Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Finishing Up at Lyne

The trash pit found in one of the excavation units
On this Tuesday, the goal was to begin finishing up at the Lyne site for this field season. At the end of today, one excavation unit was completely finished and filled back in, and the rest are nearing completion. By tomorrow, everyone should be starting in at the Fort. So far, there have been several finds, though very few pertaining to the time period of the Fort. However, several finds are still interesting. In one of the excavation unites, a feature has been uncovered: a trash pit. Though it is of more modern times, it is giving us some experience pedestaling (digging around an artifact or feature to observe it in situ), as well as recording feature context. This will hopefully be more useful at the Fort St. Joseph site in the coming days, where we are more likely to find features.

Also today, in one of the units, an item that at first appeared to be suspiciously skull-like in resemblance was uncovered. But, it became apparent as it was being pedestaled around that it was in fact just an ordinary rock, most likely a specimen of a stone high in kaolin content like kaolinite, or high in calcium such as a limestone. However, in the first stages of excavation around it, it was of interest and some anxiety. If it had been a human skull, it would have closed down excavation on the site while it was being investigated by police to determine if it was a recent murder and later NAGPRA officials. Due to weather, we already have had some delays, and this would have definitely put us behind schedule for this field season. In the end though, it really was just a natural occurring specimen. In another nearby unit, some fragments of tooth enamel and calcined bone were uncovered, though these are most likely from a deer.

Excavations at the Lyne site are close to being done and a variety of artifacts have been uncovered. Many are evidence of the more modern use of the surrounding area as a landfill, which include glass Clorox bottles from the mid twentieth century and pieces of metal cans. Some, found in the plow zone, bear testament to the area once being a farm. Examples found this year include a flat iron disc, rusty nails ranging in size from a couple centimeters to around ten centimeters if straightened out. As far as artifacts that date from the same period as the fort, however, there was a general paucity: all that was found that seems to date from the eighteenth century is some lead shot. This scarcity, however, tells us that this particular area of the site was not a major area for activity.
Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Mike Zimmerman came for a visit to the site
In addition to all of these artifacts, however, chert and jasper flakes and possible cores have been discovered in several units. Though piles of debitage have clearly been scattered through plowing and natural occurrences and the flakes found throughout all of the units are fewer in number than would be produced when creating a stone tool, there are a variety of sizes with some change in material and found in several levels (in some units, actually increasing in frequency with depth), suggesting a longer period of habitation that predated the fort. Though we don’t know much about the age of these flakes, the area around Fort St. Joseph was clearly a site of activity for perhaps thousands of years before the arrival of the French fort.

As we are wrapping up the Lyne site, everyone is anticipating the coming days excavating in the flood plain in which the remnants of the fort are located. Though there doesn’t seem to have been any extravagant finds yet this field season, as archaeologists we still have gained valuable insight into this area very close to the fort. We also still have several weeks of excavation at the fort site, especially working with some features that were identified in previous seasons.

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