Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dating the Ossuary

This fall our loyal volunteers have been busy washing and cataloging the dozens of artifacts and thousands of bone fragments from last summer's work at Danbury. Until now, there hasn't been much to tell, but just yesterday, I received the results of radiocarbon dating two bone samples from the large ossuary (a.k.a. BF 07-04).

Our loyal blog-readers--and field crew--may remember that all along I suspected that this was an Early Woodland feature since all the pottery retrieved from the fill was of the Leimbach series (see 7/7/07 post). In addition, several of our field crew noticed that many of the teeth found in the feature were heavily worn and had very little evidence of dental decay. Heavily worn but healthy teeth are most typical of pre-agricultural, hunting and gathering, populations of the region. Both these observation proved correct since the two samples we had dated returned calibrated 14 C dates of between 1000 BC and 800 BC! This date range corresponds to those of the birdstone burial from 2006 and an earthoven feature found in 2004. Here is a chart showing all our dates for the site. Note the clear date 'plateau' for the Early Woodland period occupation.

Now we need to understand why the Early Woodland inhabitants of the site carried out two very different burial treatments: burial of just a few individuals with a birdstone and other rare objects vs. a communal burial of more than 30 people with no deliberate burial goods. We will have to chew on this one for a while!