I wonder if someone might speculate on the likely cultural and temporal association of this small apparently grit-tempered rim sherd that appeared roughly 12 cm below a seemingly undisturbed terrain surface in southeastern Ohio. Note the scale in the first photo. The thickness, judging only from the rim (the inner surface of the sherd is mostly gone), is about 4.5 mm. Thanks!
Post ID#12083 - replied 12/13/2008 5:23 AM
I did get a tentative assessment from an archaeologist at the Ohio Historical Society who examined the piece in person, but I'm always interested in "second opinions".
Post ID#12147 - replied 12/17/2008 3:40 PM
The problem is that there is nothing diagnostic about the sherd for us to look at. That type of undecorated sherd shows up in many cultures around the world. The lip shape, material, etc. might be enough for someone very familiar with the geographic area of the find and the ceramic types in that area (thus the person at OHS - but even there take is tentative). Have you tried contacting folks actually working in the area the find was made?
Post ID#12148 - replied 12/17/2008 4:32 PM
What did they say about it? I agree with Dmack here that without any diagnostic features on the artifact it is hard to make any other conclusions about it. Unless there is some distinguishing characteristic o it that is not evident in the photos, or would be more evident to a local familiar with that area's archaeology.
Post ID#12153 - replied 12/18/2008 2:40 AM
Thank you very much for your observations.
Right, there isn't a whole lot to go on, and that's why I added the close-up of the temper, hoping someone might see something distinctive and/or diagnostic in this.
As for people that have worked in the area, well, there doesn't seem to have been much professional archaeological activity or interest in this relatively off-the-beaten-path part of Appalachian Ohio (not to mention the manpower and funding problems). (The site in question is 33GU218 in Guernsey County.) Too bad, since there is a lot of artifact material in the ground here. (But given that much of this area has been and continues to be strip-mined into oblivion, maybe this is all a moot point...)
The OHS fellow thought the sherd resembled some thin-walled pottery from the Seip mound in the Hopewell earthworks complex by Chillicothe, thus being possibly Middle Woodland. This seems plausible to me for a few highly circumstantial reasons.
Just for fun, here is another close-up (100X) showing a dyed fiber (or fibers?) on the surface, encased in the patination (calcium carbonate?) that covers much of the sherd:
These colored fibers are surprisingly common at the site, having appeared as far down as 80 cm or so. Blue and red are the most common colors, although others also appear from time to time - so far no green that I recall. On a few occasions they have shown up as part of a really strange artifact form, apparently intentionally wrapped around human hairs, as shown in the following photo of two intertwined hairs. (And what the hell was this all about?)
Thanks again for taking an interest!
Post ID#12181 - replied 12/22/2008 3:16 AM
Thanks for your comments.
Right, a thorough analysis of the paste and temper might well reveal at least the possible provenance of the material. I'm certainly no geologist, but I did take a couple geology courses in college and actually remember some of this, and try to keep up as best I can, sometimes pestering a geologist/petrologist at a nearby college. Probably I should ask him for an assessment of the material's properties next time I haul stuff over to his lab. But he's not an archaeologist, so I wouldn't expect anything more than an opinion on the physical properties. In any event, the lithology of artifact material at this site is often nonlocal - no surprise.
And if anyone is interested, I can put a higher-resolution copy of the close-up in the image file associated with my website, and post a link to it here.
Post ID#12184 - replied 12/22/2008 3:27 PM
Post ID#12186 - replied 12/22/2008 8:17 PM
The piece that I found was on a shoreline/beach area- non stratigraphed, on the sand. - there do not appear to be any noticeable decorative lines or patterns.
However a second sherd from a separate location (same site type) does show possible shell impressions and shell tempering. It is somewhat "thick" and "sparkles" when held in direct sunlight.
Post ID#12187 - replied 12/22/2008 11:27 PM
Paleoface, it would be interesting to see some photos/close-ups of your ceramic finds. This is the only such piece from this site so far, but I suspect there may be more. Knowing my limitations (more or less), I seldom actually dig here since the steep terrain yields so much stuff just by erosion, and digging is destructive. A few years ago this thing just showed up in my hand as I was absentmindedly poking into the ground beneath the front of my old house trailer / ham radio station at the top of the hill.
FireArch, yes, NAA seems appropriate for a serious attempt at correlating the sherd with such finds elsewhere. While XRF is nondestructive and readily available to me, it's likely to miss many of the trace elements needed for close comparisons. I've been thinking about sometime submitting the thing to the archaeometry lab at the University of Missouri, where they have done a lot of this work with NAA. (I dislike sending material away. The post office lost, for over a month, a sample for AMS dating I sent to the University of Arizona, this being by priority mail with tracking - arrrgh!) First some more basic petrological analysis might be in order, as well as an inquiry into what databases have been compiled for other Ohio ceramic finds. In any event, the tentative assessment of Middle Woodland association for the upper artifact layer here is interesting and most welcome...
Post ID#12194 - replied 12/23/2008 3:08 PM
Ya, the USPS is notorious for loosing stuff. All the labs I send stuff to recommend anyone other than them for the very reason you noted. Fortunately my samples are backed by a contracted budget, so shipping via UPS or FedEx is calculated into the cost of the project.
Post ID#19640 - replied 6/21/2012 6:49 AM
Post ID#19649 - replied 6/22/2012 5:58 PM
Post ID#19650 - replied 6/22/2012 9:35 PM
I appreciate your observations, a pleasant surprise four years later. Your suggestions of brick or clay conduit certainly warrant consideration, although these would seem out of place in this particular forest venue.
Work on all this has been quite slow (and there has been very little digging), but some progress has been made, and more finds / professional observations seem to substantiate the OHS archaeologist's suggestion of Hopewell origin. Most notably, the ceramic find was within roughly 100 m of a long linear earthwork of classic Hopewell architecture, this being a rounded and symmetrical wall oriented precisely to true north-south, with a V-profile passageway through it, a shallow ditch along one side, and clearly intentionally arranged sandstone facing slabs on its surface.
There is large white oak growing from the structure's surface, estimated by a state forester to be about 230 years old, and the composition of shallow core samples taken by a professional archaeologist indicate against recent soil deposition.
For what it's worth, surface finds of temporally diagnostic flint points in the vicinity of the site indicate a human presence from Early Archaic through Adena.
That's where it stands right now. There may be some further professional involvement later this summer.
Thanks again for your input!
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