Feature 1: Charcoal and Clay

Top of the charcoal layer of the pit/hearth. The yellow-brown surface on the right is about 35-40 cm higher than the charcoal.

Our efforts to better understand Feature 1 this week have been successful. About 70 cm below the ground surface, we uncovered a veritable blanket of charcoal inside a pit lined with hard, fire-reddened clay. While cleaning the charcoal surface for a photograph, we found some Connestee cord marked potsherds and several flakes made of different kinds of chert. These artifacts support our initial impression that this feature dates to the Middle Woodland period.

Before we exposed the entire charcoal surface, we uncovered the line of bright red, hard clay. It appears to follow the edge of the pit of charcoal.

At this point, we are inclined to interpret this feature as a hearth — but if it is, it’s really big! We have captured its western edge (on the right side of the photo), which curves around in the adjacent 1×1 m square to the south. We will attempt to expose the northern edge by opening another 1×1 m square tomorrow. This will not only allow us to measure the diameter of the feature, but it will also provide us with a temporary surface to kneel on while we excavate the base of the feature. It’s officially deeper than our arms now, and the last thing we want to do is crunch the charcoal fill under foot. By carefully excavating this zone, we should be able to obtain samples for radiocarbon dating and paleobotanical and other analyses.

About Alice Wright

Alice is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Appalachian State University. She tweets about archaeology, Appalachia, and cats @alicepwright.
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One Response to Feature 1: Charcoal and Clay

  1. Bennie Keel says:

    Looks really good. Any of the flakes Flint Ridge Chalcedony?

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