The most defining characteristic of precolumbian evidence in the Palisades is the ubiquity of fire-cracked rock. The telling characteristics are varying hues of red, and more specifically, the jagged fractures that typically appear with quartzitic rock. When I first started discovering these rocks, I assumed they were the result of hearths in ancient settlements/camps. The first property where I found FCR on a wide-scale was the property directly behind my house. The excavation, like all the contemporary ones, was on a large scale and comprised an area of about 40 X 100 feet. Throughould the excavation, a near continuous scattering of FCR existed. Density of the scattered rock was both continuous and included various rock types – the quartz/quartzitic varieties were most common and visibly obvious because their tendencies to fracture irregularly. Often the redness from the heat would diminish as you viewed the rock’s cross section from outer to inner core. This first site where I discovered abundant FCR was lowlying, had a well-developed fine clay stratum and little slope that made the site waterlogged and often filled with water. The equal distribution of the FCR over the broad area made me think that, slightly joking, the Indians had been throwing hot rocks into a pond that might have been used for bathing/hot-tubbing. At the time, the random distribution of pottery sherds, flakes, and occasional projectile points at the site didn’t make me question this rock-from-hearth scenario.
Another recent excavation in the neighborhood featured once again an approximate 40 x 100 ft. hole in the earth, and it was similarly associated with a uniform distribution of FCR across the property. I noticed that the rock type slightly below level (and occasionally slightly above) the FCR stratum consisted of the exact same type of rocks, and in the same uniform distribution. The fact that these same rock types in stratums slightly below show no signs of heat suggests to me that fires ravaged the land and burnt rocks only on the ground surface. The use of fire as land management by indigenous people is something that is now recognized by archeologists as a common and important activity of New World people – even in areas not prone to natural forest fires, like the Palisades of Washington DC.
The latest bungalow to be replaced by a mcmansion yielded a few prehistoric items.
bags of carbonized wood/bone, soapstone bowl fragment, rhyolite knife, pottery sherd, flakes, burin
This soapstone/steatite bowl fragment looks like it might have been ground after it’s useful life as a bowl. The first phase of pottery in this area (Marcy Creek) has steatite tempered in the clay. I found a similar bowl fragment on my property, alongside many sherds of the Marcy Creek pottery style.
I’m running a bit late with the completion of 2018 World Cup tiki bar but more or less completed it today. It continues to get uglier year by year. Previous tiki resurrections here, here, here, here, and here.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a collection of different prehistoric pottery types found in the neighborhood on display at our new library? I’ve brought this idea up with the library people and the thought sailed right over their heads. As physical space for books becomes less important, the libraries are reorienting to the needs of homelessness and child care activities. But . . . the local library would be a great place for exhibiting local artifacts.
Below are two new sherds brought to me for inspection. The large sherd must have been part of an extremely large pot.
Below is a rimsherd of the pie-crust variety.
Found during a grown-up Easter hunt yesterday. This would be classified as a quartzite “chopper” probably associated with the “Savannah River” people of the terminal archaic. This type of stone tool confused early North American archaeologists who had been familiar with similar Acheulean hand axes in Europe which had been shaped by much earlier Homo Erectus. To date, archaeologists have not found evidence for homo erectus in the new world. But more importantly, I’ve been able to use the term “homo erectus” now three times in this post.
During this summer as I walked to the Palisades Park, I regularly noticed this piece of quartz in the middle of the footpath. I never thought a projectile point so trampled upon could go undiscovered. Last week I stopped for a closer inspection and dislodged it from the dirt. Lo and behold – a stemmed projectile point with a missing portion of the shoulder.
Back in the spring of this year, I lamented the lack of archeology prior to construction along the Potomac River at the Kennedy Center’s new River Pavilion. I investigated the site back in May and wrote about what prompted the visit here.
When I visited the area in May most of the foundations had already been sunk and the remaining earth exposed seemed to correlate to the turn of the century era. Here was the location of the Heurich Brewing Company and the Arlington Bottling Company – substantial amounts of bottles with the label ABC for the Arlington Bottling Company shows the close operations of these related businesses.
Bottles from both the Arlington Bottling Company and CHR Heurich Brewing Co comprise the bottle cache.
At left, CHR Heurich Brewing Company embossed with hop vine around Washington Monument. At right, Arlington Bottling Company.
Closer to the river at this site, I found some of the following items.
4oz medicine bottle, shell buttons, and porcelain bowl fragments
Unfortunately, I did not visit the site when the foundations were dug, which likely would have exposed the sites prehistoric profile.
According to the environmental/cultural assessment Section 108 meeting for the Kennedy Center expansion, the Delaware Nation was consulted. The Delaware Nation website notes that consulting fees are charged and that those funds go towards their preservation department. Since no archeology was conducted at the site, it appears this payment was simply compensation for erasing the sites American Indian component. Sigh.