Phase III fieldwork at the Warwick Site ended on May 9th, with the completion of 33 test units. Fifty-nine square meters, or roughly 635 square feet, were excavated during the Phase I through III fieldwork. All artifacts have been returned to the lab for cleaning and detailed analysis. The artifacts will be measured, weighed, and classified by type of stone, reduction stage, and shape. Reduction stage refers to extent to which tools have been shaped and thinned, and to the point in tool manufacturing when flakes were removed. For example, during the initial stage, as the tool is roughly shaped, flakes tend to be large and the weathered exterior of the stone, termed the cortex, is often present. In contrast, sharpening a finished tool tends to produce small flakes that lack cortex on the flake. In addition, points will be classified by reference to standard sources, like William Ritchie’s A Typology and Nomenclature for New York Projectile Points and Noel Justice’s Stone Age Spear and Arrow Points of the Midcontinental and Eastern United States; on-line information posted by Delaware’s Historic Preservation Office (http://history.delaware.gov/archaeology/points/start.shtml) and Maryland’s Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum will also be consulted (http://www.jefpat.org/diagnostic/Maryland_Projectile_Points/index-projectilepoints.html). The information will then be typed into a data base for analysis.
The previous post characterized the Warwick Site as a way station where small groups monitored game trails, sharpened tools, and consumed packed snacks, locally available foods, or both; ongoing excavation of the Warwick Site has reinforced this assessment. Nevertheless, the more robust view of the spatial distribution of artifacts across the site revealed by newly excavated test units highlights variation in the density and location of different types of artifacts and, perhaps, different activities, and has implications for the length and type of past occupations. Within the core of the site, for example, artifact density reached 30 to 65 artifacts per test unit, well above the amount recovered from most test units. In contrast, very few artifacts occurred in the southeastern test units, though several tools were unearthed in that area and a small basin-shaped pit was identified during the earlier work. The pit contained only charcoal and very small fragments of chipping debris that would have fallen through the screens used to standardize artifact collection. Microdebitage, the archaeological term for the very small chips recovered by passing the sediments from the feature through screens similar to mosquito mesh, may be one key to evaluating the way-station hypothesis.
Two ethnographic observations illustrate the value of microdebitage: 1) people maintain sleeping and common areas by relocating large debris to the unused portions of the landform; and 2) the extent of maintenance and the organization of space tend to correlate with length of stay at a location. While cleaning, people often overlook extremely small fragments of chipping debris. If, therefore, flintknappers sharpening tools created the artifact-rich core of the site, microdebitage should be present. The absence of very small debris implies that larger material was tossed or swept from the actual location where tools were manufactured. Similarly, if a dearth of microdebitage does not accompany the dearth of refuse in the southeastern corner of the excavation block, the proposed interpretation flounders. The presence of significant amounts of microdebitage in an artifact-poor area implies extensive cleaning around the pit feature. The level of maintenance and spatial organization implied by extensive cleaning of a living area suggests a longer-term occupation that required more extensive organization of the use of space than predicted by the way-station hypothesis. Consequently, samples collected from the test units will be screened through fine mesh and examined under low magnification to assess the presence and frequency of microdebitage in different portions of the site.