/Adze Cache from the Schmidt Site (20SA192)

First brought to light by avocational archaeologist Bernie Spencer in the late 1950s, the Schmidt site (20SA192) garnered considerable archaeological attention in subsequent decades. Excavations were conducted by Spencer and Fairchild ca. 1962, the University of Michigan in 1964, by Saginaw Valley State College in 1971, and by Western Michigan University in 1973. Accounts of some of this work were published by Harrison (1966) and Fairchild (1977). Although Late Woodland occupations were noted at the site, most of the excavated material is derived from Late Archaic components. Fairchild (1977) argues for a pre-Nipissing Middle Archaic age for at least some of the material, but this interpretation is questioned by Lovis and Robertson (1989).

Recently, some of the material excavated by Spencer was donated to the Castle Museum. Among the donated objects is an interesting cache of three ground stone celts/adzes. The cache was found in the lower (Archaic) level of the excavation (Spencer personal communication August 2018). Although briefly described by Harrison (1966:60), to my knowledge measurements and photos or illustrations of the specimens from the cache have not been published.

The first specimen is a celt/adze made of diabase. It has a well- polished bit, damaged with a single chip, and a lightly battered poll. It is biconvex in cross-section and is slightly flattened on one face. Measurements are as follows: L. 98.41 mm, W. 48.13 mm, Th. 23.39 mm, and Wt. 193.52 g.

adze cache 1

Five views of Specimen 1

The second specimen is an adze, also made of diabase. Both the bit and poll are heavily  battered. The adze is triangular in cross-section with a prominent ridge on one face. Measurements for this specimen are: L. 89.84 mm, W. 49.15 mm, Th. 25.40 mm, and Wt. 178.70 g.

Five views of Specimen 2

The third specimen from the cache appears to be an unfinished celt/adze. I am uncertain of the material, but it may be porphyritic basalt. The preform has a convex/irregular cross-section and is flaked around its margins. It is made on a spall struck from the outer surface of a cobble. The convex face of the preform is the (mostly) unmodified original surface of the cobble. Measurements are as follows: L. 103.87 mm, W. 55.22 mm, Th. 21.38 mm, and Wt. 164.49 g.

adze cache 3

Five views of Specimen 3

Despite containing only three specimens, the celt/adze cache from the Schmidt site provides evidence for the the diversity of forms of these tools produced and used contemporaneously. The Historical Society of Saginaw County is grateful these items were entrusted to our care. Curated in the Archaeology Lab and Repository of the Castle Museum, they will be preserved for current and future generations as part of Accession 2018.029. More information and examples of Archaic Period artifacts can be found here in the Archaeology section of the Castle Museum website and in the Museum’s archaeology exhibit.