Distant and Local Material Manifestations within Middle Woodland and Transitional Lifeways in the Northeast

Date/Time: 
Friday, May 17, 2019 - 9:00am to 4:30pm
Room: 
Courville
Organizer(s): 
  • Phil Woodley
Contact Email: 

The Middle Woodland is an interesting period in the Northeast, but one that seems to be a bit of a black hole for research. This session will explore how the Middle Woodland groups of the northeast were engaging with and integrating exotic and local materials within locally understood social networks. Towards this end, this session will explore everything from single sites, to exchange systems, materiality, or seasonal round. Also, how does this compare, either similarly or differently, to the Early Woodland and early Late Woodland periods. Essentially, let us know what you are thinking about the Middle Woodland period, or the earlier or later transition from Early Woodland to early Late Woodland and how this relates to the Middle Woodland period.

Presentations
09:10 AM: Ball of Confusion
Author(s):
  • Phil Woodley

When Ontario Ministry of Transportation archaeologists excavated the Christie Site (AhHa-61), a large, undisturbed Middle Woodland site, on Highway 403 near Hamilton, Ontario in the early 1990’s, it seemed like a dream come true.  Up until that time, most southern Ontario Middle Woodland sites that had been excavated were plough disturbed and multi-component.  As well, most of the larger sites appeared to have been occupied repeatedly during the Middle Woodland period.  These factors combined to make the interpretation of the Middle Woodland component of these sites challenging.  Although there is evidence that Christie is multicomponent, it was located in a woodlot with minimal recent disturbance and contained what appeared to be a series of discrete Middle Woodland loci separated by areas of low artifact counts.  It was initially thought that the excavation, analysis and interpretation of the discrete loci as separate occupations would help clarify the Middle Woodland period.  However, the analysis so far is raising more questions than it is providing answers.

09:40 AM: Ware is Point Peninsula? Or, Who was living on the lower Credit River during the Middle Woodland Period?
Author(s):
  • Rob Pihl

When the compilation volume The Archaeology of Southern Ontario to A.D. 1650 volume was published nearly 30 years ago, three distinct Middle Woodland complexes were discussed in detail, but the authors of that article (myself included) provided a proviso that “…we expect a picture to emerge of a series of localized complexes extending across the southern part of the province, each only marginally different from its neighbours but more easily distinguishable from its more distant contemporaries”. We are apparently still wrestling with the notion of Middle Woodland archaeological cultures today, i.e., what constitutes Point Peninsula vs Saugeen, or Princess Point vs Sandbanks:  this paper will examine this issue from the prospective of the Hogsback site (AjGv-3), a newly excavated site on the lower Credit River, and two nearby and related sites, Scott-O’Brien (AjGv-32) and Stavebank Road (AjGv-74). Results from detailed ceramic analyses of these sites document a process for studying and interpreting local and regional Middle Woodland sites across southern Ontario.

10:30 AM: Gurney 3: A Multi-Component Site on the Grand River
Author(s):
  • Peter  Timmins - Western University/TMHC
  • Liam Browne - TMHC

In 2016 Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants Inc., with assistance from Fisher Archaeological Consulting, carried out excavations on the plough-disturbed Gurney 3 site (AhHc-137) located on the Grand River near Paris, Ontario. Almost 500 square metres were excavated yielding an artifact collection that includes Late Archaic, Early Woodland and Middle Woodland materials. Interestingly, the lithic collection is dominated by Early Woodland Meadowood diagnostics, but the ceramic collection is mainly Middle Woodland, a pattern that may reflect the differential use of ceramics in the two periods. The ceramic analysis revealed a number of vessels with notched lip decoration and some probable examples of mortise and tenon coil breaks. These traits are relatively rare and their documentation contributes to our understanding of regional trends in Middle Woodland ceramics in southwestern Ontario.

11:00 AM: Six Middle Woodland Vessels from White's Island Site BbGm-43 - Decorative Attribute Shifts Over Time and Associated Radiocarbon Dates
Author(s):
  • Lawrence Jackson - Northeastern Archaeological Associates Ltd.
  • Josh Garrett - Northeastern Archaeological Associates Ltd.
  • Daniel  Smith - Northeastern Archaeological Associates Ltd.

   In 2018, Curve Lake First Nation, in partnership with Northeastern Archaeological Associates, operated an archaeological training program for Michi Saagiig students on a small complex of Middle Woodland camps on the east side of White's Island, Rice Lake, Ontario.  Test excavations under a research licence to Dr. Lawrence Jackson produced a robust sample of Middle Woodland vessel rims and associated features.  This paper describes ceramics from six partially reconstructed vessels, some associated with features and radiocarbon dates,  to begin building a picture of temporal context for Middle Woodland decorative traits.  We accept the broad divisions of Point Peninsula culture in this region outlined by Curtis (2002) with earliest Trent phase followed by Rice Lake phase and ending with Sandbanks phase.  We suggest some modifications to the time frame with Trent Phase, and pseudo-scallop shell dominant ceramics, beginning after the end of Meadowood.  On Rice Lake, a mean calibrated age for four young Meadowood feature dates gives a mean calibrated age of 611 B.C. +- 242 at two sigma. New dates from White's Island confirm a shift to Rice Lake phase after 1 A.D. and Rice Lake Phase duration to perhaps 600 A.D.  C14 dates on ceramics include a late Trent Phase PSS vessel at cal. 5 B.C. +- 87 and a Rice Lake Phase complex dentate vessel at cal. 365 A.D. +- 108.

11:30 AM: Old Wood, Reservoir Effects, and the Radiocarbon Chronology of the Middle Woodland in Ontario
Author(s):
  • James Conolly - Trent University

A recent compilation of radiocarbon dates associated with Middle Woodland components in Ontario has revealed a number of challenges with regards to dating estimates. The combination of old wood, a suspected reservoir effect on ceramic residues, plus the challenge of multi-component sites has, I propose, led to an overestimation of the age of Middle Woodland complexes in Ontario. In this paper I present and review the radiocarbon record associated with Middle Woodland sites, illustrate the challenges and suspected sources of error, and provide a revision to age estimates that improve understanding of the timing of Middle Woodland cultural complexes and their temporal relationship to earlier and later periods.

01:40 PM: Architectural Energetics and Middle Woodland earthen architecture- case studies from Ontario
Author(s):
  • Jeff Seibert - Ontario Ministry of Transportation / TUARC

Recent advances in the archaeological application of architectural energetics (ie detailed estimates of labour for the construction of architecture) from a number of different temporal periods and cultural contexts have resulted in a number of insights into both the amount and nature of labour required to construct ancient buildings and earthworks and the societies that constructed these pieces of architecture. This paper seeks to examine the feasibility of applying these techniques to Middle Woodland earthen architecture (mounds) from Ontario and nearby areas (particularly New York State and Minnesota) and seeks to draw some initial insights into the amount of labour that was required to construct these mounds and what this tells us about the societies that created them. This method is being applied as a chaine operatoire that seeks to provide both labour estimates but also yield insights into social organization of the societies that built the mounds through a step by step analysis of the labour processes involved in construction and the procurement of materials. In addition, these insights will be contextualized through comparisons to the better understood and roughly contemporary mounds of Ohio, where energetics studies have been conducted.

02:10 PM: Princess Point Pottery from the Cayuga Bridge Site (AfGx-1)
Author(s):
  • Christopher Watts - University of Waterloo

Archaeological investigations at the Cayuga Bridge site (AfGx-1), carried out in 2011 by New Directions Archaeology (now part of Archaeological Research Associates), revealed a substantial collection of more than 35,000 ceramic artifacts which may be assigned to the Early Late Woodland Princess Point Complex, ca. CE 500-1000. Of these artifacts, 322 were identified as vessels and analyzed by the author, revealing a wealth of new information related to Princess Point pottery manufacture and design regimes. As well, by virtue of its size and manner of recovery, this sample provides an exciting opportunity to revisit and assess earlier understandings of Early Late Woodland pottery design trends in southern Ontario.

03:00 PM: The Middle Woodland: Exciting Times in Southern Quebec
Author(s):
  • Christian Gates St-Pierre - Université de Montréal

The Middle Woodland was long perceived as a bland period of transition between the more sophisticated cultural developments of the Early and Late Woodland periods. However, research conducted during the past 20 years have highlighted the Middle Woodland origins of some of the most salient features of the Woodland cultures in the Northeast. This paper will explain how this lead to a reinterpretation of the Middle Woodland period in the Quebec portion of the St. Lawrence River valley. It will also show how the Middle Woodland populations of this area were as well connected with regional and interregional groups then those who lived there before and after.

03:30 PM: A View from Southern Ontario’s Rump: The Middle Woodland Period in the Greater Bruce Peninsula Area
Author(s):
  • William Fitzgerald
  • Linda Sõber - SAAR Environmental
  • Doran Ritchie - Saugeen Ojibway Nation Environmental Office

 

The discovery of  Middle Woodland “Saugeen complex” sites in the Greater Bruce Peninsula Area of southwestern Ontario by avocational archaeologists in the mid-1930s led to a frenzy of research-oriented Middle Woodland archaeology that ground to a halt in the early-1970s. In hibernation for nearly a half century, recent inadvertent Middle Woodland encounters have sparked a reawakening. Accepting that the GBPA landscape [eg., shorelines and drainage systems] and ecology [i.e., food resource locations and seasonal availabilities] have remained largely unchanged since Middle Woodland times, an interdisciplinary approach will hopefully focus brighter light on more than a millennium of seasonal movements of “Saugeen complex” groups across the GBPA and their interactions further afield.