Archaeologists unearth a unique artifact at Fort Michilimackinac: a pocket knife
MLive reports that Lynn Evans of Mackinac State Historic Parks and her colleagues discovered a 3.5-inch-long pocketknife, or clasp knife, in a root cellar of the Southeast Rowhouse at Colonial Michilimackinac.
A long-running archaeological dig at a historic Michigan fort turned up a new treasure over the holiday weekend.
While digging near a post in a root cellar at Colonial Michilimackinac on July 4, archaeologists unearthed a 3 1/2-inch pocketknife, also known as a clasp knife.
Dr. Lynn Evans, the curator of archaeology for Mackinac State Historic Parks, said the knife is about 1 inch high at the tip of the blade’s peak. According to Evans, the knife may be of French or British origin. Its exact age is currently unknown.
The knife’s discovery is the latest in a string of finds at Colonial Michilimackinaw, a reconstructed 18th-century fort and fur trading village now home to one of the nation’s longest-running archaeology programs.
Over the course of more than 60 years, annual seasonal digs have unearthed more than 1,000,000 artefacts.
The program’s current excavation site is located at what’s known as House E of the fort’s Southeast Rowhouse.
In recent years, other found artefacts have included a lead seal dating between 1717 and 1769, a brass sleeve button with an intaglio bust on it, a potential structural post dating to the original 1715 fort, an engraved “Jesuit” trade ring, a brass serpentine side plate for a British trade gun, complete remnants from a creamware plate, and other items.
Archaeologists are on site every day at the fort, weather permitting, throughout the summer.
Visitors can witness the archaeologists continuing their excavations at the site from early June until mid-August.
The best artefacts are on display at the fort’s “Treasures from the Sand” exhibit, as well as in the book Keys to the Past, written by Evans.
7,000-Year-Old Native American ‘Bog Burial’ Found Off the Coast of Florida
The 167 bodies discovered in a pond in Windover, Florida started to stir up excitement in the archaeological world only after the bones were declared very old, and not the product of mass murder. Researchers from Florida State University came to the site, believing that in the swampland some more Native American bones had been found.
They believed the bones were between 500 and 600 years old. But then the bones were dated with radiocarbon. It turns out that these corpses were between 6,990 and 8,120 years old. The academic community was then incredibly excited. Windover Bog has proved to be one of the United States’ most significant archaeological discoveries.
In 1982, Steve Vanderjagt, the man who made the discovery, was using a backhoe to demolish the pond to create a new subdivision between Disney World and Cape Canaveral. A large number of rocks in the pond confused Vanderjagt since the region of Florida was not considered to be particularly rocky.
Getting out of his backhoe, Vanderjagt went to investigate and almost immediately realized that he had unearthed a huge pile of bones. He called the authorities right away. It was only thanks to his natural curiosity that the site was preserved. After the medical examiners declared them ancient, the specialists from Florida State University were summoned (another brilliant move by Vanderjagt- too often sites are ruined because experts are not called).
Deeply intrigued, EKS Corporation, the developers of the site, financed the radiocarbon dating. Once the striking dates were revealed, the State of Florida providing a grant for the excavation.
Unlike the human remains found in European bogs, the Florida bodies are only skeletons – no flesh remains on the bones. But this does not negate their significance. Nearly half of the skulls contained brain matter. The majority of the skeletons were found lying on their left sides with their heads pointing westward, perhaps toward the setting sun, and their faces pointing to the north.
Most had their legs tucked up, as in the fetal position, however, three were lying straight. Interestingly, each corpse had a stake thrust through the loose fabric that enshrouded them, presumably to prevent them from floating to the surface of the water as decomposition filled them with air. This practical step was what ultimately protected the bodies from scavengers (animals and grave robbers) and kept them in their intended positions.
The find provides unparalleled insight into a hunter-gather community that existed 3,500 years before the Pyramids were built in Egypt. The skeletons and the artefacts found with them have been studied almost continuously in the decades since their discovery.
The research paints a picture of a hard but good life in pre-Columbian Florida. Though living mainly off what they could hunt and gather, the community was sedentary, indicating that whatever hardships they may have faced were small compared with the benefits of the area they chose to settle in.
Theirs was an incredibly caring society. Children’s bodies were almost all found to have small toys in their arms. One older woman, perhaps 50, showed signs of having several broken bones. The fractures occurred several years before her death, meaning that despite her handicap the other villagers cared for her and helped her even when she could no longer contribute significantly to the workload.
Another body, that of a 15-year-old boy, showed that he was a victim of spina bifida, a crippling birth defect where the vertebrae do not grow together properly around the spinal cord. Despite his many deformed bones, evidence suggests he was loved and cared for throughout his life. These discoveries are mind-boggling when one considers how many ancient (and even a few modern) societies abandon the weak and deformed.
Contents found within the corpses’ as well as other organic remains found in the bog reveal an ecosystem rich in diversity. 30 species of edible and/or medicinal plants were identified by paleobotanists; berries and small fruits were particularly important to the community’s diet.
One woman, perhaps 35 years old, was found with a concoction of elderberry, nightshade, and holly in the area where her stomach would have been, suggesting that she was eating medicinal herbs to try and combat an illness.
Unfortunately, the combination did not work and whatever afflicted the woman ultimately took her life. Interestingly, the elderberry woman was one of the few bodies stretched out, as opposed to curled up, with her face pointing downward. In other Native American traditions, elderberries were used to fight viral infections.
Another striking difference between the Windover Bog people and their European counterparts is that none of the Floridians suffered violent deaths. The bodies include men, women, and children.
Roughly half of the bodies were younger than 20 years old when they died but some were well over 70 years old. This was a fairly good mortality rate for the place and time.
The presence of brain matter in 91 of the bodies suggests that they were buried quickly, within 48 hours of death. Scientists know this because, given the hot humid climate of Florida, brains would have liquefied in bodies not buried quickly.
Somewhat amazingly, DNA analysis of the remains shows that these bodies share no biological affiliation with the more modern Native American groups known to have lived in the area.
Recognizing the limitations of modern technology, about half of the Windover site was left intact, as a protected National Historic Landmark, so that in 50 or 100 years’ researchers could return to the bog and excavate untouched remains.
Archaeologists uncover lost Indigenous NE Florida settlement of Sarabay
The University of North Florida archaeology team is now fairly confident they have located the lost Indigenous northeast Florida community of Sarabay, a settlement mentioned in both French and Spanish documents dating to the 1560s but had not been discovered until now.
The type and amounts of Indigenous pottery the team is finding combined with the type and dates for European artefacts as well as cartographic map evidence strongly supports this location as the late 16th/early 17th century Mocama settlement.
The researchers have opened large excavation blocks with many exciting new artefacts finds and are currently searching for evidence of houses and public architecture.
The students, led by Dr. Keith Ashley, UNF Archaeology Lab director and assistant professor, have recently recovered more than 50 pieces of early Spanish pottery as well as Indigenous pottery that dates to the late 1500s or early 1600s.
They have also recovered bone, stone and shell artefacts as well as burned corn cob fragments.
Expanding upon UNF excavations conducted at the southern end of Big Talbot Island in 1998, 1999, and 2020, the UNF research team has completed what is likely the most extensive excavations at a Mocama-Timucua site in northeastern Florida history.
This dig is part of the UNF Archaeology Lab’s ongoing Mocama Archaeological Project. This study focuses on the Mocama-speaking Timucua Indians who lived along the Atlantic coast of northern Florida at the time of European arrival in 1562.
The Mocama were among the first indigenous populations encountered by European explorers in the 1560s.
The team hopes to ultimately confirm the discovery of Sarabay by finding evidence of houses and public architecture.
They will continue to explore and learn about Sarabay’s physical layout during continuing fieldwork projects over the next three years.
9,000-Year-Old Obsidian Tools Found at Bottom of Lake Huron
Obsidian, or volcanic glass, is a prized raw material for knappers, both ancient and modern, with its lustrous appearance, predictable flaking, and resulting razor-sharp edges.
As such, it was used and traded widely throughout much of human history. Obsidian from the Rocky Mountains and the West was an exotic exchange commodity in Eastern North America.
“Obsidian from the far western United States is rarely found in the east,” said Dr Ashley Lemke, an anthropologist in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Texas at Arlington.
The two ancient obsidian artefacts were recovered from a sample of sediment that was hand excavated at a depth of 32 m (105 feet) in an area between two submerged hunting structures at the bottom of Lake Huron.
“This particular find is really exciting because it shows how important underwater archaeology is,” Dr. Lemke said.
“The preservation of ancient underwater sites is unparalleled on land, and these places have given us a great opportunity to learn more about past peoples.”
The larger artifact is a mostly complete, roughly triangular, biface thinning flake made from black and translucent material with a sub-vitreous texture.
The second artefact is a small, very thin, translucent flake on a material visually similar to the larger specimen.
“These tiny obsidian artefacts reveal social connections across North America 9,000 years ago,” Dr. Lemke said.
“The artifacts found below the Great Lakes come from a geological source in Oregon, 4,000 km (2,485 miles) away — making it one of the longest distances recorded for obsidian artifacts anywhere in the world.”
The findings were published in the journal PLoS ONE.
Archaeology news: 100 million-year-old ancient turtle fossil discovered in Texas, USA
Archaeologists have discovered a new, 100 million-year-old turtle fossil in Texas, USA. The ancient remains are believed to be the earliest remnants of the side-necked turtle in North America and have unravelled some of the mysteries surrounding reptile migration from the relatively unknown Cenomanian age.
Archaeologists in Texas, USA have discovered the remains of the oldest side-necked turtle in North America. The turtle, which has been named Pleurochayah appalachius, was well adapted for coastal living and had large bony attachments to its upper arms.
The site sits on the remnants of an old river delta from the Late Cretaceous period (80 to 66 million years ago), which was believed to flow through the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Scientists have been using the dried-up river delta to unravel numerous fossilised remains over a number of years.
Archaeologists had previously discovered dinosaur and crocodilian fossils at the site.
Now, they’ve made a brand new discovery, which could transform their understanding of hard-to-track reptiles.
The unearthed fossil belonged to an extinct lineage of pleurodiran turtle – a type of side-necked turtle.
Side-necked turtles withdrew their necks sideways into their shells when they’ve threatened.
The discovery hints that side-necked turtles migrated to North America around the Cenomanian age – between 100 and 94 million years ago.
The archaeologists, who reported their findings in Scientific Reports, uncovered a number of adaptations on the turtle.
These adaptations suggest that it was a coastal-dwelling species.
In particular, it had large bony attachments on its upper arms.
The attachments would provide powerful swimming strokes, and suggested the turtle would swim with a rowing style of movement, as opposed to the modern-day flapping motion.
P.appalachius also had an unusually thick outer shell bone, when compared with its inner shell bone. It would have given the turtle even more protection from predators, especially in the marine environment, the scientists said.
Lead author of the study, and senior research specialist at the Midwestern University College of Graduate Studies, Brent Adrian, said: “This discovery provides the earliest evidence of side-necked turtles in North America.
The AAS has been used by archaeologists since 2009, although the river delta was first discovered six years earlier. Active excavations have been ongoing, almost continually, since then. About 2,000 individual fossils have been discovered at the site, ranging from multiple species of both animals and plants.
Finding an address on a map can be taken for granted in the age of GPS and smartphones. But centuries of forced relocation, disease and genocide have made it difficult to find where many Native American tribes once lived.
Aaron Carapella, a self-taught mapmaker in Warner, Okla., has pinpointed the locations and original names of hundreds of American Indian nations before their first contact with Europeans.
As a teenager, Carapella says he could never get his hands on a U.S. map like this, depicting more than 600 tribes — many now forgotten and lost to history. Now, the 34-year-old designs and sells maps as large as 3 by 4 feet with the names of tribes hovering over the land they once occupied.
“I think a lot of people get blown away by, ‘Wow, there were a lot of tribes, and they covered the whole country!’ You know, this is Indian land,” says Carapella, who calls himself a “mixed-blood Cherokee” and lives in a ranch house within the jurisdiction of the Cherokee Nation.
For more than a decade, he consulted history books and library archives, called up tribal members and visited reservations as part of research for his map project, which began as pencil-marked poster boards on his bedroom wall. So far, he has designed maps of the continental U.S., Canada and Mexico. A map of Alaska is currently in the works.
What makes Carapella’s maps distinctive is their display of both the original and commonly known names of Native American tribes, according to Doug Herman, senior geographer at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
“You can look at [Carapella’s] map, and you can sort of getting it immediately,” Herman says. “This is Indian Country, and it’s not the Indian Country that I thought it was because all these names are different.”
He adds that some Native American groups got stuck with names chosen arbitrarily by European settlers.
They were often derogatory names other tribes used to describe their rivals. For example, “Comanche” is derived from a word in Ute meaning “anyone who wants to fight me all the time,” according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
“It’s like having a map of North America where the United States is labelled ‘gringos’ and Mexico is labelled ‘wetbacks,’ ” Herman says. “Naming is an exercise in power. Whether you’re naming places or naming peoples, you are therefore asserting a power of sort of establishing what is reality and what is not.”
Look at a map of Native American territory today, and you’ll see tiny islands of reservation and trust land engulfed by acres upon acres ceded by treaty or taken by force.
Carapella’s maps, which are sold on his website, serve as a reminder that the population of the American countryside stretches back long before 1776 and 1492.
Carapella describes himself as a former “radical youngster” who used to lead protests against Columbus Day observances and supported other Native American causes. He says he now sees his mapmaking as another way to change perceptions in the U.S.
“This isn’t really a protest,” he explains. “But it’s a way to convey the truth in a different way.”
Tennessee’s Tattooing Tools Dated to More Than 5,500 Years Ago
According to a Science News report, a new study of turkey bones unearthed in 1985 in a burial pit at the Fernvale site in central Tennessee suggests that they may have been used by Native Americans to make tattoos between 5,520 and 3,620 years ago.
These pigment-stained bones are the world’s oldest known tattooing tools, say archaeologist Aaron Deter-Wolf of the Tennessee Division of Archaeology in Nashville and his colleagues.
Ötzi the Iceman, who lived around 5,250 years ago in Europe, displays the oldest known tattoos (SN: 1/13/16), but researchers haven’t found any of the tools used to make the Iceman’s tattoos.
Excavations in 1985 revealed these turkey bones and other elements of a probable tattoo kit in a man’s burial pit at Tennessee’s Fernvale site, the researchers report in the June Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.
Damage on and near the tips of the two turkey leg bones resembles distinctive wear previously observed on experimental tattooing tools made from deer bones, Deter-Wolf’s team says.
In that research, tattooed lines in fresh slabs of pigskin were produced by a series of punctures with tools that had tips coated in homemade ink.
Experimental tattooing left ink remnants several millimetres from tools’ tips, a pattern also seen with red and black pigment residues on the Fernvale tools.
Two turkey wing bones found in the same Fernvale grave display microscopic wear and pigment residues that likely resulted from applying pigment during tattooing, the scientists say.
Pigment-stained seashells in the grave may have held solutions into which tattooers dipped those tools.
In June of 1934, two prospectors, Cecil Main and Frank Carr, were using explosives to mine for gold in the San Pedro Mountains of Wyoming. After the dust of one of their blasts cleared, Main and Carr discovered a small room in a cave.
There they found a tiny, mummified body with a deformed head, sitting in a flexed position. The mummy was about 6 inches long and weighed about a pound.
From 1934-1950 the Pedro Mountain Mummy, as it was nicknamed, was sold a few times, as it made the rounds at sideshows and displayed in a drug store window in a glass jar.
Ivan Goodman, a Casper, Wyoming car salesman, purchased it and used it in car advertisements. The Shoshone, a tribe indigenous to Wyoming, have many legends about “little people.” Goodman believed these legends and displayed the mummy as a pygmy man who was 65 years old when he died.
Before the Pedro Mountain Mummy vanished around 1950, Goodman took the mummy to Dr Harry Shapiro, curator of biological anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where it was examined and x-rayed.
Shortly after Goodman took the Pedro Mountain Mummy to the Big Apple it disappeared, and Goodman soon passed away. There are differing stories about what happened to the Pedro Mountain Mummy. Some people say Goodman lost it to a con man others say he sold it.
In 1971, physical anthropologist Dr. George Gill was hired by the University of Wyoming when heard about the mummy from one of his students. He got the x-ray films from Shapiro and found that the mummy was not a hoax, a pygmy, or an old man.
These mummified remains belonged to an infant, maybe Native American, who suffered from anencephaly. Anencephaly is a neural tube defect and one of the most common skull abnormalities, characterized by the absence of a major part of the skull, brain, and scalp.
As the skull develops, the cranial vault may remain open. If anencephalic births are alive, the infant generally dies within a week. Studies show that these disorders may be hereditary, but taking folic acid greatly reduces the chances of the defect.
The Pedro Mountain Mummy was featured in an episode of the 90’s television show, Unsolved Mysteries, which included an interview with Dr. Gill, who asked for the public’s help in locating the lost remains.
After the show aired, a Wyoming rancher brought Gill another mummy he found in 1929 in the San Pedro Mountain area. This second mummy was about four inches long and had blonde hair.
Dr. Gill had this mummy X-rayed and tested. DNA and radiocarbon tests revealed that it was an infant who suffered from anencephaly and died in the eighteenth century.
These results, Gill said, “confirmed everything that I had ever thought” about the Pedro Mountain Mummy, including the diagnosis of anencephaly.
According to Atlas Obscura, Gill recently learned the mummy is somewhere safe but is saying little else.