Author: Emily V Johnson

SD2017 Finds of the Week [4]

SD2017 Finds of the Week [4]

It’s taken me quite a while to get this Finds of the Week written and posted! Here’s a couple of final finds from Mitchell, including my star find of the month! First, we begin with some lithics…

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This lithic point and lithic debitage came from the material that went through floatation. Spoil from the excavation is mixed with water, causing the charcoal within to float. This, and a million bits of rock and bone, were the bits that sank! It was amazing what we pulled out, what would have been missed!
This is a thumbnail scraper, a scraping tool. It’s one of several we found this year on the site, but this one came from a typically empty square so it was exciting!

Our final (final) find of the week was this collection of artefacts. Here in this area the excavations are just coming down on the edge of a burnt lodge. We think the fire was not intentional due to the interesting placement of artefacts within and around it. Here we have six bison scapula (shoulder blades) that have been used as hoes for gardening. They would have been hafted at a 90 degree angle and used in managing crops. Another tool, the proximal epiphysis of a bison humerus (the dark item to the top of the picture) was used as an abrading surface. These tools all show signs of heating and were likely leaning against a house wall when the fire hit! The amazing archaeological story that goes with this collection of artefacts means it’s our find of the season!

A collection of bison scapula hoes
SD2017 Finds of the Week [3]

SD2017 Finds of the Week [3]

Time for another Finds of the Week! It’s been a long one this week for students and supervisors alike – 7 days straight working, including the Archaeology Awareness Days on the weekend. During these days many students weren’t digging as usual because they were helping out visitors with the kids dig, atlatl throwing and pottery making! The awareness days were really fun.

Here’s my favourite finds from this week!

Although it’s not a typical “find of the week”, I’ve been sorting through a tray of material that sank during flotation – i.e. bone and stone. I’m separating out material that is archaeologically relevant, mainly bone fragments and lithic debitage. You can find such cool tiny tiny fragments, like this fish vertebra clasped in the tweezers!
This charred piece of plant matter could possibly tell us about what the people living at the site where eating! It might be some sort of root or tuber.
Cermics are quite often found on site, but it’s rare that they have such fine decoration as this piece!
Finally this bone awl caught my eye – it’s whole and very polished, smooth and beautiful!
SD2017 Finds of the Week [2]

SD2017 Finds of the Week [2]

Another week gone in the Archeodome, and what a week it’s been for some really amazing finds! I’ve decided to stop my daily blog posts as they were getting a little repetitive, so from now on there will just be these weekly roundups! Here’s my personal favourite artefacts from the past week.

This bison metacarpal, the last long bone before the toes in the forelimb (in our hands in humans), was found together with these two sesamoid bones, which sit behind the toes (they don’t really go where we put them for the photo!). This bone is cool because it’s whole, which is unusual on this site where bones are often broken for their internal fats, and it also has some pathological bone growth at the proximal end.
These little bones belong to a fish (the v-shaped bones) and a bird. They were found in a little pit along with lots of other bird bones and some rodent bones too. A whole menagerie of tiny animals!
Speaking of tiny animals, this partial skeleton of probably a ground squirrel was found in one of our other trenches. Unlike the previous pit, it’s unlikely that these bones are archaeological, as these burrowing animals are often guilty of disturbing our archaeology! Looks like this one paid the ultimate price!
This little bone tool was really interesting. We’re not too sure what it was for, perhaps for decorating pottery.
This shell bead is our Find Of The Week! Its about 1.5cm in diameter and around 3mm thick. Very cool!
Another bone tool, this mandible (jaw bone) could be a mustelid or a canid. The teeth along the cheek were removed, and then the incisors/canine possibly used as some sort of digging implement.

And finally, a shout out to this piece of fire-cracked rock that we named DISCO ROCK. The glittery beauty is caused by a high content of Micah in the rock. And probably funk.

SD 2017 Finds of the Week [1]

We’ve found some pretty cool stuff already at the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village! Read on in this weekly roundup of our favourites. This is week one!

This pottery fragment with the Cahokian “weeping eye” motif is surely at the top of the list of most interesting finds! It was make of local materials, suggesting local copying of Cahokian imagery and connections between the two sites.
This arrowhead was the first we found this season, we’ve had four or five more since then.
This shaped disc is made of shell, measuring just over 1cm in diameter and a few millimeters thick. It could be a gaming piece – it sure was pretty!
This is a bone tool, probably smoothed out from a rib fragment

SD 2017 Day 11

Another day of digging today, puncuated as ever with some mild and occasionally intense excitement. Most people are just heading down layer by layer, but in a few squares we have features evolving, including pits and burn zones.

Normally when students come up to me clutching some unidentified piece of material it’s either nothing at all (i.e. a rock or pebble) or it’s a rim sherd, which we plot the exact location of and draw. Occasionally we’ll get stone and bone tools, but 90% of the time it’s not anything of significance of it’s a rim sherd. Today, Vicky came up quietly behind me and handed me a beautiful shell bead, and I practically freaked out! It was so untriumphantly handed over that I wasn’t expecting it at all, and I full on brought both hands up to the side of my face like the Scream. Even Alan proclaimed it to be a “very nice” piece – praise indeed.

Unassuming perhaps​, but still a lovely shell bead, drilled from one side.

It was pretty cold today, and so I once again decided to attempt to run home from the dome. It’s just over 4 miles, and by the time we were done on site the temperature had risen considerably and the sun was shining happily, unobscured by the clouds that had been hanging over us all day. I was a little apprehensive, as last time I attempted that run it was one of the worst runs of my life! Hot, shadeless, and very straight. However, thanks to a very brisk tail wind I got home in record time, at 8.5 minutes per mile consistently, and was very very happy about that!

Tomorrow is our last day digging this week, then we’re off to Sioux Falls on Sunday. Looking forward to it!

SD 2017 Day 10

Is it day 10 already?! I can hardly believe how fast the time is going. 

Today for me started with a quick run that I kept under a mile in maximum distance from the hotel, so in the case of storms I could get back sharpish! There had been thunder, wind and golf ball sized hail in some areas, but nothing luckily hit Mitchell. 

After breakfast and a shower we all piled into the two minibuses that take us to site each day. I’m always the last to get in as I have to count us all to make sure we’re all present! Construction work on Burr street means we’ve started going a different way to the site. The construction in Mitchell this year is pretty prolific and horrific.

On site today a few cool finds came to light. There was a rodent partial skeleton, found by Ollie, which we think was likely a poor ground squirrel that burrowed into the site and died. So, not archaeological, but still interesting from my perspective! We also found this amazing bone tool, which has a sharpish edge on the outside of the small curve but is smooth aside from this. We’re not sure what it was for yet.

A partial rodent skeleton – the cranium, and left pelvis, femur and tibia.

A mystery bone tool found today!

Also today we had someone filming us on site, and as I was here 7 years ago they interviewed me! I don’t know where the footage will be or if it will even be used, but watch this space. I hope I didn’t make an arse of myself!

SD 2017 Day 9

Happy Wagon Wednesday! I’m writing this from my bed, smelling equally of woodsmoke and bugspray, and on the whole feeling perfectly content. We’ve had a lovely day today, mainly due to a tour around an old fashioned wheel and wagon workshop and a barbecue!

Today at the dig started pretty chilly after some thunderstorms last night (yes yes yes, I know you’re having a heatwave in Britain, no need to shout), but soon warmed up into the early 90s F or 30s C. One of my favourite things today was finding a pit that contained fish, bird and rodent bones all in the same place. Some very meticulous excavation resulted in the recovery of much of this material!

We were also quite excitable today because we made the local front page! There was also a video of us on the Daily Republic website. Both of which were enjoyable snapshots into seeing how we are represented and seen in the media – although the archaeology is certainly of interest, perhaps more exciting was the fact we came from Britain.

Our evening was spent at Hansen’s Wheel and Wagon, an amazing place where old stagecoaches and the like are built and restored. I’ve taken many, many photos of the place, but here are some of my favourites.