Archive for the ‘US301’ Category

US Route 301 Archaeology Update

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Osteological and Ancient DNA Analyses of Burials from the Elkins Site (7NC-G-174) Completed

Five burials (A, B, C, D and G) were excavated at the Elkins Site (7NC-G-174) in late September and early October of 2012 by Hunter Research, Inc. The osteological and ancient DNA analyses of the four adults and one infant have been completed by skeletal biologists and an anthropological geneticist at the University of Montana.

Of the four adults (Burials B, C, D and G), two were male and two were female. Ancient DNA analysis of the amelogenin gene indicates that the 2- to 5-month-old infant (Burial A) was male. These results are exciting as sex of this infant could not have been estimated from the skeletal remains. The table below presents an overview of the human skeletal remains from this site.

Elkins Burials

Results of the mitochondrial DNA analysis (which traces maternal genetic lineages) classifies all five individuals as having European maternal ancestry. Interestingly neither of the adult females were the mother of the young infant, but the elderly male from Burial D shares the same mitochondrial DNA mutations suggesting that they are maternally related.

All of the adults show evidence for rigorous physical activity, and the older individuals suffered from osteoarthritis to varying degrees. The elderly male in Burial D was particularly affected by degenerative changes to his skeleton with fusion of multiple vertebrae in his neck and lower back due to extensive bony growths. The anterior joint of his pelvis, the pubic symphysis, was also completely fused and evidence for degenerative joint disease was found across his body. He had also suffered from a broken nose, a broken rib and a broken foot bone during life!

Dental health among these individuals was not particularly good. All adults had lost teeth during life and many of the teeth that remained had small to large cavities. Both adult males had pipe stem facets/grooves in the teeth of both males from clenching a pipe stem in the mouth. Chipping of the chewing edge of the canines was observed on the female of Burial G, suggesting she held hard objects such as straight pins between her teeth.

 

Burial C teeth with closeup of pipe stem groove (right).

Burial C teeth with closeup of pipe stem groove (right).

Burial D with close up of pipe stem grooves (right).

Burial D with close up of pipe stem grooves (right).

US Route 301 Archaeology Update

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

The Report on the Analysis of Flotation-recovered and Hand-collected Archeobotanical Remains from the Elkins Sites (7NC-G-174),

New Castle County, Delaware. Phase III Archaeological Data Recovery by Justine McKnight, Archeobotanical Consultant to Hunter Research, Inc. has yielded some very interesting results which contribute significantly to the archaeological record in Delaware.

 INTRODUCTION

Phase III archaeological data recovery at the Elkins Sites (7NC-G-174) in New Castle County, Delaware, was conducted by Hunter Research, Inc. as part of the Delaware Department of Transportation’s U.S. Route 301 Development Project.   The Elkins Site complex comprises the Elkins A site, the Elkins Burial site and the Elkins B site – three discrete but closely tied archaeological components with historic occupations focused during the eighteenth century.  Elkins A describes a domestic site occupied from ca. 1740 to ca. 1780 that overlies a prehistoric occupation.  The Elkins Burial component describes a small cemetery plot containing five individuals preliminarily dated to the late 17th or early 18th century.  The Elkins B component is a briefly occupied historic site in use from the mid-1720’s through the early 1730’s.  A prehistoric component has also been identified at Elkins B.

Research goals of the data recovery effort include exploration of the relationship between the three site components, definition of cultural occupancy and ethnicity, delineation of landscape and exploration of site economies.  Excavated features yielded carbonized plant macro-remains which relate directly to these research themes.  Importantly, archeobotanical data from the Elkins Sites contribute to the regional archeobotanical dataset. 

 SUMMARY OF THE RESULTS

Some particularly notable features were excavated at the Elkins sites:  The domestic cellar at Elkins B produced the richest deposits of macro-botanical remains (99.6 percent of the total carbon recovered through flotation at Elkins B).  Recovered remains included concentrations of field crops (wheat, wheat/oat, maize, pea, bean), fruits (peach, cherry, grape), weedy growth (sedge), and morning glory (Ipomoea sp.) which may have been employed as a medicinal or ornamental plant.  Wood charcoal (oaks and hickory) recovered from the Elkins B cellar likely represents the remains of fuel wood.  Each of these is a high-calorie wood that would have been locally abundant (Graves 1919).    The Wolf Pit feature identified at Elkins A presents a regionally unique feature type.  Analysis of one flotation sample and five hand-collected carbon samples were scrutinized from this feature.  Archeobotanical remains from the Wolf Pit were limited to wood charcoal.  Pine was the most abundant wood type identified, followed by hickory.  Unidentifiable deciduous species were also recorded.   While not definitive, the recovery of these taxa from the pit may reveal details of trap construction.

Archeobotanical remains from the Elkins sites derive from 16 flotation samples and 34 hand collected samples.  A variety of economically important cultivated and wild plant resources were documented within the assemblage.   A rigorous program of soil flotation (approximately 651 liters) and hand-collected carbon samples produced historically significant plant macro-fossils, including wood charcoal, a range of field crops (including bean, wheat, maize and peas), cultivated fruit pits and seeds, limited evidence of medicinal and ornamental plants, along with vegetal miscellany.  The results from the large domestic cellar excavated at Elkins B were particularly informative, providing strong evidence for a working farmstead where the cultivation of field crops and orchards were important pursuits.

Charred wheat kernels from Elkins B Cellar hole.

Charred wheat kernels from Elkins B Cellar hole.

US Route 301 Archaeology Update

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Identification and AMS Radiocarbon Dating of Charcoal and Botanic Samples From the Elkins B Site (7NC-G-174) in New Castle County, Delaware

By Peter Kovacik with assistance from R. A. Varney of Paleo Research Institute, Golden, Colorado for Hunter Research, Inc.

 This report provides carbon 14 dates for five prehistoric pits features from the Elkins B site excavated by Hunter Research, Inc.

 Context 514 dates to the Middle Archaic Period

Context 518 dates to the Woodland I – Middle Woodland Period

Context 520 dates to the end of the Woodland I – Middle Woodland Period

Context 536 dates to the end of the Woodland II Period – Early Contact Period

Context 528 dates from circa AD 1730 to AD 1810

Of note:  Context 528 which dates to circa 1730 to 1810 was located approximately 40 feet west of the Elkins B cellar hole which dates from the mid-1720’s through the early 1730’s falls within the early part of the range but contained no historic artifacts and in fact exhibited all of the characteristics of a prehistoric storage pit.  Preliminary examination of the material culture has suggested the occupants of Elkins B may have included an assimilated Native American.  This site contains very few subsurface features, so perhaps if a Native American was living there a combination of European and traditional Native American traits were employed at this site.  Below is a table with the raw and calibrated data from the five pit features.   

RADIOCARBON RESULTS FOR SAMPLES FROM

THE ELKINS B SITE (7NC-G-174) IN NEW CASTLE COUNTY, DELAWARE

 

Sample

No.

 Sample

Identification

  

AMS 14C Date*

 1-sigma Calibrated Date (68.2%)  2-sigma Calibrated Date (95.4%)  δ13C**

(o/oo)

 

PRI-14-030-528

 Quercus – Erythrobalanus group charcoal  188 ± 22

RCYBP

 290–260;

220–140;

20–(‑11)

CAL yr. BP

 300–260;

220–140;

30–(‑11)

CAL yr. BP

 -25.1
 AD 1660–1690

AD 1730–1810

AD 1930–1960

 AD 1650–1690

AD 1730–1810

AD 1920–1960

 

PRI-14-030-536

 Quercus – Erythrobalanus group charcoal  319 ± 21

RCYBP

 430–350;

340–310

CAL yr. BP

 460–300

CAL yr. BP

 -25.5
 AD 1520–1600

AD 1610–1640

 AD 1490–1650
 

PRI-14-030-520

 Carya nutshell, charred  1479 ± 22

RCYBP

 1390–1340

CAL yr. BP

 1405–1315

CAL yr. BP

 -24.5
 AD 560–610  AD 545–635
 

PRI-14-030-518

 Quercus -Leucobalanus group charcoal  1955 ± 22

RCYBP

 1930–1875

CAL yr. BP

 1970–1860; 1850–1820

CAL yr. BP

 -26.4
 AD 20–75  20 BC–AD 90

AD 100–130

 

PRI-14-030-514

 Carya nutshell, charred  6328 ± 25

RCYBP

 7310–7240; 7200–7170

CAL yr. BP

 7320–7170

CAL yr. BP

 -24.3
 5360–5290 BC 5250–5220 BC  5370–5220 BC

 * Reported in radiocarbon years at 1 standard deviation measurement precision (68.2%),

corrected for δ13C.

 ** δ13C values are measured by AMS during the 14C measurement.  The AMS-δ13C values

are used for the 14C calculation and should not be used for dietary or

paleoenvironmental interpretations.

US Route 301 Archaeology Update

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Alternative Mitigation of the Polk Tenant Site (7NC-F-111)  April, 2014

One of the things archaeologists are interested in is what archaeological sites can tell us about how people organized their space. We took a look at where the wells in our sample were located to see how far they were from the nearest buildings or structures. What we learned is that most wells were very close to at least one structure on site. First we looked at the distance to the principal structure or dwelling recorded on the site. Figure 1 shows the average distance between excavated wells and the site dwelling by material. All of the well types averaged between 30 and 56 feet away. However, there was substantial variation in the distances recorded. The greatest variability was found among wood frame lined wells, which were found as far away as nearly 200 feet from the dwelling.

Figure 1: Average distance between excavated wells and principal site building by material

Figure 1: Average distance between excavated wells and principal site building by material

Then we looked at the distance between the wells in our sample and the nearest structure of any kind, which included not only dwellings, but working structures such as smokehouses, dairies, wash houses, and stables. When we did, we found that the average distance and the variability in that distance were both less than with the distance to the main site building. With the exception of wood box lined wells, excavated wells averaged just 20 feet from the nearest structure. Water isn’t just necessary for people and animals to drink, it’s also necessary for many kinds of work. It makes sense that in the days before indoor plumbing, people arranged their homes, farms, and places of work so that needed water was never too far away.

We also took a look at the material used to make wells for outbuildings and compared those to wells nearest to the main structure on site. The percentage of outbuilding wells made with barrels or brick do not seem to differ much from main building wells. However, the percentage of wells that are made of stone or wood framing does differ. It seems that barrel and brick wells were no more or less likely to be associated with an outbuilding than with the principal structure on site, but that stone wells were more likely to be associated with a dwelling or other principal structure and wood-lined wells were more likely to be associated with an outbuilding. This is unsurprising given the relative effort to build a stone-lined versus a wood frame well that stone-lined wells would be reserved for the most important structures on a site. They might also be expected to last longer, and need repair less frequently.

US Route 301 Archaeology Update

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Update for the Levels Road-Rumsey Polk Site

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

Eighteenth-century occupants of the Rumsey/Polk Tenant/Prehistoric Site (CRS # N-14492; 7NC-F-112) in St. George’s Hundred near Middletown may not have been at the top of the food chain. They struggled to protect themselves with hunting, trapping, and laws providing bounties for killing wolves. Predation by wolves was not just part of a bad fairy tale. It was a real and frightening part of their lives threatening both livestock and people. Artifact and faunal analysis are underway for the Phase II/III archaeological investigations at the Rumsey/Polk site and are revealing some fascinating tidbits about the lives of the site’s residents. RGA’s staff faunal expert, Dr. Adam Heinrich, has identified the bones of a wolf from Feature 5, a subfloor pit that also yielded fragments of an iron kettle, large pieces of a North Devon gravel tempered crock or jar, portions of a riding saddle, and many fragments of an imported English hand painted creamware canister-shaped teapot. The range of artifacts and faunal remains hints at some of the day-to-day tensions and challenges faced by these folks, tenants of the socially prominent Rumsey family.  The wolf bones include the right and left scapulae (shoulder blades), the right ulna and radius (forearm bones), and most of the right front foot. Even more intriguing, the bones were butchered. The wrist end of the radius and ulna contain cut marks made by a metal knife. The location of these marks near the animal’s wrist indicates removal of the wolf’s pelt after it was killed. The wolf found in Feature 5 may have been shot. An oval shaped pit with crushed bone within it is located on the animal’s elbow, consistent with being shot with the lead balls from a musket or comparable firearm. It is uncertain if being shot in the elbow had killed the wolf, but it may have injured it enough to be finished off more easily. Ongoing analysis is expected to reveal more about the site’s occupants and their lives in this world that was still part of the frontier in eighteenth century Delaware.

Wolf bones from Feature 5

Wolf bones from Feature 5

Cut marks on wolf bone

 

US Route 301 Archaeology Update

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Cardon-Holton Site 7NC-F-128 (Hunter Research, Inc.)

Analysis is underway on the data from the Cardon-Holton site 7NC-F-128.  Hunter Research, Inc. is currently working with a range of specialists to explore different types of material recovered in the excavations.

The most exciting information to date comes from the preliminary examination of the wood recovered from the well feature at the Cardon-Holton site 7NC-F-128 by the Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory.  This has provided us with two dates: 1737 and 1753.  The on-going study of historic wells in Delaware indicates that very few firm dates exist, and most are derived from artifact evidence rather than the much more precise information from tree rings. Conservation of the wood from the well is underway at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab, providing a preserved example of dated well-timbering from Delaware.

Our assumption is that the two dates reflect the initial construction and a subsequent repair/replacement of structural members of the well casing.  Archaeological evidence suggested the well had been either deepened or repaired, as the upper portion exhibited signs of shoring atypical of normal well construction.  Deepening of the well may have been in response to a drought.  Repairs are common for wooden wells given their perishable nature in an environment with a fluctuating water table.

The two dates can be compared with the site occupation range of 1720 to 1740 suggested by the ceramic assemblage.  As the site was situated adjacent to an intermittent stream and a likely spring head, there may not have been a need for a well initially… until perhaps a drought caused their water source to dry up.  Was the well constructed in response to a drought which caused the spring head to run dry during the occupation?  Initial research shows that a severe drought hit the region in 1730.  Could the well have been maintained or re-established for agricultural use after the domestic occupation had ceased to exist at the site by the new owners of the property who established a residence immediately to the north at the Holton-Cann site?

Just as interesting is the initial examination of the faunal materials by Adam Heinrich, who has identified not only the remains of a very old horse and cow, but also coyote and bear teeth!

Other specialists are analyzing soil samples for chemical signatures, macro-floral remains, phytoliths and pollen remains.  These studies will help to piece together a picture of the former environment at the site.

US Route 301 Archaeology Update

Monday, March 10th, 2014

In the course of researching African American life in St. Georges Hundred for the Dale site alternative mitigation, the Louise Berger Group came across the probate records of Thomas Bayard, who died in 1864. Bayard was a farmer who lived just east of Odessa, Delaware, a prosperous man who owned a dozen horses, an “old pleasure carriage,” six silver tea spoons, and a French silver watch. He was one of the two richest African Americans in his part of Delaware, probably one of the ten richest in the whole state. When he died, he left a will calling for his whole estate to be sold, including the land, and the money divided among his heirs. Probably this was his children’s own wish — probably they wanted to move to the city or study for the ministry, so the farm was sold to further their ambitions. This made his estate sale a big event. The whole contents of a prosperous, up-to-date farm were auctioned off, from the cows to the bed sheets, and the whole neighborhood turned out to bid. The record of the sale lists 193 lots sold to 36 different bidders, with a total value of $400.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the sale is that the bidders were about equally black and white. Fifteen African-Americans brought something home from the sale, along with 21 whites. Six of the bidders were women, one white and five African American. The document shows no sign of segregation, as black and white names are mixed together in haphazard order. They bought some of the same things, too. The women bid mainly on household items, although one bought a beehive, but the black and white men bid on everything. A wealthy white man bought some of Bayard’s bed sheets and pillow cases. In the small section above (the sale spills across six pages), Harris, Brinckley, Segars and Griffin are African American families, but Stevens, Chambers, and Doughten were whites. Surely this was one of the most thoroughly integrated events in the history of Delaware up to that time.

What could bring blacks and whites together in America? A bargain.

Two of the quilts in the section above are also intriguing. Quilts typically sold for a dollar or two, but two of Thomas Bayard’s quilts sold for $5.00 and $4.70. Those must have been very fine quilts indeed to have brought that price from these practical farm folk. Some woman in Thomas Bayard’s household must have been an ace quilt maker. The valuable quilts were bought by Joshua Brinckley, who was married to Bayard’s daughter Eliza, so perhaps he and his wife were determined to keep grandma’s best work in the family.

US Route 301 Archaeology Update

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Alternative Mitigation of the Polk Tenant Site (7NC-F-111), February, 2014

This month we’re continuing in our analysis of well data in Delaware, taking a look at well depth and the local water table. Perhaps one of the most salient characteristics of the wells in our sample is that many of them are very shallow. None of those for which bottom depth was recorded is deeper than 30 feet, and all but 4 of those are 15 feet deep or less. Three other wells were excavated to below 20 feet, but the depth at the bottom was not documented for these.  Figure 1 illustrates the data for the 20 wells for which the bottom depth was identified. The depth recorded by the archaeology is shown (the height of the bar) along with a blue line that shows the average depth of the water table according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a division of the USDA that collects data about soils and water. The red line on some of the bars indicates the depth at which archaeologists recorded the water table. Most of the excavated wells show a close agreement between the predicted or observed water table and the depth of the well.

This has obvious implications for the technology used to dig and line these wells, and also for the potential reliability and quality of the water obtained. With the exception of the wells at 7NC-B-11 (Weldin Plantation) and 7K-C-203 (John Powell Plantation), the wells in the sample were dug little deeper than the water table. One advantage of shallow wells is that they don’t require any special technology to dig, and you can get away with fairly expedient technologies for linings, like using barrels. On the other hand, such materials might be more prone to fail than masonry linings, requiring that site occupants dig new wells periodically. In fact, 12 of the sites in the sample include multiple wells that may have been used in succession, including the Moore Taylor Farm (7K-C-380) which had five wells. Shallow wells might also be prone to contamination.

One significant problem with this data set is that the original constructed depth of the well was only recorded for 20 of the 53 features documented. Not fully excavating a deep well is understandable, given the challenges and hazards associated with excavation below the water table.  However, not documenting the base of the well poses an obvious dilemma for interpreting well technology in Delaware. Answering the question about whether people in Delaware sometimes dug their wells deeper to avoid them running dry requires that the bottom depth be determined and clearly documented. Finding the base of the well may also be important for dating, since material deposited at the bottom of a well may indicate the period of use and abandonment. Material recovered near the top of a well, in contrast, may be related to much later activity, perhaps when the site as a whole was abandoned.

US Route 301 Archaeology Update

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

This past weekend Dovetail assisted the Archaeological Society of Delaware (ASD) and the Delaware Department of Transportation with an artifact display at the Annual Gem Mineral and Fossil show in Newark, Delaware. The show was hosted by a wonderful group of people from the Delaware Mineralogical Society, Inc http://www.delminsociety.net/

Although the show’s primary focus was on fossils and gems, archaeology did have its place. The ASD and the Archaeological Society of Maryland had tables with artifacts highlighting the prehistoric occupation of the Delaware and Maryland region, while a sample of historic artifacts recovered during the Route 301 excavations were in a display case in the main room. There was an overwhelming response from the attendees to see artifacts from Delaware, and many appreciated seeing and learning a little more about the history of their home state.

US Route 301 Archaeology Update

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Alternative Mitigation of the Polk Tenant Site (7NC-F-111)

We have collected data from more than 50 well features excavated in Delaware, and this month at Versar we’re blogging about the beginnings of our data analysis. We have collected dozens of different attributes (such as depth and lining material), and our task now is to look for patterns among those attributes across time and place. At this stage, there are a couple of observations we can make about the materials used to line wells.

The earliest wells in our sample were all lined with wood until the second quarter of the 18th century. Most of these early wells were rectangular wood plank wells, though there is a wood plank well with a barrel at the bottom dating from probably the first quarter of the 18th century. Barrel-only wells appear in the sample by the third quarter of the 18th century, and seem to persist until the third quarter of the 19th century.  Masonry well linings appear later, and continue through the latest wells included in the study. The first brick well in the sample appears to date from the second quarter of the 18th century, while the first stone-lined wells date from the last quarter of the 18th century.

well material by date

well material by date

This makes some intuitive sense, and mirrors patterns in construction materials used for other structures. Brick makers and bricks might not have been widely available in the earliest years of European settlement, while wood would have been abundant. Barrels might also have been common, and an easy expedient for lining a shallow well, compared to the level of effort that would have been needed to line a well with brick or stone. All one needed to do was to remove the top and bottom of the barrel, and lower it into the hole dug for the well shaft. Since most wells excavated in Delaware are quite shallow, one could line a well with as few as three barrels.

Wells Map

Wells Map