AU: Daniel P. Wagner, Joseph M. McAvoy
TI: Pedoarchaeology of Cactus Hill, a sandy Paleoindian site in southeastern Virginia, U.S.A.
Cactus Hill Update April 10, 2000
by Mark Rose
Evidence for a pre-Clovis level at Cactus Hill was presented in a series of papers given on April 7 at the annual Society for American Archaeology conference in Philadelphia by the director of the excavations at Cactus Hill, Joseph McAvoy, and a number of specialists studying various aspects of the site. Cactus Hill, on the Nottoway River in southeastern Virginia, has Archaic material which is underlain by a Clovis-era level. Several inches of sand separate the Clovis-era deposit from a lower level in which points, blades, and cores, as well as charcoal and calcined fragments of animal bone have been recovered. Initial radiocarbon dates from the lower level were too early given its position beneath Clovis-era remains, leading to questions about the integrity of the site's stratigraphy. Some of the papers given in Philadelphia examined different lines of evidence to address this question, while others described the stone tool and faunal assemblages from the lower level.
Soil chemistry analysis has revealed elevated amounts of phosphate, an indicator of human occupation, in the lower level. The abundance of phytoliths, silica structures found in plants, and the amount of cultural material (as measured by weight) followed a similar pattern: a drop-off after the Clovis-era deposit that corresponds to the sterile sand level, followed by a small peak corresponding to the lower cultural level. Review of the radiocarbon samples by palaeobotanist Lucinda McSweeney suggests that the initial dates were from rootlets and partially carbonized hickory wood that had intrude into the lower level from above. Samples cleaned of the hickory wood yield dates consistent with pre-Clovis. Significantly, while younger material has in local instances intruded from above, older material has not been found, or at least recognized or dated, in the upper levels. The three pre-Clovis dates that the excavators have obtained are 15,070 ± 70, 16,670 ± 730, and 16,940 ± 50. Additional dates obtained through luminescence were presented but, while consistent in being pre-Clovis, need more evaluation before their relation to the radiocarbon dates is understood.
The stone tool assemblage at the site was described by Larry Kimball. About the two points found in the lower level, Kimball said that their roughly pentangular form appears to be the intended shape, that is, they were not re-worked over time to that shape. He bases this conclusion on the thinness of the
Post ID#5593 - replied 2/7/2008 12:23 AM
Stratigraphy at the Cactus Hill site
Clovis artifacts from Cactus Hill
Proposed Pre-Clovis artifacts
Post ID#5594 - replied 2/7/2008 12:24 AM
Post ID#5595 - replied 2/7/2008 12:24 AM
Post ID#5621 - replied 2/7/2008 12:48 AM
The site has yielded multiple levels of early occupation. Archaic stage material is underlain by fluted stone tools associated with the Clovis culture dated to 10,920 BP. A lower level yields artifacts including unfluted bifacial stone tools with dates ranging from c. 15,000 to 17,000 years ago. White pine charcoal from a hearth context on this level dates to 15,070 radiocarbon years BP. Further charcoal deposits retrieved at the site date to as early as 19,700 years ago, although these deposits may have been made by forest fires.
Post ID#11435 - replied 10/14/2008 7:29 PM
Richard I. Macphail1 1, Joseph M. McAvoy 2
1Institute of Archaeology, University College London, 31-34, Gordon Sq., London, WC1H 0PY, UK
2Nottoway River Survey, 5861 White Oak Road, Sandston, VA 23150
email: Richard I. Macphail1 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Twenty thin sections were studied from Cactus Hill, a ca. 20 ka stratified sand dune site in Virginia, USA, with a Clovis and hypothesized pre-Clovis component. The high-resolution soil micromorphology investigation focused on testing the integrity of Clovis and pre-Clovis stratigraphy from one location where there is a high density of artifacts. Site formation processes were dominated by eolian (dune) sand formation. There was also ephemeral topsoil development and associated occupation, along with their penecontemporaneous disturbance and dispersal by scavenging animals (assumed) and localized down-working by small invertebrate mesofauna (as evidenced by aggregates of fine phytolith-rich humic soil and fine soil-coated charcoal fragments). Partial erosion of these occupation soils (deflation?) was followed by successive sand burial. Post-depositional processes affecting these sand-buried occupations involved only small-scale bioturbation and overprinting of clay lamellae, suggesting site stratigraphy has been stable for a long time. Soil micromorphological analysis has defined a difference between occupational units (pre-Clovis and Clovis) and sterile units found between these units as well as above and below. In summary, according to this analysis, the site appears intact with only minor disturbances affecting the long-term integrity of the stratigraphy. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Macphail, R. I., and J. M. McAvoy , 2008, A micromorphological
analysis of stratigraphic integrity and site formation at Cactus
Hill, an Early Paleoindian and hypothesized pre-Clovis occupation
in south-central Virginia, USA. Geoarchaeology vol. 23 no. 5,
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