Archaeology

2018 Field Season Underway, Finally!

After a cold start to spring and a delayed start to the field season, The Castle Museum Archaeology Crew has finally made it back out to the Steltzriede Farm site! For those of you new to the blog, the Steltzriede Farm site was settled by Henry and Katherine Steltzriede in 1838. According to family tradition, they lived in a log cabin/house for 10 years before moving into a frame house on the same property. Our work at the site has focused on locating the original structure and associated material from the initial decade or two of the Steltzriede occupation. In 2016 we first identified a cellar thought to be associated with the cabin. Previous accounts of our work at the Steltzriede Farm site can be seen here, here, here, and elsewhere on this blog.

Last Friday, Brad Jarvis and I began excavation of 537N 490E, a 1 meter X 1 meter excavation unit located above the previously identified cellar. Unfortunately, we were only able to complete two levels before a last gasp of winter-like weather (sleet and rain) forced us to close up for the day.

Location of Unit 537N 490E

Despite the inclement conditions, we started off the season with an unexpected find… an Early Archaic bifurcate point! Although we have previously found a few flakes, FCR, and a biface fragment, this is the first diagnostic prehistoric artifact we have found on the site. Having been recovered directly above the cellar, we can be certain that the point is not in its original depositional context. However, there is no reason to think the cellar was filled with material brought in from off-site after the structure was abandoned. To the contrary, many other (Historic Period) items previously found in the cellar fill closely match the 19th century artifacts found elsewhere on the site. So, it is quite possible, even likely, that the cellar fill is derived from the immediate surrounding area and that an Early Archaic component is present at the site.

Early Archaic Bifurcate Point from fill above cellar.

We also encountered two large cobbles along the south edge of the excavation unit. They, too, were a bit of a surprise as we haven’t previously found similar material in this part of the site. Given their context in the cellar fill, the cobbles may have been structural debris, or they may have been found elsewhere on the site and simply buried here to get them out of the way.

Unit 537N 490E, 20 cm floor

Other than a few square nails and some slag/cinders, little additional material was found in the first two levels. However, we are just getting started, so check back often for additional updates as the field season progresses!

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Michigan Archaeological Society Meeting Thursday, 5 April 2018

The April meeting of the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society Will be held Thursday,  5 March 2018, at 7:00 pm, here at the Castle Museum. See the official announcement, copied below, for details on what is certain to be an interesting and informative program. As always, the public is welcome and encouraged to attend.

 

Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society

April Chapter meeting, Thursday, April 5, 2018, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

The Morley Room, Castle Museum of Saginaw County History, 500 Federal Avenue, Saginaw, MI 48607

Current Research Status of the Hipwater Locale: A Parkhill Phase Paleoindian Retooling Location

Presented by:
William A. Lovis, Michigan State University

Abstract: The Hipwater Locale is a small Parkhill phase Paleoindian site, or one part of a larger site, located in south central Michigan. There is a limited assemblage of fluted Barnes bifaces, unfluted bifaces, core fragments, and fire cracked rock, with at least one major group of refits. The site location and the small assemblage were subjected to a range of different analyses, including interpretation of site location and integrity, stages of organization of lithic reduction, protein residue analysis, microwear analysis, and pXRF elemental analysis of tool stone sources. Current outcomes of these various analyses are reported and a preliminary synthesis will be undertaken.

The March meeting was canceled due to weather. The decision to cancel was made late in the day, and while steps were taken to contact members, several persons did not receive notification. We apologize for the inconvenience that this caused. A gentle reminder: if you have not submitted an email address or telephone number we will not be able to contact you in the event of a future cancellation.

Mystery Object from Swan Creek

Regular readers of this blog are aware that, over the past three years, the Castle Museum has conducted an archaeological survey in the Swan Creek Area of Saginaw County. For those who may be interested, you can read more about our work in the Swan Creek Study Area here, here, and elsewhere in the blog. We found the “Mystery Object” pictured below during the 2017 survey. Like other material from the site, it probably dates between the early 19th and late 20th centuries.

Mystery Object from the Swan Creek Study Area

The artifact is made of iron. It was badly corroded, but after cleaning appears to be complete. It is 103.32 mm long with a 19.23 mm wide by 21.94 mm thick conical/triangular point on one end and a flat tab expanding from 19.23 mm to 26.93 mm on the other end. The tab is 5.73 mm thick and comprises more than half the length of the object. The conical/triangular end appears to be mostly solid, but has an elliptical hole extending 4.57 mm towards the point. The hole, which can be seen in top view in the image above, may have been deeper originally. If so, it is now filled with corroded material. Other than the hole, there are no perforations or apparent additional means of attaching this object to another.

So, readers, any ideas about what this mystery object might be? Part of some 20th century farm machinery? A foot from a 19th century surveyor’s transit/tripod? Something else entirely? Please comment with your ideas or guesses and help us solve the mystery!

Michigan Archaeological Society Meeting Thursday, 1 March 2018

The March meeting of the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society is fast approaching. Thursday, March 1st, Dr. William Lovis of Michigan State University will present an overview of current research on the Hipwater Locale: A Parkhill Phase Paleoindian retooling location in south central Michigan. See the official announcement, copied below, for more details on what is certain to be an interesting and informative program. As always, the public welcome and encouraged to attend.
Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society March Chapter meeting, Thursday, March 1, 2018, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. The Morley Room, Castle Museum of Saginaw County History, 500 Federal Avenue, Saginaw, MI 48607

Current Research Status of the Hipwater Locale: A Parkhill Phase Paleoindian Retooling Location  
Presented by: William A. Lovis, Michigan State University
 
Alphabetically coauthored by:  Alan F. Arbogast, Michigan State University,  Dillon H. Carr, Grand Rapids Community College,  Randolph E. Donahue, Bradford University,  G. William Monaghan, Indiana University  Jenny L. B. Milligan, PaleoResearch, Inc., Frank J. Raslich, Michigan State University.   
 
Abstract:  The Hipwater Locale is a small Parkhill phase Paleoindian site, or one part of a larger site, located in south central Michigan.  There is a limited assemblage of fluted Barnes bifaces, unfluted bifaces, core fragments, and fire cracked rock, with at least one major group of refits.  The site location and the small assemblage were subjected to a range of different analyses, including interpretation of site location and integrity, stages of organization of lithic reduction, protein residue analysis, microwear analysis, and pXRF elemental analysis of tool stone sources.  Current outcomes of these various analyses are reported and a preliminary synthesis will be undertaken. 

Saginaw Valley Archaeologists: Contributors to the Field IV – Eliza L. Golson

Note: As the title implies, this series of occasional posts is intended to highlight individuals who have made significant contributions, in one way or another, to the archaeology of the Saginaw Valley. Subjects of previous posts in the series include Fred Dustin, Harlan I. Smith, and Ralph Stroebel.

Eliza Golson is less well-known in local archaeological circles than the previous subjects of this series, but she exemplifies the contributions that avocational archaeologists have so often made to the field. And she did so at a very early date! Much of the following biographic information was compiled by the Castle Museum’s Chief Curator, Sandy Schwan and can be sourced to the introduction to a transcription of Eliza Golson’s diary prepared by Golson’s granddaughter, Theo Alice Klisch and great-granddaughter, Margaret Klisch and to conversations with Margaret Klisch.

Born Eliza Martin on December 9, 1853 in Buffalo, New York, she moved to Saginaw with her family in 1863 where they took up residence on a houseboat. Though formal education was precluded by family responsibilities, young Eliza had a curious mind and a desire to learn and she managed to educate herself.

Eliza Golson

In 1871, Eliza Martin married Frank Golson. They resided in South Saginaw and had six children. While raising her family, Eliza developed an avid interest in the prehistoric artifacts she found near her home – many from right in her own flower beds, others from elsewhere in the neighborhood. Although she had no formal training in archaeology, she recognized the significance of her finds and the importance of documenting them.

Eliza Golson’s Journal

Between 1881 and 1906, Eliza Golson kept a journal of her archaeological activities. Entries describe outings with her children and other family members to search for artifacts. They record what the family found and where. She also describes various classes of artifacts in her collection and speculates on how they were made and their possible functions. The journal entries paint a picture of a woman not simply content to amass a collection of objects, but rather, interested in learning about what those objects might mean.

Selected artifacts from the Golson Collection.

One of Eliza’s children, Edward (Edd), was a schoolmate and good friend of Harlan I. Smith. [Smith, of course, later became a celebrated archaeologist/ethnologist most widely known for his work in the Pacific Northwest.] Edd is mentioned several times in Golson’s journal and seems to have been rather adept at finding artifact caches. Edd’s first cache, consisting of 83 Bayport chert cores and/or preforms, was found 26 April 1890 and was donated to the Peabody Museum at Harvard University that same year.

Edd discovered six bifaces from a second cache on 1 May 1892. Over the next two days, he and Eliza recovered 53 additional specimens from the cache. They sent a report on the cache to the Smithsonian Institution on 8 May 1892 and on 28 June 1892, Harlan I. Smith arrived to photograph the cache.

This image is a copy of Harlan I. Smith’s photo of the Golson Cache #2, found in Saginaw in 1892 by Edward and Eliza Golson and exhibited by Smith at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893.

In 1893, the archaeology of the Saginaw Valley was presented to an international audience when Smith chose to exhibit this cache and several additional items from the Golson collection at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Eliza made note of the loan in a 21 March 1893 journal entry.

March 21st 1893
Today Harlin I Smith came for some of my specimens to take to the Worlds Fair for Exhibition. I let him have in Edds name
1 Cache of 59 Implements
1 Copper Axe
1 Copper Awl
103 Bone Points
4 Deer Horns (Pieces of Deer Horns)
1 large tooth
15 Bear Teeth
58 Horn Points

Her 7 December 1893 entry documents that the artifacts were well taken care of and all were returned in good condition.

Dec the 7th 1893
Mr H I Smith Returned my specimens all of them in good condition

Eliza Golson died on 23 February 1923 in South Saginaw. Her memory endures through her continuing contribution to the body of knowledge about the archaeology of the Saginaw Valley. In 1980-1981, her descendants honored her memory and efforts by transcribing Eliza’s journal and distributing copies to various institutions including the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, the University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology, the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, and the Historical Society of Saginaw County. In 2012, Eliza Golson’s original journal was donated to the Historical Society of Saginaw County. Although much of her collection seems to have been dispersed, portions can be found today at the Peabody Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, and in the archaeological collections of the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History.

Archaeology Volunteer Recognized!

And the highly coveted Historical Society of Saginaw County Volunteer of the Year award goes to………………..

NICK BACON!!!

Archaeology volunteer extraordinaire Nick Bacon, along with two others, received the award during  the Historical Society’s Annual Meeting on Saturday. At an institution with a roster of 180 volunteers who donated over 7,800 hours of service last year, this is no small accomplishment!

Nick filling out collection bags during the Swan Creek Survey.

For those who don’t know Nick, over the past three years he has become a valued member of the archaeology team. Since 2015 he has logged over 500 hours in the field and many more in the lab. Nick can always be counted on to lend a hand when needed, bringing his experience from working on numerous archaeological projects in Michigan, several states in the Eastern U. S. and as far away as Belize.

Nick and Jana hard at work in the lab.

As any archaeologist can attest, field work is not always easy, or pleasant. Conditions are often cold and wet, or hot and dry. Mud, mosquitoes, poison ivy, and thorny vegetation are frequent companions. Nick meets such conditions with a shrug and a smile and gets the job done. A memorable outing last fall consisted of walking more than two miles off-trail to a remote part of the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, salvaging two important features that were eroding into the river, and then hiking back out with backpacks and buckets stuffed full of wet soil samples! Not many would return after that “adventure”, but Nick was back the next week ready for more! (That in itself probably merits this award!)

Nick, with Roxanne, giving the “thumbs up” at the Steltzriede Farm site.

In 2017 Nick expanded his range of contributions to the museum to include working with the museum’s historical collections, digitizing photographs and entering collection records into the database. Over the past two decades, we’ve had some truly extraordinary individuals donate their time, effort, and expertise to the archaeology program at the Castle Museum. Nick is continuing that tradition and definitely deserves this recognition as a Volunteer of the Year!

CONGRATULATIONS NICK!!!

 

Archaeological Society Meeting, 1 February 2018

The February meeting of the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society will be held at the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History on Thursday, 1 February 2018, at 7:00 PM. Dr. Scott Beld will share his research related to excavations at the Early Woodland Arthursburg Hill site in Ionia County. The title of Dr. Beld’s talk is: The Arthursburg Hill Earthwork Enclosure: An Early Woodland (ca. 400 B.C.) Fortified Village in central Michigan.  With a construction date of around 400 B.C., this enclosure is the earliest known in Michigan (other earthwork enclosures in Michigan are from the Late Woodland Period).

To whet your appetite for the program, here are a few Early Woodland biface types (projectile points and knives) from various sites in the Saginaw Valley.

Early Woodland bifaces found in Saginaw County.

And we can’t talk about the Early Woodland Period without showing an example of some Early Woodland ceramics…

Early Woodland ceramics from Saginaw County.

As always, the public is invited and encouraged to attend.