Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Reconstructing the Late Woodland Vessel

Back on July 5 of last year I reported the discovery of a Late Woodland pot in a small pit in the south area of our Heckelman site excavations.  In the late fall, much time was spent by Meghan M. and Jaime G. on the reconstruction.  Examining the sherds from this vessel in the field told us it belonged to the early Late Woodland, Green Creek phase of north-central Ohio.  This ID was based primarily on the very thin vessel walls and fine cordmarking on the exterior.  Several pots of similar form were found during the 2011 season in pits within Structure 2.  

After many hours of work, we realized that only part of the vessel was preserved.  I believe that the entire pot was deposited in a small pit--most likely within another house--some 1,400 years ago, but the effects of weathering left most of the vessel badly fractured and unable to be reconstructed.  Much of the rim was also missing, most likely due to plowing.   This image shows the vessel in all its crushed splendor.


Persistent effort--and much masking tape--resulted in the reconstruction seen here.

The close-up below reveals the finely cordmarked surface, which was likely done with a cord-wrapped wooden paddle.  Note that the orientation of the cordmarks changes from vertical near the rim (upper portion) to oblique and overlapping on the body.  This form of surface treatment is typical of Middle to early Late Woodland pottery in southern Ohio and beyond.  It is more rare in northern Ohio but does reveal connections between Woodland peoples at Heckelman and middle Ohio Valley groups to the south. 

The lack of heavy carbon smudging from use in a fire suggests that this was not a cooking pot.  Its thin walls tell me that it may have instead been used for dry storage.

Finally, I used a bit of digital manipulation to project the reconstructed vessel profile onto the remains of the Late Woodland pot.  The result shown below exhibits the typical form of early Late Woodland vessels such as Newtown Cordmarked or Childers Cordmarked found in the middle Ohio River Valley.   Again, revealing clear stylistic connections with societies farther south, not only during the Hopewell era, but also during the subsequent early Late Woodland period.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Putting Together the Puzzle

Now that the conference season is behind me, I can turn my attention back to the Heckelman site.   Our dedicated volunteers here at the museum spent most of the fall washing and cataloging our many finds from the 2012 season.  And now I can turn to more closely examining the collections and putting together the annual technical report.   In the next few weeks, I plan to write additional posts describing some of the interesting discoveries we have made. 

One of our most significant achievements is the identification of a complete Late Prehistoric period structural patten that appears to represent a dwelling used by the village inhabitants of the site.   Over the last week or two of the field season, our crew mapped hundreds of possible post molds in the eastern end of our excavation area.   Among this dense accumulation of small soil stains, we found a clear eastward extension of the stockade line and just inside (south of) this line we recognized the complete post outline of a rectangular structure that measured about 9.0 m long and 4.5 m wide.   As can be seen in the drawing shown here, this house--called "Structure 3"--was oriented north-south and was situated just inside the the stockade line (the squiggly line of posts at the top of the map).   Several large post molds of from an earlier (Early Woodland?) occupation of the site were found on the western floor of the structure.

 The only feature which appear to belong to Structure 3 is the small round pit located in the very center of the floor.  This small basin was Feature 12-60 and it contained a few fragments of deer bone, charcoal, nutshell, and a small anvilstone.   Some of the nutshell was sent out for radiocarbon dating and returned a calibrated date range of A.D. 1410-1450.  This date range matches almost exactly that of a piece of charred stockade post found a bit farther to the west in 2011.   So, for now, I believe that Structure 3 (and at least the first phase of village construction) took place during the early fifteenth century A.D.   We recovered a good sample of carbonized botanical remains from Feature 12-60, which included eight fragments of maize kernels and five cupule fragments.   The maize remains help confirm the Late Prehistoric period affiliation of Feature 12-60 and Structure 3.  

One other feature of note are the lines of small posts found within the structure.  These may represent partitions or walls designed to separate the floor space into different activity areas or, perhaps, sleeping compartments.   The size of Structure 3 suggests that it was occupied by more than one family, so a division of interior space was probably desirable.   Finally, the absence of a formal fireplace or hearth feature inside the house indicates that it was not occupied during the cold months of the year.   This, and the generally light construction (small posts) of its outer walls, point to its use during the warm months of the year, most likely late spring through summer.