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  Archived Posts From: 2014


US Route 301 Archaeology Update

Written on: June 17th, 2014 in Archaeology UpdatesUS301

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.


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. 


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

Written on: June 17th, 2014 in Archaeology UpdatesUS301

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.   









AMS 14C Date*

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




 Quercus – Erythrobalanus group charcoal  188 ± 22





CAL yr. BP




CAL yr. BP

 AD 1660–1690

AD 1730–1810

AD 1930–1960

 AD 1650–1690

AD 1730–1810

AD 1920–1960



 Quercus – Erythrobalanus group charcoal  319 ± 21




CAL yr. BP


CAL yr. BP

 AD 1520–1600

AD 1610–1640

 AD 1490–1650


 Carya nutshell, charred  1479 ± 22



CAL yr. BP


CAL yr. BP

 AD 560–610  AD 545–635


 Quercus -Leucobalanus group charcoal  1955 ± 22



CAL yr. BP

 1970–1860; 1850–1820

CAL yr. BP

 AD 20–75  20 BC–AD 90

AD 100–130



 Carya nutshell, charred  6328 ± 25


 7310–7240; 7200–7170

CAL yr. BP


CAL yr. BP

 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.