artifact

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!

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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.

Michigan Archaeological Society meeting Thursday, 2 November 2017

The November meeting of the Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society will be held Thursday, 2 November 2017 at 7:00 pm here at the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History. Long-time chapter member Bernie Spencer will be presenting a program on the Ike Davidson site. Bernie describes the program as follows:

“Reflections on the Ike Davidson Site, a mixed Late Woodland site adjacent to the Cass River, occupying the bottom of the floodplain from two to four feet above the present water level. The entirety of my collections from the site will be available for observation at the meeting. This site was totally removed as part of the Cass River Dike Project in 2011. My collections began in 1957 and ended with the total destruction of the site in 2011.”

One of many Late Woodland Rimsherds from the Ike Davidson Site, Saginaw County, Michigan.

Bernie’s collection from this site includes an impressive array of Late Woodland (and some probably earlier) ceramics, projectile points and other flaked stone tools, and ground stone artifacts, all of which will be on display at the meeting.

As always, the public is welcome and encouraged to attend. You won’t want to miss this one!

Fieldwork Update – more from the Steltzriede Farm site.

Progress has been slow but sure at the Castle Museum’s archaeological investigations at the Steltzriede Farm site in Saginaw Township, so I think we are due for another update. We noted previously (here) a need to expand our excavation in order to expose the northwest corner of the presumed cabin cellar. The hassle of dealing with bushes and utilities notwithstanding, we have expanded the excavation block and the corner of the cellar is now clearly visible.

The northwest corner of the cellar at 90 cm. Note brick fragments and abundant chinking.

Other than hundreds of fragments of chinking, several brick fragments, and a few square nails, artifacts have been sparse in the cellar fill. This brass buckle is one of the few non-structural items so far recovered within the cellar. Unfortunately, unlike some 19th century buckles, this one does not appear to have a patent date impressed into it.

Brass buckle found in the cellar.

One of our goals has been to determine the overall size of the cellar. Using a small coring tool, we have attempted to trace the extent of the dark cellar fill. It appears that both the north and west walls of the cellar extend to the edge of, or under, the asphalt driveway. Cores show no evidence that the cellar extends all the way across the driveway. Therefore, if we assume the cellar maintains a rectangular shape, and assume our interpretation of the core samples is accurate, the cellar must measure approximately 12′ X 16′.

Projected size of the cellar.

Work has also continued in what we refer to as the “midden” area of the site. This is a trash disposal area in what at the time was a fairly steep slope leading down to a small pond. The pond has long since been filled in (sometime prior to 1954). Recent finds in the midden area include fragments from several ceramic vessels and numerous animal bones. Ceramic types include blue-edgewares, red transferware, black transferware, and hand-painted polychrome, all of which fit well in an early to mid-19th century context. Many of the animal bones appear to be from pigs, but cow (including most of a skull) and duck have also been identified.

Fragments of a small blue-edgeware plate from the midden area.

Assorted ceramics from the midden area.

Fragments of a cow skull in situ in the midden area.

That’s it for now, but for those interested and in the area, I will be sharing the results our work at the Steltzriede Farm site as part of the Thirty-Seventh Annual Saginaw Humanities Lecture Series on Tuesday, Oct. 3rd, at the Saginaw Arts and Sciences Academy (SASA), 1903 N. Niagara Street, in Saginaw. SASA students will perform a musical prelude beginning at 7:00 PM with the lecture beginning at 7:30 PM. There is no admission fee.

Fieldwork Update – Work Continues at the Steltzriede Farm Site

The Castle Museum archaeology crew continues to make progress at the Steltzriede Farm site in Saginaw Township. We have been working on exposing more of the north side of the cellar and at the 70 cm floor can clearly see a portion of the north wall. At this point, the wall appears to have been lined with horizontal wood planks. However, the nature of the wall is obscured by what seem to be rotted tree roots that grew parallel to and through the wall. The roots were probably attracted to the organic content of the rotting wall boards. It is also becoming obvious that we will need to extend the excavation a bit to the west to expose the northwest corner of the cellar. Unfortunately, to do so will require working around buried utility wires and a large shrub. A hassle to be sure, but much better than the eastern side of the cellar, which appears to be entirely covered by the paved driveway!

The edge of the cellar at 70 cm floor.

As expected, we have not been finding a lot of artifacts in the cellar fill. Material we have found includes several square nails, a few fragments of window glass, plaster/chinking fragments, and several ceramic sherds. The ceramics appear to be from early to mid-19th century vessels including a black transferware plate, a blue edgeware bowl or soup plate with an embossed (beaded) rim, and a blue edgeware plate with a scalloped rim and curved impressed lines. Based on what we found in adjacent units last year, we can expect artifact density to increase as we approach the floor of the cellar.

Ceramics from the cellar fill.

Meanwhile, we have also been working in an area of the site where 19th century midden (trash) deposits were previously identified. We have progressed through the upper layers of 19th and 20th century fill that cap the area and are now into the 19th century midden deposits. Artifact density is much higher in this portion of the site, which means lots of measuring, mapping in artifacts, and recording notes!

Nick and Julia measuring and recording data.

Artifacts from the midden area include bricks, ceramics, bottle fragments, animal bones, lead shot, and even a couple of glass beads. One of the glass beads (shown) is a dark blue faceted bead. The other is a tiny clear glass “seed” bead. Similar beads were found in early 19th century contexts at the Cater Site in Midland County (Beld 2002), but these styles likely persisted through the mid and late 19th century. Fragments of two small aqua glass bottles were found including the neck and shoulder portion of a rectangular medicine bottle and the base of a slightly melted round (cylindrical) bottle with an open pontil scar. Ceramics include fragments of both green and blue edgeware vessels with scalloped rims and both red and black transferware vessels. The red transferware vessel shown below is a bowl or other hollow vessel decorated on both the interior and exterior surfaces. The pattern has not yet been identified, but there may be enough for one of the ceramic gurus out there to figure it out.

Selected artifacts from the midden area.

We will continue working at the Steltzriede Farm site throughout the summer and into the fall, so stay tuned for more updates!

Fieldwork Update – Getting Started at the Steltzriede Farm Site

Nick and Roxanne ready to get started.

The Castle Museum Archaeology team has been busy and the 2017 field season at the Steltzriede Farm Site (20SA562) is now well underway. During the 2016 field season we located a mid-19th century midden zone (trash deposit) and what we believe is the cellar of the original house/cabin built on the site. Readers familiar with the project will remember that the Steltzriede family is said to have built a log cabin when they settled at the site in 1838. They moved to a frame house, which still stands on the property, in 1848. New readers can learn more about the project here, here, here, and here. Our work this year will, at least initially, focus on uncovering more of the cabin/cellar to learn what we can about the size and nature of the structure. We will also expand our excavation in the midden area to obtain a larger sample of artifacts and subsistence remains from the early decades of the Steltzriede’s occupation.

Julia, Nick, and Brad excavating in the cabin/cellar area.

We have opened up three 1X1 meter units in the cabin/cellar area and are slowly working our way through the upper fill layers toward the cellar floor. Two of the units contain clusters of mortar/chinking, but little else, and no sign yet of the expected wall of the cellar. This is probably due to the way the cellar deteriorated, collapsed, and was filled in – a process that, through careful excavation, we may be able to tease out. The third excavation unit in this part of the site was previously excavated (in 2015)  down to 40cm in north half and 50 cm in the south half. At that point there was no clear sign of a structural feature so the excavation was halted and backfilled. Given what we learned last year about the location of the cellar and what the collapsed and filled in area above the cellar looks like, I decided to reexamine the previously excavated unit and go a bit deeper to see if we had given up on it too soon. This may have been a good decision because at the 60cm floor we can now see what appears to be the north edge of the cellar!

Probable north wall of cellar. A rotted root runs along the edge.

Artifacts have been pretty sparse in all three units. Other than the previously mentioned mortar/chinking, we have found a few nails, bone fragments, one or two small ceramic sherds, and a couple of glass fragments. One glass fragment is from a pressed glass goblet or tumbler with the “Wildflower” pattern by Adams and Co. More research is needed, but a quick internet search indicates that the Adams and Co. began producing the pattern in the 1870s and it was widely reproduced well into the 20th century. Regardless of whether this is a 19th or 20th century example, it clearly post-dates the occupation of the cabin.

Pressed glass – “Wildflower” pattern.

Monday, we also opened up two excavation units in the area above the 19th century midden. This part of the site is capped with approximately 50cm of sod and topsoil and clay and gravel fill. We shoveled out these relatively recent (probably mid-20th century) fill layers and are now ready to begin excavation of the 19th century deposits.