Stuck In the Midden With You: A Field Season In Review

By Kimi Swisher

For the last five weeks, our team of Nate Hale, Turner Hunt, Judge Jones, and myself have been excavating a midden deposit located in the southeastern portion of the Singer-Moye site core. The midden is part of a residential area situated to the east of Mound A and to the south of Mound H. In 2012 and 2013, the shovel testing and subsequent excavation of a test unit revealed part of a large midden deposit with a high concentration of artifacts, including ceramics, lithics, and well-preserved faunal material. Such concentrations of fauna are unusual for the southwest Georgia area, since the soils of the Interior Coastal Plain do not normally preserve bone well. Our excavations this field season focused on gaining a better understanding of that midden deposit and a larger sample of faunal and, perhaps, botanical material.

In order to better understand this deposit, including its extent and composition, our team excavated a 1x2m unit to the east of the 2013 excavations. We placed our unit after extracting soil cores to see what the stratigraphy was like before excavation. Through our excavations of this unit we were able to clearly see soil changes in the walls of the unit which represented changes in occupation of Singer-Moye over time. This helps us to better contextualize the midden deposit with the occupational history of the site. We recovered large amounts of decorated and undecorated pieces of ceramics, lithic artifacts including both formal tools and evidence of tool manufacture, and bone fragments from animals that had been consumed and/or utilized by the people who once lived at the site. In order to more clearly understand the shape of the midden deposit since our 1×2 meter  excavation had caught the deposit’s edge, our team then conducted a second excavation of the space that was between our 1x2m unit and the 2013 excavation. By doing these excavations, our team was able to gain a better understanding of the extent of the midden deposit, its shape, and the types and densities of artifacts that were within it.

As mentioned above, it is very unusual to have well preserved faunal material in the southwest part of Georgia since the acidic soils normally makes the bone deteriorate very quickly. During the excavations, our team took soil samples from each level for both flotation and nested screening, in order to obtain samples of smaller pieces of floral and faunal material than would be identified in the quarter-inch screen normally employed at the site. By taking soil samples at every level of excavation and then further processing and analyzing these samples, we will be able to better understand not only the composition of the midden deposit but also see how different methods may be affecting the types of archaeological material that we are recovering.

Since we have finished our excavations for the field season, our team now plans on looking more closely at the varieties and types of artifacts that were recovered by comparing their weights and ratios to one another throughout our different excavation levels and the different occupations at the site to better understand how social practices and activities may have changed overtime at Singer-Moye. We will be eager to share our results at SEAC this fall!

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Team Midden, L to R: Nate, Judge, Turner, and Kimi (the author).

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About Dr. Jennifer Birch

I am an archaeologist who specializes in the Archaeology of Eastern North America. Conceptually, my interests are underpinned by the desire to understand how the lived experiences of individuals and communities articulates with long-term, large-scale processes of social and cultural change. My current research is concerned with the development of organizational complexity and diversity in eastern North America. Ongoing projects in Northeastern North America include: - Geophysical investigations of Late Precontact Iroquoian Villages - Regional synthesis of data on Iroquoian settlement patterns, including intra-site patterns, interregional interaction, and geopolitical realignment Ongoing projects in Southeastern North America include: - Multi-scalar investigations of the Late Woodland to Mississippian transition in the Deep South - Household and community archaeology at the Singer-Moye site
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