ARCHAEOLOGY OF THE TILLETT SITE
Eleven features were excavated at the Tillett site; ten of these pits were designated as features, but the eleventh was inadvertently given a "pit" designation in the field and this has been retained because that nomenclature was entered on the radiocarbon data form sent to the chronometry laboratory. The number of features and thefr range of functional types were generally disappointing, but considering the relatively small area of the site excavated they did provide an adequate sample of activities and two radiocarbon dates. By far the majority of the features clustered toward the south end of the site in the -42 trench area and in squares -48 and -56R2. The content of all features was wet-screened for maximum recovery of botanical and faunal remains as well as smaller cultural specimens. Those features whose content included diagnostic ceramic materials were assigned to components of the site sequence on that basis (Table 3).
This feature was identified as an area of loose oyster shell with an oblong area of gray sand and shell on its southern perimeter. The end of the oval-shaped pit exposed in the southeast corner of square -56R2 measured 1.1 meters by .9 meter in width. The outline was first traced at the bottom of level 2, 20 centimeters below the surface, the depth to which mechanical disturbance of the site surface extended in this square, and excavation exposed the rounded pit bottom 10 centimeters below. The feature was classified as a refuse pit, probably refilled, since no other context was observed and its content was non-diagnostic of function. Besides oyster shells, the pit contained faunal specimens, wood charcoal, a fragment of a quartz cobble hammer- stone, and two Mount Pleasant cord-marked sherds (Table 3). Although the sherds suggest assignment to the Mount Pleasant component of the site, the relatively high position of the pit in the midden and the degree of disturbance above it argue equally for the severe truncation of a later pit, or for a deeper area of mechanical disturbance rather than an intact cultural phenomenon.
This feature in the northeast corner of square -56R2 was the corner of a rectanguloid intrusion extending 50 centimeters east-west and 40 centimeters north-south into the square. Similar to Feature 1, it was bordered on the south by an area of loose oyster shells, exposed in outline at 20 centimeters below surface, and was relatively shallow (12 centimeters). Although its content of oyster shell, bone, (Page 23) and two Colington residual sherds (Table 3) suggest placement in the Colington component, some rusted iron fragments in the fill are evidence of mechanical intrusion and disturbance.
Similar to Features 1 and 2, the generally oval part of the outline of Feature 3 was exposed in the northwest corner of square -56R2 at a depth of 20 centimeters. The pit fill was a dark, organic soil containing oyster shells and fringe areas of yellow sand at the periphery. Besides the shells and a few faunal specimens, the pit contained one Colington fabric impressed and three Mount Pleasant residual ceramic sherds (Table 3) and bottomed at a depth of 10 centimeters. It, too, probably resulted from deeper mechanical disturbance in this corner of the square.
Feature 4 was first observed at the top of the Zone III sand below the shell midden in the northeast corner of square -56R2. The exposed outline was the .8 meter quadrant of a presumably circular pit which extended into adjacent squares and had a maximum depth of 20 centimeters. Pit fill was dark, organic midden soil and oyster shells and the feature is best classified as a refilled pit of unknown original function. A jasper spall, one Colington residual sherd, and two Mount Pleasant sherds (one cord-marked; one residual) constitute the cultural content (Table 3), and the wet-screening process reclaimed wood charcoal and juniper seeds along with one seed each of plantain and cleavers, the latter two possibly used as medicinal plants (see Appendix C). The Colington sherd and jasper spall suggest that the pit was used during the Colington occupation.
Also first observed at the top of the Zone III sand in square -56R2, this feature was identified as a tree root system, burned and decayed (Figure 6b). Location and depth of the feature can be seen in the stratigraphic profile in Figure 5a. It was a generally oval area of dark gray and containing charcoal and traces of decayed radial roots that extended 1.15 meters along the west wall of the square and .95 meter into the square. Toward the southern end of the dark gray soil was a circular, black area of organic soil with some oyster shell and numerous charcoal fragments that the trunk and tap root system had occupied. No cultural specimens were reclaimed but the ethnobotanical analysis identified a number of possible Eastern red cedar (juniper) seeds (see Appendix C).
Feature 6 was first observed as an irregular area of ash, charcoal and burned, fragmented oyster shell in the Zone II shell (Page 24) midden (20 cm. below surface) at the southeastern corner of square -42L6 (Figure 10). An area of light gray ash extended along the northern edge of the exposed section of the feature and into the adjacent, unexcavated square (Figure 8a). After excavation, the pit ended at a depth of 10 to 15 centimeters with a relatively flat bottom and generally circular outline. The pit apparently functioned as a hearth, or fire pit, possibly for cooking and/or for burning shells prior to their use as ceramic tempering material. The cultural content belongs to the Colington component, based on the 12 Colington fabric impressed and five Colington plain sherds in the pit fill (Table 3). A radiocarbon date of A.D. 860 + 85 (UGa-3434), obtained from wood charcoal in the central hearth area, places the pit origin and use in the early Colington component. Also included in the fill were jasper spalls and pebble cores, a quartzite pebble core, faunal specimens (some calcified) and a hackberry seed (see Appendix C).
There are three potential sources of origin for this feature with mixed soil fill, which was the result of previous excavations at the Tillett site. The outline, that of a regular-sized excavation (Figure 10), was first observed at 20 centimeters below the surface, the depth to which the southern part of square -42L2 had been disturbed by grading and other activities. Eventually, the former excavation was exposed in extension square -43L2, where it had intruded into the western side of the Burial 2 pit (Figure 11b). Our first interpretation was that this was our own 1972 test square A, a 2-meter unit, but the exposed outline, when hypothetically extended, appeared to exceed a unit of that size. The second source could have been the excavation carried out by Paul Green and Ben Dixon MacNeill in 1938, and the third might have resulted from Talcott Williams' (1896:54) visit, although it is doubtful that he opened any excavations at this site.
Similar to Feature 5, this decayed tree root system in square 4L4 (Figure 9a) was first traced at the top of the Zone III sand, 30 centimeters below the surface. An irregular oval area of dark gray, mottled sand extended 1.05 meters along the west wall and .5 meter into the square, and encompassed a black, organic area approximately .7 meter in diameter which had been occupied by the main trunk and tap root system. No cultural materials were present in the feature, but a sample of wood charcoal was taken from the central black area. Decay and/or destruction of the tree was apparently coincident with midden accumulation during the early stages of site occupation since the lower midden dips into the upper section of the black stain.
Only part of this feature in the northwest corner of square -42L6 (Figure 10) was excavated. First observed at the top of Zone III (Page 25)
the outline had a maximum extent of 1.2 meters from the corner toward the center of the square, and was traced for .8 meter and .6 meter along the western and northern profiles, respectively. The pit edge gradually sloped to a gently rounded bottom with a maximum internal depth of 15 centimeters. Originally classified as an intentionally excavated pit, after excavation and observation of the profile, Feature 9 appeared to have been a natural depression in the base sand which had slowly filled with midden debris. This was confirmed by an obvious dip in the midden stratification above the pit (Figures 5, 9b) and by its content, which was primarily oyster shell and organic soil with a few scattered fragments of wood charcoal. Two small Mount Pleasant residual sherds in the fill (Table 3) also suggest general midden debris accumulated during the early stages of site occupation.
Half of this small, refilled pit was exposed 30 centimeters below the surface of square 30R2, the northernmost excavation unit. The pit had been truncated by disturbance from historic activities which had removed the overlying midden. Feature 10 measured approximately 47 centimeters in diameter and its rounded bottom intruded into the Zone III sand to a depth of 26 centimeters. The fill was dark gray organic midden soil and oyster shell and contained a few faunal specimens, spalls, two Colington fabric impressed sherds, and two Mount Pleasant sherds (one fabric impressed, one residual) (Table 3).
Pit 1, Square -48
Pit 1 in the northeast corner of square -48 was first observed and plotted at the base of the Zone II shell midden. The exposed quadrant of this generally oval feature extended 80 centimeters along the north profile and 40 centimeters along the east profile of the square (Figure 8b). The pit walls sloped gently to a rounded bottom 25 centimeters deep (Figure 5a). The original function of Pit 1 is unknown, since it appeared to be refilled with general midden material (organic soil, oyster shell) containing scattered wood charcoal fragments, faunal specimens, and 13 Mount Pleasant sherds (Table 3). Oyster shells from the pit submitted for radiocarbon analysis produced a date of A.D. 460 + 85 (UGa-3435), which correlates closely with the geological date of around A.D. 400 for brackish marsh development in this locale and the initial occupation of the Tillett site.
Three features in squares -42, -42L2 and extension -41.5R1 of the -42 trench (Figure 10) were not excavated because of lack of time. The shell and organic fill of these pits was plotted in outline at the top of the Zone III sand in the last few days of field work which were necessarily spent excavating burials and back-filling the site. (Page 28)
Temporal-Cultural Affiliations of the Features
Features 5 and 8 were identified as tree root systems, both observed as originating at the base of the Zone II shell midden. These features are the remains of trees which were growing on the site at the time of initial occupation, and at least in the case of Feature 5, the species was probably Eastern red cedar. The relative contemporaneity of the death or destruction of the trees and the initial midden accumulation is suggested by the radial root stains just beneath the midden in Feature 5, and the slumping of the midden into Feature 8. Taking this evidence a step farther, a relatively mature forest probably covered the site when it was first occupied in the Mount Pleasant phase.
Feature 9 and Pit 1, square -48 belong to the Mount Pleasant component, the first occupation of the site. Feature 9 was probably a natural depression in the sandy surface of the site which filled as the midden accumulated and provides information on site accumulation process rather than human behavior. Pit 1 was intentionally excavated but its original function remains unknown since it was refilled with general midden debris. It did originate very early in the site sequence and the radiocarbon date of A.D. 460 + 85 derived from its oyster shell fill is probably close to the time of initial occupation of the Tillett site. Both of these features were assigned to the Mount Pleasant component on the basis of their ceramic content (Table 3). Although Feature I also contained only Mount Pleasant ceramics (Table 3), its high stratigraphic position in the Zone 11 midden at levels confirmed elsewhere on the site as belonging to the Colington component, and the extreme disturbance around and above it, suggest that this presumed pit resulted from ground disturbing activities. (Page 29)
Features 4, 6 and 10 belong to the Colington component (Table 3). Of these, only Feature 6 contained sufficient associations to assign its function as a hearth or cooking pit. Originating near the bottom of the Colington component midden (Zone II), the feature produced a radiocarbon date of A.D. 860 + 85 which is probably close to the beginning of that occupation. Its content of cores and spalls, faunal material, burned shells and a hackberry seed suggest workshop and cooking activities expected around a hearth. Features 4 and 10 were refilled pits, neither of which contained a clue to their original functions. The plantain and cleavers seeds from Peaiure 4 provide possible clues to plant collection and processing for medicinal purposes, and the juniper seed confirms the continued existence of a forest cover similar to that in existence earlier.
The features from both the Mount Pleasant and Colington components suggest the types and frequency of activities expectable at a seasonal community or camp. (Page 30)
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