Anthropology 2233F/G Lecture Notes - Glacial Lake Iroquois, Great Lakes Region, Lake Whittlesey

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Sept, 11, 2013
Environmental Context and Time Space Systematics in Archaeology
-The physical environment for pre-contact human occupation in the great lakes region is summarized in the first
reading showing the effects of the Wisconsin glaciation on the lower Great Lakes and it summarizes the
vegetational history over time and how the evidence was collected
-Palynology (study of fossilized pollen) can identify species microscopically to reconstruct vegetation
-Samples are obtained by extracting cores from the bottom of ponds, bogs, or lakes and these can produce pollen
diagrams which summarize the vegetational history of the fossil site (based on the pollen’s respective shape)
-Each layer in the core represents in the best case scenarios a separate level and when combined with
dendrochronology can provide dates for the sediments
-Once this is done over a region pollen data can be combined and diagrams can be made showing changes in
vegetational history
Crawford Lake:
-The site is meromitic meaning is has limited oxygen and bacteria in the upper half of the lake with little circulation
with good organic preservation as a result
-The influx of corn pollen relates to nearby Iroquoian villages (and a take over by Neutrals is represented by
another rise in pollen particles) and we can tell when they were planted by the pollen’s colour and recent AMS C-
14 dates have revised the chronology to 1280-1490 AD
-J. McAndrews believes the pollen was deposited into the lake via goose droppings
-The cores also produce seeds and other parts of plant life providing us with information on what plant life was
present (floral analysis)
Floral and Faunal Analysis:
-Floral analysis is the study of preserved plant materials from archaeological sites and faunal analysis is the study
of animal bones from sites and both aid in reconstructing diets and environments of the past
-You can use floatation to collect macrofossils of plant life (put samples in water and organics float)
-Any site within 1000 years of age in our area will have good faunal preservation but as you get older and further
north it declines and it also depends on whether the area has been disturbed by development and other forces
Wisconsin Glacial Chronology:
-The Late Wisconsin is of special importance to us between 25,000-10,750 BCE because that’s when most of the
radical changes of the landscape occurred (current drainage patterns, etc)
-80,000 BP Early Wisconsin -65,000 BP Middle Wisconsin -25,000 BP Late Wisconsin
-10,750 BP Post Glacial (Holocene)
Glacial Features:
-Till plains are smooth deposits of glacial debris left by uniform retreat of the ice
-End moraines are ridges of glacial debris formed at ice margins when the glaciers stood still with rolling
topography (one boarders London and that’s why we have so many gravel extraction projects in the area)
-Drumlins are elongated hills oriented parallel to the ice flow formed by moving ice (sometimes sites are located
on top because high ground was valued)
Glaciofluvial and Glacial Lake Features:
-Eskers are sand and gravel ridges formed by running water within the glaciers
-Outwash plains are level plains of accumulated sand and gravel when the eskers break out of the glacier
-Sand plains are formed in shallow water often as deltas (drops first because heavier)
-Clay plains are formed in deeper water (last sediments to fall because they are lighter)
-Beach ridges and shore-cliffs are former shorelines of sand and gravel (often have sites close by because they
were near water or were on raised areas)
-A series of glacial advances and retreats affected the Great Lakes region during the Late Wisconsin glaciation
-Advances of the ice are referred to as stades and retreats of the ice are interstades
-During the last major advance around 13,000 YA in southern Ontario much of the area was underwater and there
was a glacial lake bordering the ice front (called Lake Whittlesey and this led to us being called “Ontario Island”)
-When it retreated the ice melted and filled the Great Lakes with more water than is currently in them and in Lake
Ontario basin Glacial Lake Iroquois and in the Erie basin it was the Old Erie and by Ottawa there was the Champlain
Sea that was salt water so on sites there seemingly odd sea life fossils can be found (whales, water mammals, etc)
Sept, 11, 2013
-As the retreat continued and water receded the former lake plains turned into dry land and they were occupied
by a variety of mammals (no humans in the early period) called Pleistocene Megafauna
-Mastodons and mammoths and their remains have been found all over south western Ontario (north of Lake Erie
must have been a lush area because of the amount of remains located there) and mammoths were adapted mostly
to the northern climate (more grassland compared to the relative wetlands)
The Late Algonquin 10,500 BP:
-Was very large and it overflowed modern Lake Huron and along that beach ridge are some of the oldest Paleo-
Indian sites in south western Ontario
-At the time Lake Algonquin drained through the Trent River Valley (not like Lake Huron today) and as the ice
retreated back it exposed a low outlet in the area of the modern French River and this outlet changed the flow of
the water through North Bay and this led to a low water stage because there was more water flowing out than in
-At this point Lake Huron was much smaller with two lobes (Lake Stanley and Georgian Bay) and during the period
between 10,000-5,000 YA the water raised again over sites that had built up and this impacts our understanding
-The water stopped draining to the north east like it had and it filled the lakes causing the rise and overflow to
redirect to the Port Huron outlet inundating sites and people had to migrate out of the area
-This high water stage was called the Nipising Age
Pollen Zones in SW Ontario:
1. Sedges, grasses, sage, some spruce 13,000-12,500 BP 2. Spruce zone 12,500-10,500 BP
3. Pine zone 10,500-8,000 BP 4. Mixed deciduous zone (maple, beech, elm, and hemlock) 8,000-300 BP
5. Modern zone (increase in ragweed and grassed related to forest clearance for farming) 300 BP-Present
-We can graph these changes in pollen through time showing the increase in different types of pollen as different
trees and plants took hold in the area
-In the north the steps were the same but the deciduous elements did not become so well integrated
Great Lake Forest Zones:
-Biologists call them the Boreal, Mixed Great Lakes, and Deciduous by archaeologists call them Hudsonian,
Canadian, and Carolinian
-All the zones had different resources available which makes them significant to studying the people from the
period and their agriculture (less nut growing trees in the north, smaller growing season, etc)
Time-Space Systematics Terminology:
-An artifact is an object that shows evidence of human manufacture
-Ecofacts are non-artifactual natural remains that have cultural significance (ex: remains of flora and fauna)
-Archaeological features are non-portable artifacts such as hearths or foundations of houses
-An archaeological site is a spatial cluster of artifacts, ecofacts, and features
-An artifact type is an artifact form that shares a specific group of traits like shape, size, or technological features
-Typology is the process of classifying artifacts into types
-Willey and Philips defined culture areas as large geographic areas that include a similar archaeological and
ethnographically known cultures based on similarities in subsistence practices and environments
-They also defined a horizon as a widely distributed set of culture traits and artifact assemblages whose
distribution and chronology allow researchers to assume they spread rapidly, for example, Chavin animal motifs
-Archaeological cultures were defined by them as an archaeological construct describing a region within which
people had similar material culture, settlement patterns, subsistence patterns, all within a specific time span
-A period is a length of time distinguished by particular items of material culture such as house form, pottery, or
subsistence (ex: in Southern Ontario we have the Paleo-Indian Period)
-A phase as defined by them was an archaeological construct possessing traits sufficiently characteristic to
distinguish it from other units similarly conceived that is spatially limited to roughly a region and chronologically
limited to the briefest interval of time possible
-This is defined by characteristic groupings of culture traits that can be identified precisely in time and space but
today the terms “archaeological culture” and archaeological complex” are often used in the same way
-The phase or archaeological culture is the basic unit of area synthesis in American archaeology but they are
arbitrary divisions of a cultural continuum and they may not correspond to an actual past group of people
-All of these terms are used to organize our data into charts to represent systematically an area’s cultural history
but different cultures do not necessarily mean we are dealing with different people
Sept, 11, 2013
-This has led to criticism of the concept because by clustering and dividing sites we fail to see the movement of one
group from place to place over time as significant
-An assemblage is a collection of artifacts of one or several classes of materials that comes from a defined context
such as a site, feature, or stratum
-A component is an archaeological construct consisting of a stratum or set of strata that are presumed to be
culturally homogenous
-Sets of components from sites in a region make up phases and assemblages define components which define
phases and cultures to reconstruct chronology
-We lose site of the fact that we are dealing with people when the continuity of their movement and lives are
disrupted and now we are more concerned with how they changed as well as their technology and their
environmental relations
-We are moving towards working with more objective statistics for classification from processual archaeology in
the 60-70’s but there was been more criticism since the 90’s with a movement towards studying more personal
and ideological aspects
-Traditional artifact classification is an important part of the study of culture history and artifact types characterize
archaeological phases and they are often seen as static and unchanging and this ignores the variability in artifact
assemblages but as interests changed from culture history to cultural process some artifact classifications changed
Critiques of Culture History:
-Some post-processual archaeologists have little interest in the study of culture history and they are more
interested in the meaning of things in the archaeological record, the roles of individuals and groups, etc
-They have critically examined many of the assumptions of the culture history approach and questioned the
usefulness of constructs like “phase” and archaeological culture” but culture history is still the best framework that
we have to review and summarise the pre-contact history of an area

Document Summary

Environmental context and time space systematics in archaeology. Palynology (study of fossilized pollen) can identify species microscopically to reconstruct vegetation. Samples are obtained by extracting cores from the bottom of ponds, bogs, or lakes and these can produce pollen diagrams which summarize the vegetational history of the fossil site (based on the pollen"s respective shape) Each layer in the core represents in the best case scenarios a separate level and when combined with dendrochronology can provide dates for the sediments. Once this is done over a region pollen data can be combined and diagrams can be made showing changes in vegetational history. The site is meromitic meaning is has limited oxygen and bacteria in the upper half of the lake with little circulation with good organic preservation as a result. 14 dates have revised the chronology to 1280-1490 ad. J. mcandrews believes the pollen was deposited into the lake via goose droppings.