MCAP Field School, Day 12: Sherds but no shell (yet)   1 comment

— post by Dr. Peres and Blake Meador

Middle Tennessee was entrenched in fog this morning as we made our 42 mile commute to the site. There were reports of a cow on one of the interstates, but luckily it had been rounded up before we were in that area. The first things we noticed when we arrived on site this morning were lots of leaves down on the driveway and water in the units. This meant the students would get a lesson in bailing out the units!

Our well covered units with very little water on them.

Our not-so well covered up unit. Guess which one needed the most bailing?

It didn’t take long for them to get the hang of it!

MTSU Field School student, Karen Patterson, bailing Unit 4 while Callie and Tee try to get all the water to one end of the unit.

Today turned in to a really busy day with lots of different activities on-site. First we had the bailing of the units — always fun first thing in the morning. Then Ryan Robinson and four field school students began the deep auger program. Ryan and the students will excavate a series of auger tests, set perpendicular to the river channel, to a maximum depth of 10 meters. They will record soil descriptions, screen and recover artifacts, and collect sediment samples for post-field processing. Because the auger tests will go extremely deep, we are recording a lot of information, and Ryan is teaching the students about sediments, they are slow to excavate (several hours per test).

Field school students readying the auger for the first in a series of deep tests.

In Units 1 and 3 the search for the shell layer continues. The sediment has a high organic content (though preservation of bone is not great), and we continue to recover fire-cracked rock, lithics, etc. Out of Unit 1 at nearly 60 cmbs we recovered these:

A beaver tooth (Castor canadensis), recovered from approximately 60 cmbs.

Baker’s Creek Projectile Point (dates to the Early/Middle Woodland Period).

We still have approximately 15 cm of this midden to excavate through before we reach the depth where the shell should be. That is on our to-do list for tomorrow.

In the units to the northwest, Units 4 and 5, we continued to find ceramic sherds. The increase in density and friability of these artifacts necessitated troweling the remainder of the level instead of schnitting. The ceramics are very interesting, with some sizable body and rim sherds. These appear to be Mississippian Period ceramics, though we are uncertain at this time of the tempering agent, but may be grog (crushed up ceramics that are mixed into the wet clay to make a stronger final product).

Plain discoidal (base of a pot) sherd. (Dr. Peres’ favorite!)

Rim sherd with possible punctate or fingernail impression (?).

We also had several site visits today. The first was from Jim Pritchard (Vice President of Brockington Cultural Resources Consulting). We hope to collaborate with him on future projects. John Broster and Aaron Deter-Wolf (Tennessee Division of Archaeology) stopped to check on our progress.

Today’s student blogger: Blake Meador is a Senior Anthropology major at MTSU. He has chosen Archaeology and Biology as minors, field school fulfills a requirement for the former. Blake is working in Unit 5, and is learning the fine art of schnitting, troweling, and controlled shoveling.

MTSU Anthropology major, Blake Meador, getting his schnitt on.

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One response to “MCAP Field School, Day 12: Sherds but no shell (yet)

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  1. Fascinating! Go Dr. Peres (and team)!

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