Goose bumps precede final day of field school
Tomorrow (June 8) will be our last day excavating feature number 549, which “Team Awesome” has been working on for the majority of our days in the field. Our group trip to Ash Cave and Old Man’s cave yesterday was the perfect thing we needed for a bit of a moral boost.
When Paco told us we would be going to a rock shelter I pictured a small cave in the middle of the woods. Much the opposite, the enormity of Ash Cave astounded us all to extremes. The horse-shoe shaped rim of the rock recess soars 700 feet in the air, with an incredible waterfall dripping from the top into a pond below.
I had goose bumps covering my body when the wooded path split and opened to this sight. I pictured living here with the earliest people, building fires and holding meetings; the simplicity of their life in such a beautiful place.
Ash Cave was given its name because when the earliest settlers discovered it in the 1800’s, there were piles and piles of ashes still covering the floor-clearly formed by thousands of years of fires.
Bones, pottery, corncobs, flints, course grasses, spear points, and other artifacts were also found at this site during excavations in the 60’s and 70’s. Old Man’s cave was a bit less exciting and grandiose, yet still strange and incredible to think that this was once someone’s home. It opened up all of our eyes a bit more to what life used to be like thousands of years ago, and also gave us a break from baking in the 93 degree heat and endless sunshine of the cornfield.
We have found out a ton of fascinating things about our pit and the cultures that left artifacts behind here. Our feature ended up being stratified which means it was occupied at different time periods by different people. The bottom layer was Middle Woodland Hopewell,
and the top layer was Late Woodland.
The theory that the students and professors came up with was that the center of the feature was filled in by the Hopewell and there was either a flood which brought the gravel in, or a later culture which reused the
pit and then backfilled it with gravel. One of the later cultures that we suspect to have been here was the Levanna culture.
This suspicion is strongly based on our most exciting find yet- a spear point!
This was found in the last quarter we are excavating, the Southeast quarter. Ian and myself dug down to nearly 80 cm below the plow zone in one work day, and our hard work paid off with more cord marked pottery, lots of fire cracked rocks, charcoal, burnt bone, colorful flakes and cores, and of course our beautiful spear point!
Tomorrow we will finish the excavation of our beloved feature and the Southeast quarter, do a soil sample and some profile maps, organize the FCR (fire cracked rock) and weigh it, and then sadly backfill the seven tons of dirt back into the ground, layer by layer.
— Tracy Byrne and Ian Gebhard, senior anthropology majors