The most recent issue of American Archaeology Magazine, FALL 2018, is now available!
COVER: At the tip of Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula lies L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site. This 1,000-year-old settlement is the first-known evidence of European presence in the Americas.
CREDIT: Dale Wilson / Parks Canada
SEARCHING FOR VIKINGS BY DAVID MALAKOFF
L’Anse aux Meadows was discovered in eastern Canada in 1960. Since then, archaeologists have had little luck finding other Norse sites in North America.
A MEETING OF SCIENCE AND CULTURE BY JULIAN SMITH
A collaboration between an archaeologist and a Native American basketmaker has led to a better understanding of ancient basketry.
A TUMULTUOUS TIME BY ELIZABETH LUNDAY
An investigation in southeast Tennessee may be revealing evidence of problems that plagued the region in the thirteenth century.
WILLIAMSBURG UNCOVERED BY PAULA NEELY
Archaeology is playing an important role in telling the story of Virginia’s former capital.
OF MASTODONS AND MEN BY TAMARA JAGER STEWART
Were humans hunting mastodons and other megafauna in northeast Florida nearly 15,000 years ago?
A REMARKABLE EARTHWORK PRESERVED
The Conservancy acquires an earthwork in upstate New York.
THE MYSTERY OF MOUNT BAYOU MOUND
Future research may reveal the age of this ancient mound.Join crowdfunding for POINT-6 Emergency Preservation Fund. Donate at https://give.archaeologicalconservancy.org/ .Each donation will be matched dollar for dollar! Now 138 Sites have been saved by POINT emergency funds.
In the fall of 1965, a select group of people received an ornate and mysterious invitation. Please come, it said, to a black-tie ceremony at Yale University’s Beinecke Library in New Haven, Connecticut, to celebrate the acquisition of a map “of the greatest significance.” The crowd that attended the event wasn’t disappointed. With fanfare, Yale officials unveiled what came to be known as the Vinland Map. The medieval parchment dated to about A.D. 1440, they said, and it would rewrite history by proving that Viking seafarers had reached North America hundreds of years before Christopher Columbus. The proof was in the map’s upper left corner: the outline of a landmass that resembled the eastern coast of Canada marked Vinland—a Norse name for a land to the west of Greenland—and a caption explaining that European explorers had visited in the eleventh century.
The map, the Yale experts noted, matched Viking sagas describing Leif Eriksson’s voyages to Vinland. And the timeline was supported by a remarkable archaeological discovery, made just a few years earlier on the coast of Canada, at a site called L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland. There, a team led by Norwegian researchers Anne Stine and Helge Ingstad had found evidence of a small Norse settlement dating to roughly A.D. 1000. Among the finds were the ruins of eight structures, iron boat nails, a bone knitting needle, a hone, and a bronze pin likely used to fasten a Viking cloak. The Norse had probably established the outpost to tap the region’s rich natural resources, including timber, iron ore, and wildlife.
The Yale announcement, made just hours before Columbus Day, immediately generated headlines—and controversy. Americans of Scandinavian origin were giddy with newfound pride in their Norse ancestors, but many Italian Americans were distressed by the perceived attack on their hero of discovery. Numerous scholars, meanwhile, were simply baffled by the Vinland Map and doubted its authenticity.
Excerpt, More in our Fall 2018 Issue of American Archaeology, Vol. 22 No. 2. Browse Contents: FALL 2018
For millennia, humans have flocked to the lush region now known as the Aucilla River drainage in north-central Florida. Some twenty miles to the west, an underground river emanates an upwelling and forms the Wakulla River. The upwelling, known as Wakulla Springs, contains the remains of countless Pleistocene animals drawn to the freshwater springs. These waterways also include pre-Clovis sites dating back some 14,500 years, such as the mastodon kill and scavenge site known as Page-Ladson. Back then the water table was sometimes near the modern level and sometimes much lower. Therefore, many ancient sites in the area were at times inundated while others were dry land or wetland surfaces.
“Older underwater sites may represent inundated components that were originally terrestrial, and younger components may represent the remnants of later nearshore cultural activity after sea levels rose to near present levels about 6,000 years ago,” said archaeologist James Dunbar, who discovered the Page-Ladson site in the early 1990s. Dunbar has continued intensive research of Paleo-Indians sites in the river drainage ever since, and in 2012 he helped found the non-profit Aucilla Research Institute (ARI), which is dedicated to archaeological and earth sciences research as well as public education and outreach.
Numerous mastodon and Paleo-Indian discoveries in the area have intrigued researchers such as Dunbar, who believe these sites are likely associated and show the antiquity and continuity of human use of the area. He and his ARI crew, assisted by volunteers, started working at the Wakulla Springs Lodge site ten years ago.
Suquamish elder and master basketmaker Ed Carriere was thrilled when he first saw the fragments of ancient cedar baskets in the Biderbost Collection at the University of Washington’s Burke Museum in Seattle. Carriere was fourteen when tribal elders first taught him how to weave traditional baskets. At age eighty, seeing a fragment one of his ancestors had created by hand 2,000 years ago was something new. “It really got me so interested that I just had to replicate and weave like that,” Carriere said.
The visit to the Burke, which took place in 2014, was the result of a collaborative effort between Carriere and archaeologist Dale Croes, an adjunct professor at Washington State University. The men had joined forces over a decade earlier when Croes began inviting Carrier to his digs to help excavate 700-year-old clam baskets almost identical to those Carriere has made throughout his lifetime. Their combination of scientific approach and traditional cultural knowledge has expanded our understanding of the history and techniques of Northwest basketry and its importance in native culture. In the process, the men have made beautiful baskets and become close friends.
Native groups in the Pacific Northwest have used baskets woven from plant materials for millennia. Most are made from the roots or boughs of cedar or spruce trees, and are used for storing dried foods or transporting goods. Some designs are suited for specific purposes: for example, Carriere’s traditional Coast Salish clam baskets have a large carrying handle on top and an open weave to wash out sand. Watertight sewn baskets, made with a coiling technique, can be used to boil food when heated rocks are added. “Our societies couldn’t have gone on without them,” said Bud Lane, vice chair of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and president of the Northwest Native American Basketweavers Association. “We carried our babies, our food, our firewood. (Lane is also a master basketmaker.)
Excerpt, Read More in our Fall 2018 Issue of American Archaeology, Vol. 22 No. 2. Browse Contents: FALL 2018 .
During the Great Depression, when the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) planned the construction of reservoirs along the Tennessee River, the agency recognized that archaeological sites in the region would be lost forever under the rising waters. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) mobilized to conduct excavations that would gather as much information as possible about these sites in the time remaining. Hiwassee Island was one of the sites targeted for investigation. Located about thirty-five miles northeast of Chattanooga, the island sits at the confluence of the Hiwassee and Tennessee rivers. Between 1937 and 1939, archaeologists from the University of Tennessee supervised WPA excavations, focusing on a Mississippian village at the north end of the island. They uncovered a central plaza, several houses, and a large platform mound. The excavations at Hiwassee contributed to the creation of one of the first regional chronologies for the Southeast and was summarized in a report considered a landmark publication in Mississippian studies.
And that was that. The Chickamauga Dam on the Tennessee River was completed in 1940 and water levels rose, submerging nearly half of the small island. People in the area assumed all Hiwassee archaeological sites had either been inundated, excavated by the WPA, or destroyed by farming, said Erin Pritchard, TVA senior archaeological specialist.
But archaeologists familiar with Hiwassee suspected the site held more secrets. Lynne Sullivan, a research professor and curator at the McClung Museum at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, found intact cultural deposits on Hiwassee when conducting field schools there in the late 1990s. That caught the attention of the TVA. The agency is responsible for protecting archaeological sites within the land it manages, and it can’t protect sites it doesn’t know exist. “People say, oh, that island’s been plowed for a hundred years, there’s no archaeology left,” said Pritchard. “We didn’t believe that, but we couldn’t prove it.” So in 2015 the TVA decided to take another look at Hiwassee Island.
Excerpt, Read More in our Fall 2018 Issue of American Archaeology, Vol. 22 No. 2. Browse Contents: FALL 2018.
Peering down into the corner of a dig site in Williamsburg, the eighteenth-century capital of Virginia, archaeologist Mark Kostro watched a field school student scrape away dark gray soil from a layer of yellowish-orange clay beneath it. “That’s encouraging,” he said. “That might possibly be topping a trash pit.” On a hot, humid day last June, students from the College of William & Mary were excavating an area next to a brick outbuilding behind the Carter House, which was built in 1727 by Robert “King” Carter, one of the wealthiest men in colonial Virginia. Kostro was hopeful that the dig would uncover a trash pit containing clues that would explain how the building was used and when it was built.
“It’s very curious,” he said. Most outbuildings in the town were made from inferior materials, and a brick outbuilding would have been an unusual outlay of money. It may have been a laundry, an office, a slave quarters, or a household member may have lived there, he speculated. Kitchens were among the most common outbuildings, but this building’s hearth was unusually small, which suggested that it served a different purpose. Usually, kitchens, dairies, smokehouses, stables, and other outbuildings, were located in the backyards of homes. In the middle of Carter’s backyard, however, archaeologists have instead found evidence of pathways and planting beds that may have been part of a terraced garden.
The field school is part of ongoing archaeological research conducted by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation that began in 1928 after the Reverend W.A.R. Goodwin of Bruton Parish recognized that much of the historic town had survived and he convinced philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to restore and reconstruct the entire city. Now known as Colonial Williamsburg, the 301-acre restored area encompasses eighty-five percent of the historic town and includes eighty-eight original, and more than 300 reconstructed, buildings.
Excerpt, Read More in our Fall 2018 Issue of American Archaeology, Vol. 22 No. 2. Browse Contents : FALL 2018.
15,000 Year-Old Pre-Clovis Sites Cluster at Wakulla Springs, FloridaAre These Evidence of Mastodon Kill Sites?
Great to see old friend and Paleo-Indian archaeologist Dr. Andy Hemmings as I follow him on his latest Paleo-research collaboration along coastal Florida. I first met him at Vero Beach where he was heavily involved with the Vero Man excavation, confirming the pre-Clovis antiquity of that site with project director Dr. James Adovasio and crew from Mercyhurst University.
Now it’s another 15,000-year-old, Paleoindian site that fascinates these scientists – more a series of sites clustered around the freshwater springs and river at the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, south of today’s Tallahassee along the Gulf. Working with lead researcher Dr. Jim Dunbar, who discovered and intensively documented the Page-Ladsen Pre-Clovis mastodon kill site just 25 miles away, they’re finding that these sites appear to be contemporaneous and to also both involve mastodons and ancient humans, though to what degree at Wakulla Springs remains a question they’re working to answer.
In 2012, Dunbar founded the non-profit Aucilla Research Institute (ARI) in 2012 to focus research and public education on this area. He is Principal Investigator of the Wakulla Springs project and Director of its Paleoindian and Early Archaic component; Hemmings serves as the project’s Co-Principal Investigator, directing the Paleo-Indian, Early Archaic, and Underwater components.
The primary area their group is working in is a pit on the edge of the Wakulla Springs Lodge Site, a Paleo-Indian site first documented in 1995 when a park archaeologist was conducting a small excavation near the Lodge and found distinctive Paleoindian and late Archaic tools and other items that date the site to at least 13,000 years ago.
The team has been excavating this pit since 2015. This day is one of their last days on site, so the researcher in charge of keeping everything on track quickly shoves me off to bother Hemmings with my questions, and not bog the crew down with distracting photo-ops and jokes as they try to wrap it up at the site. The excavation is easy digging in the sand, and the two men working down in the pit wear socks so as not to make too much of an impression. I assumed they switched off with the people that were taking the heavy buckets they had filled of sand and wheeling them over to their window-screens to sift for artifacts, but NO, they said. They like the consistency of the same excavators working the entire project, and these two gentlemen were the ones. While they have a great sense of humor and like to joke around, they are very serious and incredibly precise about their excavation, no messing around there.
And they get to dive! (Their eyes especially light up when they discuss this part of their research plans). Most of these folks have their diving credentials and will be involved with both the upcoming underwater component of the University of Georgia fieldschool they’ll be working with and the underwater sampling they hope to undertake later in the year in the ‘Bone Room’ – the vast, underwater cavern where the spring ejects and a high density of mastodon bones have been found, and two other locations farther down along the now-protected Wakulla River.
Edward Ball, real estate tycoon from the area, bought the property in 1931 and today it’s part-conservation part-recreation area as the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, a concept that appears to work quite well, with families and teenagers flocking to the consistently-cool temperatures of the clear spring waters to swim and take turns diving off the high wooden tower above the spring, some 200 feet deep. The historic Wakulla Lodge is an amazing work of art designed by Edward Ball — an amalgamation of Spanish-Moorish and art-deco styles, with hand-painted cranes on the wooden panels of the grand reception room ceiling and the first indoor, mechanical hotel elevator in the world, built in 1937.
The State purchased the land when Ball died in 1981, and the Lodge is privately run to serve the tourists visiting the springs and hold many weddings and receptions. Three times a day guided boat tours are offered along the protected corridor of the Wakulla River, giving visitors a chance to see an incredible diversity of wild flora and fauna, an area otherwise closed to the public or anyone who isn’t directly involved with periodic maintenance there. The lush, green riverine setting with tropical vegetation and amazing wildlife is a sight for Southwest desert eyes for sure. The original Tarzan was filmed here back in the 1930s, and Creature from the Black Lagoon in 1954. It’s a gorgeous place, I see why people love it here — kind of a hidden gem.
To work here would be heaven, I would think – aside from the oppressive humidity, which I’m not used to coming from the high desert. But it didn’t seem to bother them as they worked away in the shade of their covered pit, some of them taking a dip in the spring after lunch before resuming. They all clearly had their system down and were racing to meet their deadline, so I slowly backed away to bother Hemmings, tossing them the free hats and magazines and other Conservancy and American Archaeology paraphernalia I come with to thank them for their time.
Standing with Hemmings at the top of the wooden tower, we watch the jumpers and divers as they blast down into the deep, cool aquamarine spring waters and swim up like tadpoles triumphant. Hemmings excitedly points to the area where this fall they hope to bring their boats over and, from the shallower edge, they plan to conduct dives into the deeper areas to obtain samples where mastodon remains had been reported. “Fingers crossed!” He exclaims, holding his up. “We will get the permissions and permits we need to accomplish these tasks and answer these questions!” Stay tuned …Keep your eyes peeled for the full article ‘Of Mastodons and Men’ in American Archaeology Magazine Fall 2018, hitting Newsstands next week.
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The English-Harkey site lies in Lone Mountain Canyon, a few miles north of the Town of Carrizozo, New Mexico. The site, which was first recorded in 1973, is an early Jornada Mogollon settlement that dates to the little-known Corona Phase between A.D. 950 and 1000, when this region was scattered with small hamlets. Subsequently, people began to aggregate at larger sites and focus more intensively on agriculture.
In 1986, a team led by archaeologists Jane Kelley and Joe Stewart of the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, investigated the site, which is named after landowners Fred English and Howard Harkey of Carrizozo. The researchers defined the site boundaries, created a map, and proposed auger testing and excavations of portions of the site. In order to determine the nature, depth, and preservation of cultural deposits, the archaeologists conducted forty-nine auger tests within and outside of forty-three features. They also excavated two of these features as well as another area. The researchers’ principal objective was the recovery of faunal and botanical samples from these archaeological contexts, since such material has rarely been found intact at a Corona phase site.
Botanical analysis of the plant remains revealed charred corn, juniper seeds, pine bark fragments, and yucca seeds and pods. The faunal remains came from antelopes, rabbits, and rodents. Future research at the site will help to refine our understanding of the region’s chronology and the nature of subsistence strategies for this period during which people apparently did not practice intensive agriculture.
The site faced threats from modern development, looting, grazing, and erosion, and was listed for sale by the previous landowners. The Conservancy recently purchased the 19.5-acre lot containing the site for $15,000 with funds from the Point-6 program. The site will be fenced and a long-term management plan will be created to address site security, stabilization, and access issues with input from adjacent landowners, the State Historic Preservation Division, and knowledgeable archaeologists.
This excerpt was published in our SUMMER 2018 Issue of American Archaeology.
Browse the article excerpts in our last issue SUMMER 2018Issue.
The upper Little Colorado River region of northeastern Arizona has a rich archaeological heritage with hundreds, if not thousands, of Ancestral Puebloan sites. This area is described by the Zuni people as an “umbilical cord” that connects Zuni Pueblo in west-central New Mexico with their place of origin in the Grand Canyon. Amity Pueblo, which was established as early as A.D. 900, is a highly significant ancestral village for the Pueblo of Zuni. It’s now a rubble mound that’s thought to contain some sixty rooms. Archaeologists previously evaluated the site as eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, and four tribes have stated that it is a traditional cultural property, meaning it holds religious significance for them.
Amity Pueblo is the Conservancy’s eighth ancestral Zuni preserve in Arizona and New Mexico. The Conservancy, in consultation with the tribes, Arizona Game and Fish, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, archaeologists, and adjacent property owners, will develop a long-term management plan for the site that will include provisions for routine monitoring and access to the land by the consulting tribes.
This excerpt was published in our SUMMER 2018 Issue of American Archaeology.
Browse the article excerpts in our last issue SUMMER 2018Issue.
The Perthshire Mound site, named for the community in Mississippi in which it’s located, was first officially recorded in 1940. Unfortunately, there are no photos of the site and no sketch map from this recording. The site description simply states that there are two mounds with a highway separating them. The mound on the west side of the highway was approximately eight-feet high, and the mound on the east side was about six. Both mounds were surrounded by cotton fields. Shortly after the site was recorded and before even a rudimentary surface collection could be done, the east-side mound was destroyed to facilitate cotton production. But the other mound has remained intact, and was owned by a member of the Knowlton family, who also owned the land back in 1940.
The Perthshire Mound site has been in the Knowlton family for many years and it was one of the plantations documented by photographer Marion Post Wolcott, a photographer for the
Farm Security Administration, in 1939 and 1940. Her photographs depict the lives of those who were tenants on the plantation and the work required to cultivate cotton in the 1930s and 1940s.
Perthshire Mound and the land around it has been home to generations of Mississippians, both prehistorically and historically, and in order to ensure its preservation, owner Sam
Knowlton recently donated the mound to the Conservancy. It now joins the nearby Blanchard Mound site, which the Conservancy also acquired.
This excerpt was published in our SUMMER 2018 Issue of American Archaeology. Browse the article excerpts in our last issue SUMMER 2018Issue.