Small Fragments Paint a Big Picture in Spring Lake Data Recovery Faunal Analysis

By Christopher Jurgens, Ph.D.

The Center for Archaeological Studies (CAS) 2014 excavations at the Spring Lake Site (41HY160) recovered more than 6,000 fragments of animal bone. Detailed analysis of the bone, often termed faunal analysis, began in the summer of 2016. Faunal analysis is part of a specialty in archaeology that is known as zooarchaeology (Reitz and Wing 2008). The bone fragments were analyzed to identify the animals represented and human modification from subsistence or bone technology activities. Procedures began with sorting into groups based on size of animal, signs of burning, or obvious evidence of butchering, skinning, or technological modification (Figure 1).

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Figure 1: Faunal material from the Spring Lake Site (41HY160) sorted during initial faunal analysis.

Fragments of animal bone recovered from the Spring Lake Site are small and in poor physical condition. The faunal analysis required techniques I’ve used over the past 20 years (Figures 2 and 3). Special lighting includes an overhead general light and a low sidelight that increases contrast. The sidelight reveals changes to the bone surface. Carnivore damage and root-etching modify the bone surface. Butchering damage and technological modifications made during tool or ornament manufacture and use each leave distinctive traces on the surface of bone.

Figure 2: Christopher Jurgens examining bone fragments microscopically during Spring Lake faunal analysis.

Figure 2: Christopher Jurgens examining bone fragments microscopically during Spring Lake faunal analysis.

Figure 3: Specialized lighting used during microscopic examination of Spring Lake fauna.

Figure 3: Specialized lighting used during microscopic examination of Spring Lake fauna.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many small fragments were identifiable as skeletal elements from specific animals, often to genera or species used in biological classification. With standard zooarchaeological procedures, skeletal materials from reference specimens of fish, birds, and mammals were used to identify the faunal material. Some of the reference specimens were loaned from the Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin. Deer and bison reference specimens belonging to CAS were also used. Fish and squirrel specimens came from my own reference collection (Figures 4 – 7). Historical records of fish documented in the region by Kenneth Jurgens (1951) were also used in determining what species might be identified during the analysis, as well as other published references containing detailed anatomical drawings (Figure 8).

Figure 4: Freshwater drum fish vertebrae reference specimens from the UT-Austin Vertebrate Paleontology LaboratoryPaleontology Lab at UT-Austin

Figure 4: Freshwater drum fish vertebrae reference specimens from the UT-Austin Vertebrate Paleontology LaboratoryPaleontology Lab at UT-Austin.

Figure 5: Channel catfish vertebra specimen from Jurgens reference collection.

Figure 6: Comparison of archaeological specimen of cottontail rabbit foot bone and modern jackrabbit specimen from Jurgens reference collection.

Figure 6: Comparison of archaeological specimen of cottontail rabbit foot bone and modern jackrabbit specimen from Jurgens reference collection.

 

 

 

Figure 7: Comparison of archaeological squirrel thigh bone specimen and modern specimen from Jurgens reference collection.

Figure 7: Comparison of archaeological squirrel thigh bone specimen and modern specimen from Jurgens reference collection.

 

 

 

 

Figure 8: Anatomical drawing of rabbit rear foot from published reference used during faunal analysis.

Figure 8: Anatomical drawing of rabbit rear foot from published reference used during faunal analysis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many fragments showed signs of butchering or cooking by the site’s inhabitants. Skinning and butchering leave distinctive cutmarks. Direct heat cooking, such as grilling or roasting, leaves distinctive discoloration of bone fragments. Some fragments were completely discolored by heat from inclusion in the soil surrounding earth ovens used to bake plants. Other fragments were incinerated by heat over 850o F that removed most organic material from the bone.

Some fragments retained signs of specific modification made during manufacture and use of bone tools and ornaments. Bone tools often exhibit scrape marks made to remove the periosteum layer from the bone surface; distinctive grooves cut to allow controlled snapping of the bone into segments; grinding of edges; and wear left by contact with plant materials, hides, or other substances when used by the site’s inhabitants. Incised bone artifacts and bone beads represent ancient artistic expression and allow us to study behavior beyond subsistence (Figure 9).

Figure 9: Examples of bone ornament and beads from Spring Lake Data Recovery Project.

Figure 9: Examples of bone ornament and beads from Spring Lake Data Recovery Project.

Assignment of bone fragments to the most appropriate taxonomic group requires an understanding of bone structure and skeletal anatomy of all potential animal groups, from fish and reptiles to birds and mammals. Some of the bones are easy to identify, based on their structure and morphology (Figure 10 and Figure 11). Distinctive features allow identification of bone fragments to specific animal form and skeletal element.

Figure 10: Archaeological specimen of catfish vertebra from Spring Lake Data Recovery faunal analysis.

Figure 10: Archaeological specimen of catfish vertebra from Spring Lake Data Recovery faunal analysis.

Figure 11: Archaeological specimen of cottontail rabbit rear foot bone from Spring Lake Data Recovery faunal analysis.

Figure 11: Archaeological specimen of cottontail rabbit rear foot bone from Spring Lake Data Recovery faunal analysis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cultural modification of animal bone fragments by the Spring Lake Site’s prehistoric residents was obvious (Figures 12 – 16). Figures 12 and 13 revealed signs of bone breakage to remove marrow from leg bones of deer or antelope.

 

Figure 12: Top view of bone flake from deer or antelope leg bone found during Spring Lake Data Recovery Project faunal analysis, with scrape marks to remove periosteum layer.

Figure 12: Top view of bone flake from deer or antelope leg bone found during Spring Lake Data Recovery Project faunal analysis, with scrape marks to remove periosteum layer.

Figure 13: Side view of bone flake from deer or antelope leg bone found during Spring Lake Data Recovery Project faunal analysis, with impact mark and fractures showing breakage for marrow harvesting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One bone tool fragment (Figure 14) shows clear signs of grooving and snapping used to detach bone tool blanks from large mammal long bones during manufacture. The irregular edges remaining from blank detachment may indicate that the tool was broken before being completed.

Figure 14: Bone tool fragment from Spring Lake Data Recovery Project faunal analysis showing grooving used to detach tool blank from deer or antelope long bone.

Figure 14: Bone tool fragment from Spring Lake Data Recovery Project faunal analysis showing grooving used to detach tool blank from deer or antelope long bone.

The same process was used to make both formal and informal tools. Figure 15 shows an informal hide-working tool fragment that retains grooving, but also helical fracturing. Figure 16 is part of a formal tool used in processing silica-rich plants.

Figure 15: Fragment of informal bone tool from Spring Lake Data Recovery Project with grooving used to detach tool blank from deer or antelope long bone. Narrow end has use wear from hide working.

Figure 15: Fragment of informal bone tool from Spring Lake Data Recovery Project with grooving used to detach tool blank from deer or antelope long bone. Narrow end has use wear from hide working.

Figure 16: Fragment of Early Archaic bone tool from Spring Lake Data Recovery Project with manufacturing evidence and use-wear from silica-rich plants.

Figure 16: Fragment of Early Archaic bone tool from Spring Lake Data Recovery Project with manufacturing evidence and use-wear from silica-rich plants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Much of my recent research has focused on fauna from sites in the Lower Pecos region of West Texas (Castaneda, et al. 2016; Jurgens 2005a, 2005b, 2006, 2008, 2014a, 2014b, 2015; Jurgens and Rush 2015). During the Spring Lake Data Recovery Project faunal analysis, I’ve noticed many similarities to the Lower Pecos study results. Bone tool or ornament fragments, and evidence for their manufacture, have rarely been documented in Central Texas. Analysis of the Spring Lake faunal material is showing us that the same processes used to make the tools and ornaments in the Lower Pecos were in use in Central Texas by the Early Archaic. Sites such as Spring Lake help us open the doors onto the past to understand how widespread cultural processes, such as bone technology, were prevalent in prehistory.

REFERENCES CITED:

Castañeda, Amanda M., Christopher Jurgens, Charles W. Koenig, Stephen L. Black, J. Kevin Hanselka, and Haley Rush

2016 “Multidisciplinary Investigations of a Paleoindian Bison Butchery Event in Eagle Cave.” Paper presented at the 87th Texas Archeological Society Annual Meeting. Nacogdoches, Texas.

Jurgens, Christopher J.

2005a “Zooarcheology and Bone Technology from Arenosa Shelter (41VV99), Lower Pecos Region, Texas.” (http://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/1586). Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation. Department of Anthropology. The University of Texas at Austin.

2005b “An Overview of the Zooarchaeology and Bone Technology from Arenosa Shelter (41VV99) in the Lower Pecos Region.”  Paper presented at the 76th Texas Archeological Society Annual Meeting. Austin, Texas.

2006  “The Fish Fauna from Arenosa Shelter (41VV99), Lower Pecos Cultural Region, Texas.” Paper Presented in the Symposium Honoring Oscar J. Polaco and His Contributions to Latin American Zooarchaeology, Sponsored by the Fryxell Committee, Society for American Archaeology, 71st Annual Meeting, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

2008  “The Fish Fauna from Arenosa Shelter (41VV99), Lower Pecos Cultural Region, Texas.”  In:  Joaquín Arroyo-Cabrales and Eileen Johnson, Guest Editors, Contributions to Latin American Zooarchaeology in Honour of Oscar J. Polaco, Fryxell Award Recipient for Interdisciplinary Research. Quaternary International 185:26-33.

2014a  “Preliminary Results from Zooarchaeological Analysis of Eagle Nest Canyon Sites.” Paper presented at the 85th Texas Archeological Society Annual Meeting. San Marcos, Texas.

2014b “Cutting It in the Lower Pecos.”  Guest lecture to Anthropology 689-602 (Ancient Foodways and Cooking Technologies Graduate Seminar), Texas A&M University. College Station, Texas.

2015 “Lower Pecos Faunal Recovery, Sampling, and Analysis Issues.”  Guest Lecture to Anthropology 4630 (Archaeological Field School), Texas State University. Shumla, Texas.

Jurgens, Christopher J., and Haley E. Rush

2015  “Extending Arenosa Shelter’s Reach:  Zooarchaeological Research in Eagle Nest Canyon 2015.”  Poster Presented at the 86th Texas Archeological Society Annual Meeting. Houston, Texas.

Jurgens, Kenneth C.

1951  “The Distribution and Ecology of the Fishes of the San Marcos River.”  Unpublished M.A. Thesis. Department of Zoology. The University of Texas. Austin, Texas.

Reitz, Elizabeth J. and Elizabeth S. Wing

2008 Zooarchaeology (Second Edition). Cambridge Manuals in Archaeology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K.

 

Progress Report on the Shiner Collection Rehabilitation

pedernales dart points

Pedernales dart points

By Patricia Christmas

The big project this semester at CAS has been the rehabilitation of the Shiner Collection. The funding for this project is provided by a generous Preservation Trust Fund grant from the Texas Historical Commission and work is being performed by a team of CAS staff, student workers, and volunteers. Amy Reid’s Archaeological Curation class has been assigned to the Shiner Collection Rehabilitation as their semester laboratory project and their assistance has been vital. Continue reading

Artifact Spotlight: Mary Garden Powder Compact Lid

By Patricia Christmas

mary garden compact lid, obverse and reverse

Mary Garden Compact lid, obverse and reverse

The lid to a Mary Garden Powder Compact was recovered by CAS archaeologists in 2012, during construction monitoring near the River House on the Texas State University campus. The embossed design, now barely visible, features a profile bust of the Scottish-American opera soprano Mary Garden and the words “Mary Garden, Rigaud Paris, Parfumeur.” It was produced by the Scoville Manufacturing Company in 1916, and remained in use until 1926 (Hetherington 2012b). The compact was brass with a removable mirrored lid. The mirror on this artifact is broken and most of the silver has degraded, although some of the tin dichloride coating remains. Based upon the manufacturing dates, the compact lid was likely lost or discarded during a period when the site was a tourist park, a place where travelers visiting one of the two amusement parks in San Marcos – Aquarena Springs Amusement Park and Wonder World Park – would have been able to picnic during their stay. Continue reading

Texas State Field School in St. Kitts — A Wrap-Up Post

by Todd Ahlman

Ceramic Artifacts from St. Kitts

Ceramic Artifacts from St. Kitts

If you have been following CAS’s PAST Posts, CAS’s social media, and the Texas State in St. Kitts Archaeological Project, you probably saw the series of blog entries in June written by the archaeological field school students participating in the project on St. Kitts.

We completed the field work at the end of June and washed, analyzed, and packed for curation the bulk of the artifacts we recovered before we left St. Kitts. The project was a great success. The students learned necessary archaeological skills, and we were able to recover a tremendous amount of information about the history of St. Kitts. This final blog entry on the project is meant to wrap up the project and give some glimpses into the things we found during our stay on the island. Continue reading

St. Kitts Field School Experience #2

By Rachel Jenson

Rachel, in the black shirt, on her first day in the field learning to layout test units.

Rachel, in the black shirt, on her first day in the field learning to layout test units.

I have always been entranced by the possibilities archaeology presented as a career. The idea that I would be able to travel for a living while experiencing cultures, both alive today and from the past, seemed like the perfect job. Working in St. Kitts has only enhanced that. Continue reading

My Archaeological Field School Experience

by Kathleen Jenkins

Kathleen and her dig partners catching up on field notes. Each student is responsible for maintaining a field notebook.

Kathleen and her dig partners catching up on field notes. Each student is responsible for maintaining a field notebook.

Before I arrived in St. Kitts for my archaeological field school I had no idea what to expect.  Were we going to unearth a lost civilization? Was Dr. Ahlman going to take us on a secret journey to discover the lost ark? Regardless of whether or not we were going to partake in any of those activities, I was excited to experience anything having to do with archaeology. Even though I had participated in a wonderful internship at CAS, I knew that before I could fully appreciate the field of archaeology I needed to get some hands-on experience out in the field. So when I heard about this field school in one of my classes, I immediately signed up and knew that St. Kitts was where I needed to be. Continue reading

An Introduction to the 2015 Texas State in St. Kitts Archaeological Field School

By Todd Ahlman

2015 field crew for the texas state  st kitts field schoolEarlier this year we had a PAST Posts blog entry on the importance of an archaeological field school to any budding archaeologist’s development and career. It proved to be one of our more popular posts and I hope many students used it this year as a guide in selecting their field school.

This summer, CAS is holding an archaeological field school on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts with students from Texas State University. As part of their field school experience, our students will be submitting a series of blog posts over the next few weeks. We hope that they and our readers will find these posts fun and informative.

The purpose of any archaeological field school is to train students in archaeological methodologies so they are better prepared for careers in archaeology, cultural heritage/resource management, and historic preservation. The Texas State In St. Kitts Archaeological Field School is designed to not only focus on archaeological field methods, but to give students a broader understanding of local culture, history, or make them aware of how their research can inform not only island visitors but also the local population of the past. Our intent is to offer students not only archaeological experience, but also opportunities to communicate their research to island visitors and to interact with Kittitians, the St. Christopher National Trust, and tours of local heritage sites.

Throughout the course of the archaeological field school, students will have training in field and laboratory methods. At the course’s end students should expect to have the following skills and knowledge:

  1. Archaeological survey and excavation methods;
  2. How to use a GPS unit and tablet computer in recording site attributes;
  3. Laboratory processing and artifact analysis;
  4. Interaction with public and descendant communities;
  5. Interaction with clients, governmental agencies, and non-governmental organizations;
  6. And how archaeology contributes to our understanding of the past and present.

st kitts island locationTo put our project into further context, St. Kitts is located in eastern Caribbean approximately 350 miles southeast of Puerto Rico. Pre-Columbian Amerindians settled on St. Kitts as early as 3000 years ago and occupied the island until 1625 when the British and French massacred most of the Amerindians at Bloody Point. The British colonized St. Kitts in 1623 and the French followed in 1624. The two countries shared the island until 1713, when the British gained total control. The island was a British colony until 1983 when it and sister island Nevis gained their independence and formed the small country in the western hemisphere. Indigo and tobacco were two important early crops, but by the mid-seventeenth century sugar was introduced and became the single most important crop on the island and across the Caribbean. Sugar cultivation requires lots of labor and in the British Caribbean enslaved Africans were forcibly brought to labor in the fields. Thousands of Africans were brought to the island to maintain the workforce. Slavery was abolished in 1834, but the slaves and their descendants worked in the sugar fields until 2005 when the St. Kitts government closed the island’s sugar industry.

students mapping a unitOur project is looking at one slave village and an Amerindian site on the St. Kitts’ southeast peninsula. The slave village is shown on several maps dating to the eighteenth century and may possibly date to as early as the French occupation of that part of the island. We are focusing on two to three locations where we have identified slave quarters from surface features. Earlier excavations at one slave quarter identified a pit cellar under the structure. We plan to expand in this area as well as behind the structure where we assume living activities occurred. A dense midden was identified at one other structure and we will investigate it further as well as excavate around the quarters. We have tentatively identified another structure and will explore it. Little is currently know about the Amerindian site, but the presence of pottery on the surface suggests at least a Saladoid or later occupation. We plan to excavate a few exploratory units to assess integrity and artifact density.

students working in the fieldWe began working this past week at the slave village. Early in the week students were oriented to the project and site, and we worked at learning to lay in units, excavation and screening techniques, and proper ways to fill out paperwork. In the coming weeks we will work on refining excavation techniques, learning to use a GPS unit, how to survey with a compass, laboratory methods, artifact analysis, and other things vital to being an archaeologists (like never get separated from your lunch). Keep following the blog to learn more about the students’ experiences.

Funding for the project was provided through a grant from the Christophe Harbour Foundation and Texas State University, specifically Dean Mike Hennessy in the College of Liberal Arts and Dr. Mike Blanda in the Office of Research and Federal Relations. Assistance is being provided by the Texas State University Study Abroad Program, Dr. Beth Erhart in the Department of Anthropology, the St. Christopher National Trust, and Pereira Tours. Permission for the project was granted from the St. Kitts Department of Physical Planning.

Dr. Todd Ahlman is the Director of the Center for Archaeological Studies. He has worked in the cultural resources field for more than 25 years.

The Texas Antiquities Code at Work

by Amy E. Reid

Amy Reid, working in the field during a survey

Amy Reid, working in the field during a survey

In my office, I have a large white binder sitting boldly on my bookshelf amongst a collection of comparatively under-used resources. This binder, labeled “Texas Antiquities Code: Rules, Laws, Regulations and Procedures,” contains a wealth of information and regulatory guidance pertinent to my profession as an archaeologist and as a collections manager. The Texas Antiquities Code (the Code) is one of the most important pieces of legislation governing the practice of cultural resource management (CRM) in Texas. The THC website contains a substantial amount of information about the Code. In addition, Mark Denton, an Archaeologist and Program Coordinator at the THC has written an excellent article on the history of the Code. Therefore, this post will focus more on how I use it and its present day application in the world of CRM. Continue reading

How to be Successful in Cultural Resource Management

By Todd Ahlman

jake and edward in Crooks park

CAS field crew performing shovel tests

The business world is littered with articles that are a list of the four, five, six, or any innumerable ways, actions, factors, or steps to be successful in the business world. It is simple enough to sit down with a business-oriented magazine (think Harvard Business Review) and learn what you should do to be a successful employee, manager, executive, or CEO. I have learned in my career that these sources are valuable in navigating the business world, but when it comes to our field there are few guidance materials for establishing a successful and happy career in Cultural Resource Management (CRM.) This blog post aims to fill that void. The information here comes from my own career, and the background and experience I look for when hiring and promoting. Continue reading

Spring Lake, Part 2: Digital Documentation as a Means for Preservation and Education

Guest post by Amanda Castaneda

In the previous blog post CAS described our archaeological work at Spring Lake, both past and present. From underwater excavations, geoarchaeological sediment cores, pedestrian survey, and good old fashioned surface excavations, there have been a multitude of archaeological methods used to assemble information about historic and prehistoric use of the Spring Lake site. Following a growing trend in the archaeological community, CAS can add one more method to that list- using digital documentation to create a 3-dimensional (3D) archaeological record. 3D data and virtual archaeology has been increasing in popularity for the past few years and many archaeologists are beginning to understand the potential this kind of data holds, not only for documentation and analysis, but for preservation and education as well.

Continue reading