Geoarchaeology of a Strath Terrace in the Upper Ohio Valley, West Virginia

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Geoarchaeology of a Strath Terrace in the Upper Ohio Valley, West Virginia
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  390 SSSAJ: Volume 73: Number 2 • March–April 2009 Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 73:390-402doi:10.2136/sssaj2007.0151Received 27 Apr. 2007. *Corresponding author (© Soil Science Society of America677 S. Segoe Rd. Madison WI 53711 USAAll rights reserved. No part of this periodical may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Permission for printing and for reprinting the material contained herein has been obtained by the publisher. T he present distribution and visibility of archaeological sites is a function of several factors. In part, it is a result of human interaction with the environment existing at the time of occupation. The landscape setting directly influenced the location of the site and the nature of the activities that took place there (Rapp and Hill, 1998). Once a site was aban-doned, ground surface processes (pedologic and geomorphic) determined whether or not the archaeological record was pre-served, modified, or destroyed (Bettis, 1988; Waters, 1992). Thus, the archaeological record is a result of both behavioral and ground surface phenomena, and artifacts found at a site have both a behavioral and a nonbehavioral context (Schiffer, 1983). Contemporary archeological investigations require that site formation processes be evaluated because variability can be introduced into the archaeological record in the form of modi-fied, destroyed, or added materials, and modified, destroyed, or added patterning. The dynamic changes that affect every soil, and the archaeological record contained in the soil, must be deciphered to make meaningful inferences about past hu-man behavior (Cremeens and Hart, 1995). The record of land-scape stability, as interpreted from the soils, is significant to archaeological site investigations because the cultural remains (artifacts and features) should be associated with stable land-scapes. The association reflects the probable human preference for locating residential camps or settlements on stable surfaces, and the resulting likelihood of the concentration and preserva-tion of artifacts and features on a stable surface relative to ag-grading or eroding ones (Holliday, 2004). Archaeological data recovery excavations of the East Steubenville (46Br31) and Highland Hills (46Br60) prehistoric Native American sites in Brooke County, West Virginia, were conducted as part of the  WV Route 2 Follensbee-Weirton Road upgrade project. The geoarchaeological investigation of these two sites, performed as part of the data recovery investigations, provided us with the opportunity to make detailed observations and characterize soils at a relatively small (12,500 m 2 ) ridgetop location in the Upper Ohio River Valley.Our objective in the geoarchaeological study was to char-acterize soil properties and distribution on the ridgetop sites to evaluate the physical context of the archaeological remains. The soil information was used to interpret the stability and geomorphic history of the current ground surface in terms of stratigraphy, erosion, pedoturbation, on-site activities of the Panhandle Archaic inhabitants, and subsequent occupa-tions including historic and modern disturbances. This eval-uation and interpretation provided a baseline for behavioral interpretations of Sites 46Br31 and 46Br60 based on patterns of artifact distribution. Post-occupation processes must be understood before the patterns of artifact assemblages can be used to infer the behavioral characteristics of the past cultures D. L. Cremeens* GAI Consultants, Inc.385 E. Waterfront Dr.Homestead, PA 15120-5005 J. C. Lothrop New York State MuseumCultural Education Center, Room 3049Albany, NY 12230      P     E     D     O     L     O     G     Y Geoarchaeology of a Strath Terrace in the Upper Ohio Valley, West Virginia Soil characterization and distribution on a narrow ridge strath terrace bordering the Ohio River in the northern panhandle of West Virginia was evaluated to determine the stratigraphic context of the cultural remains of two prehistoric archaeological sites. Five soil map units were delineated in the project area based on the distribution of regolith materials and associated soil characteristics. Shale and sandstone residuum in the central crest of the ridge is covered  with a laterally discontinuous mantle of Pleistocene alluvium, 0.25 to >1.2 m thick, and a continuous mantle of Late Pleistocene loess, 0.25 to 1.1 m thick. Hapludalfs formed in the loess over alluvium, or in loess over residuum, indicate moderate to long-term (e.g., 12,000 yr) pedogenesis. On steep shoulder slopes, Dystrudepts in shallow residuum with little to no loess indicate limited pedogenesis and possible early to mid-Holocene erosion. Panhandle Archaic inhabitants of Site 46Br31 ( ? 6090–3400 yr BP) harvested freshwater mussels from the Ohio River below the ridge, and after consumption discarded the shells on the shoulder slopes at the southern end of the ridge. The resultant shell middens, largely disturbed by 20th century relic hunters, form a complex map unit of Dystrudepts and Udorthents. The distribution of soils on this ridge and the associated archaeological remains indicate that the successive occupations of prehistoric Native American inhabitants lived on the same ground surface. The resultant cultural remains were not buried or stratigraphically separated. The modern soil surface is an approximate, although eroded, remnant of the occupied ground surface. The vertical distribution of artifacts reflects several millennia on a mature soil surface with an evolving biomantle.  SSSAJ: Volume 73: Number 2 • March –April 2009 391 (Cremeens and Hart, 1995). The project also provided a test case for the mature soil model of artifact distribution in soil profiles (Cremeens, 2003). In that model, developed for glaci-ated settings in northeastern North America, artifacts deposit-ed on immature geomorphic surfaces and young soils are more susceptible to post-occupation vertical patterning changes that are more likely to be confused with stratigraphic separation than artifacts deposited on a mature soil at the time of occupa-tion. As a soil matures, artifacts tend to concentrate within the immediate subsurface soil horizons. The current project pro- vided an opportunity to evaluate the model in an unglaciated upland setting with a loess mantle.The project area is located in the Unglaciated Appalachian Plateaus physiographic province and is approximately 50 km south of the Illinoian and Late Wisconsin glacial margins (Fig. 1). On more than one occasion during the Pleistocene, the project area was probably a periglacial environment associated  with the glacial margins. Periglacial environments are cold and tundra-like, conducive to the formation of short-lived progla-cial lakes, stratified ice-contact deposits, and loess sheets and sand dunes (Clark et al., 1992). High aeolian sedimentation rates prevail in sparsely vegetated periglacial terrain (Glover et al., 2003; Feldman et al., 2000). The distribution of loess has not been documented in any systematic study in the Upper Ohio River Valley, although loess soils are mapped on higher terraces and on ridgetops, and several regional soil series de-scribe shallow loess as a parent material (Crowl and Sevon, 1999; Clark et al., 1992). Loess soils have been characterized in southern Ohio on ridges east of the Muskingum, Scioto, and Little Miami rivers (Rutledge et al., 1975), and in the Teays  Valley (Thompson et al., 1981). Geoarchaeological studies of loess-mantled uplands have been documented in the U.S. Midwest (Van Nest, 1993; Stafford, 1998) but are not com-mon in the mid-Atlantic or Northeast.The East Steubenville Site (46Br31) is well known as the type site for the Steubenville pro- jectile point, a Late Archaic diag-nostic artifact in the Upper Ohio  Valley. The site served as the basis for Mayer-Oakes’ (1955) definition of the Panhandle Archaic cultural complex ( ? 6090–3400 yr BP). Paleoindian ( ? 11,000–10,000 yr BP) and Early to Middle Archaic ( ? 10,000–6,000 yr BP) Native  Americans in the Upper Ohio  Valley practiced lifeways supported by hunting and gathering of terres-trial plants and animals. With the advent of the Panhandle Archaic Cultural Complex in the middle Holocene ( ? 6000 yr BP), Native  Americans began exploiting shell-fish and fish in the Ohio River as part of their seasonal subsistence strategy (Mayer-Oakes, 1955). The few recorded Panhandle Archaic camp sites are primarily located on bluff-top settings overlooking the Ohio River, and several contain food refuse middens domi-nated by freshwater mussel shells.GAI’s investigation yielded a diverse cultural assemblage of >80,000 specimens of flaked stone, cobble, groundstone, and bone tools; stone tool manufacturing debris; and food re-fuse at 46Br31 (Lothrop, 2007). The major diagnostic artifacts recovered include Brewerton notched ( ? 6090–5210 yr BP) and Steubenville dart or spear points ( ? 4150–3725 yr BP).  Acceptable radiocarbon dates on human remains and food refuse (deer bone and charred nutshells) range from 4590 to 3400 yr BP. Thus, there were two major periods of Archaic occupation at 46Br31: an initial occupation occurring 6090 to 5210 yr BP and a second span of occupation occurring 4590 to 3400 yr BP, with a hiatus of occupation between about 5210 and 4590 yr BP. Excavators encountered the remains of a pre-historic shell midden along the shoulder slopes in the southern portions of 46Br31, and stone tools and tool manufacturing debris along the ridge crest. At Site 46Br60 (10–20 m north of 46Br31), GAI’s excava-tions yielded about 8000 artifacts, consisting primarily of bi-faces, cobble tools, and stone tool manufacturing debris mostly concentrated along the ridge crest, with no shell middens (Lothrop, 2007). No radiocarbon dates were obtained, but di-agnostic artifacts included Brewerton and Steubenville points, as well as Middle to Late Woodland notched points. This sug-gests that, in addition to the Panhandle Archaic occupations, Middle to Late Woodland Native Americans subsequently vis-ited 46Br60 approximately 1500 to 1000 yr BP. MATERIALS AND METHODS Study Area The project area is situated on the southern end of a narrow, north–south-oriented ridge in the northern panhandle of West  Virginia, 145 m east of the Ohio River (80°36 ′  W, 40°21 ′  N) (Fig. 1 and 2). Elevation of the sites ranges from a maximum of 297 m above Fig. 1. Project location map with glacial sediment distribution of eastern United States (after Cremeens et al., 2005).  392 SSSAJ: Volume 73: Number 2 • March–April 2009 mean sea level (AMSL) at Site 46Br60 to about 270 m AMSL at the southern end of Site 46Br31 (Fig. 2). The ridge parallels the Ohio River and is part of the Ohio River bluffs that occur along various portions of the river in the region. The ridge is a remnant of the Parker Strath, a relatively high-elevation strath terrace marking the channel location of the former Steubenville River, a north-flowing, preglacial predecessor of the Ohio River (Wagner et al., 1970). The age of the terrace strath may be as old as pre-Quaternary to early Pleistocene (1–3 million yr) (Wagner et al., 1970; Marine, 1997). The ridgetop is mapped as an Allegheny silt loam (a fine-loamy, mixed, semiactive, mesic Typic Hapludult) 3 to 8% slopes (AhB) and Allegheny silt loam 8 to 15% slopes (AhC) (Ellyson et al., 1974). Field Investigation Data recovery excavations at both sites included a staged pro-gram of (i) systematic shovel testing to delineate site boundaries and internal artifact distributions; (ii) excavation of 1- by 1-m test units to sample each site’s cultural materials in a controlled fashion; and (iii) topsoil stripping followed by mapping and excavation of subsurface cultural features (such as pits) to recover prehistoric artifacts and food refuse (Lothrop, 2007). Test unit (TU) excavations for the archaeo-logical data recovery included 315 1- by 1-m units at 46Br31 and 48 units at 46Br60. Many of these test units extended to a depth of 1.5 m.  As the primary source of field data collection for this study, detailed soil profile descriptions were made of most of the deeper test units. Soil samples for laboratory analysis were collected from selected hori-zons in the test units. In addition, hand-auger soundings were made at various locations on the ridge. In particular, the shoulder slopes of the ridge at 46Br31 were investigated with a hand auger to evaluate the integrity and extent of the prehistoric shell middens and associ-ated historic or recent disturbances, including previous excavations by relic hunters. Two backhoe trenches were excavated and sampled during the later stages of the project. One of the trenches (BHT-1)  was excavated between Sites 46Br60 and 46Br31. The other trench (BHT-2) was excavated near the southern end of Site 46Br31. Soil morphology data for representative test units are presented in Table 1. The content of rock fragments (>2 mm) was visually estimated dur-ing profile observation. In Test Units 38 and 95, samples were col-lected from a different wall of the test unit than that from which the description was made (Table 1) due to archaeological considerations. In these cases, horizons and depths in Table 2 vary slightly from those in Table 1. The BE and Bt1 horizons were combined in BHT-1 and in TU141 to reduce the number of samples. Laboratory Analyses Particle-size analysis of the <2-mm fraction was conducted by the pipette and sieve methods (Gee and Bauder, 1986). Samples were pre-treated with 10% H 2 O 2  to remove organic matter, and dispersed with a solution consisting of 10 mL of a sodium hexametaphosphate stock solution in 400 mL of distilled water. The stock solution was prepared  with 37 g NaPO 3  and 7.9 g Na  2 CO 3  L −1 . Total sand (2–0.05 mm) was fractionated with sieves into very coarse sand (2.0–1.0 mm), coarse sand (1.0–0.5 mm), medium sand (0.5–0.25 mm), fine sand (0.25–0.1 mm), and very fine sand (0.1–0.05 mm). A calibrated pipette was used to determine coarse silt (20–50 µm), medium silt (5–20 µm), fine silt (2–5 µm), and clay (<2 µm).Soil pH was measured in a 1:1 soil/water suspension by means of a glass electrode (McLean, 1982). Exchangeable cations were determined by the Mehlich 3 method (Wolf and Beegle, 1995), and cation exchange capacity was determined by the sum-mation method (Rhoades 1982). Exchangeable acidity was determined using the Mehlich buffer method (Mehlich, 1976). Soil physical and chemical data are presented in Table 2. RESULTS Geomorphology Elevation of the normal pool of the Ohio River at the project location is 196 m AMSL. Relief ranges from 74 to 101 m between the strath surface and the modern Ohio River. The ridge is oriented north–south, with a steep to near- vertical face to the west overlook-ing the Ohio River and a steep slope into a first-order valley to the east. The ridge measures 30 to 60 m wide at the summit (Fig. 2).  At Site 46Br60, the summit has a 3% slope with a southern aspect. Fig. 2. Location of sites 46BR60 and 46BR31 in relation to the Ohio River in the northern panhandle of West Virginia, from USGS Steubenville East OH, WV, PA 7.5-min quadrangle. Ridge cross-sections of A–A ′ , B–B ′ , and C–C ′  are shown in Fig. 3. Note that contour intervals are 20 feet ( ? 6 m) on the srcinal topographic map.  SSSAJ: Volume 73: Number 2 • March –April 2009 393 Table 1. Morphological properties of selected pedons at Sites 46Br60 and 46Br31. Moist colorHorizonDepthMatrixMottles†Description‡Pedological features§Regolith type cmPedon TU 38A0–137.5YR 2.5/1silt loam, trace of gravel; weak, medium subangular blocky structure; very friable; abrupt irregular boundaryloessE13–2310YR 6/4silt loam, trace of gravel; weak, medium subangular blocky structure; very friable, abrupt broken boundaryBE23–3010YR 5/4silt loam; moderate, medium subangular blocky structure; friable; clear smooth boundaryBt130–427.5YR 4/4silt loam, trace of gravel; moderate, medium subangular blocky structure; friable; gradual smooth boundarycd 7.5YR4/3 clay films2Bt242–837.5YR 5/6loam, 10–20% smooth, rounded gravel; moderate, coarse subangular blocky parting to strong, medium subangular blocky structure; friable; clear, smooth boundarymd 7.5YR4/3 clay filmsalluvium3BCr83–11010YR 4/4, 7.5YR 4/6cp 10YR 6/2clay; weak, coarse subangular blocky parting to weak, medium platy structure; very firm; diffuse boundaryremnant bedding planes in blocky pedsresiduum3Cr110–137+N 6/, 7.5YR 5/6, 10YR 4/3clay, 20–30% shale fragments; structureless, massive; extremely firmPedon TU95A10–11N 2.5/silt loam; moderate, medium subangular blocky parting to moderate, medium granular structure; very friable; abrupt, wavy boundarysoot, loessA211–1810YR 4/2silt loam; moderate, medium subangular blocky structure; friable; abrupt wavy/irregular boundaryBE18–2910YR 5/4fd 10YR6/3silt loam; moderate, medium subangular blocky structure; friable; clear, smooth boundaryloessBt129–5510YR 4/4fd 10YR6/3silt loam; strong, medium subangular blocky structure; friable; gradual, smooth boundarycd 10YR4/3 clay filmsBt255–6310YR 5/6silt loam; moderate, medium prismatic parting to strong, medium subangular blocky structure; friable; clear, wavy boundarymd 10YR 4/3 clay films; cm N 2.5/ Fe-Mn nodulesBt363–7610YR 5/6silt loam; weak, medium platy parting to strong, medium subangular blocky structure; firm; gradual boundarymd 10YR 4/3 clay films2Bt476–1017.5YR 4/4loam, 5–10% shale fragments; strong, medium subangular blocky structure; firm; gradual boundarycd 10YR 4/4 clay filmsresiduum2BCrt101–1307.5YR 4/6cp 5YR5/6fp 10YR6/2loam, 20–30% shale fragments; weak, medium platy structure; firm; clear boundarycd 10YR 4/4 clay films2CBrt130–1855YR 5/4mp 2.5Y6/4clay loam, 50–70% shale fragments; weak, medium platy structure; very firm; diffuse boundaryfd 10YR 4/4 clay films2Cr185–200+2.5Y 5/450–70% weathered shale fragments; weak, medium platy structurePedon TU112A10–8N 2.5/silt loam; moderate, medium subangular blocky structure; very friable; clear, smooth boundarysoot, loessA28–2010YR 4/2, 3/2silt loam; weak, medium subangular blocky structure; friable; abrupt, wavy boundaryloessBE20–2910YR 5/4silt loam; moderate, medium subangular blocky structure; friable; clear, wavy boundaryBt129–3810YR 5/6silty clay loam; moderate, medium subangular blocky structure; friable; gradual, wavy boundarymd 10YR 4/4 clay films2Bt238–807.5YR 4/6silty clay loam to silty clay, 10–20% weathered shale fragments; strong, medium subangular blocky structure; firm; gradual, smooth boundarymp 7.5YR 4/4 clay filmsresiduum2BCr80–100+2.5Y 4/6silty clay, 50–70% weathered shale fragments; weak, medium platy structure; firmPedon TU 33A10–11N 2.5/silt loam, trace of gravel; moderate, fine granular structure; very friable; abrupt wavy boundarysoot, residuumBw111–3010YR 4/4loam, trace of gravel; weak, medium subangular blocky structure; friable; clear, smooth boundaryresiduumBw230–547.5YR 4/4sandy loam, 10–20% sandstone fragments; moderate, medium subangular blocky structure; friable; clear wavy boundarysandstone fragments weatheredBCr54–95+10YR 4/4, 10YR 4/6sandy loam, 40–60% sandstone fragments; moderate, medium platy structure; very firmPedon TU4CA0–2210YR 3/1, 10YR 5/6, 10YR 5/4silt loam, 5–10% shells and shell fragments; weak, coarse subangular blocky parting to weak, medium subangular blocky structure; friable; abrupt wavy boundaryspoilAb22–3610YR 3/1silt loam, 5–10% shells and shell fragments; weak, medium granular structure; very friable; abrupt, smooth boundaryshell middenBAb36–4410YR 3/3silt loam, trace of gravel; weak, medium subangular blocky structure; friable; abrupt, irregular boundaryresiduumBwb44–5610YR 5/4silt loam; weak, medium subangular blocky structure; friable; clear wavy boundaryBCr56–60+10YR 6/4sandy loam/loam, 30–40% shale and sandstone fragments; weak, medium platy structure† Redoximorphic features including redox concentrations (high chroma) and redox depletions (low chroma), f = few, c = common, m = many, d = distinct, p = prominent.‡ Texture as estimated in the field.§ clay films on ped faces and lining pores, quantity and distinction: f = few, c = common, m = many, f = faint, d = distinct, p = prominent; Fe-Mn nodules: c = common, m = medium.  394 SSSAJ: Volume 73: Number 2 • March–April 2009 Further south, at Site 46Br31, the summit of the ridge has a 7% slope to the south, gradually increasing to 29% on the southern tip or nose slope.Stratigraphy is best preserved on the crest of the ridge,  where it consists of residuum formed in Upper Pennsylvanian shale and sandstone overlain by a laterally discontinuous man-tle of alluvium, 0.25 to 1.2 m thick, and a continuous mantle of loess measuring 0.25 to 1.1 m thick. On the steep sides of the ridge, the regolith is thinner and unweathered bedrock occurs within 0.5 m of the surface. Loess was defined in the field on the basis of the silt loam texture, bright B horizon color (10YR 5/6, 5/4), and consistent thickness on portions of the ridgetop (Thompson et al., 1981). The loess achieves a maximum thickness of 1.1 m on the ridge crest in the north-ern areas of 46Br31. The loess maintains a thickness of 0.5 to 1.1 m on the ridge crest and thins to the south, east, and  west. Alluvium was identified in the field by the appearance of rounded, smooth gravels (2–40 mm) of mixed lithology, and in some cases a loamier or sandier texture than the overlying loess. The alluvium achieves its greatest thickness in the central crest of the ridge at Site 46Br60. It is nonexistent at the northern end of Site 46Br31 and reappears at the southern end of Site Table 2. Physical and chemical properties of soils from Sites 46Br60 and 46Br31. Total‡Sand separates§Silt separates¶Exchangeable cationsHorizonDepthTexture†SandSiltClayvcscsmsfsvfscsimsifsipHKMgCaExch. acidityCEC#BS†† cm—————————–%——————————cmol kg −1 ——cmol c  kg −1 %Profile TU 38A0–13sil336430.<1<11141613E13–23sil197831.<1<1<18911BE23–30sil177760.<1<117825Bt130–42sil1573120.<113812332Bt242–65sil1963180.<1131418222Bt365–83sil4042182.<1131519213BCr83–110c2133461.<1781631483Cr110–137+c439570.<166142843Profile TU95A0–14sil267310.<11291225BE14–27sil1773101.<1<1191010Bt127–46sil1370170.<1<1112138Bt246–63sil1662221.<1<12151712Bt363–76sil2353244.<1131519212Bt476–101l3245236.–130l3543228.<128152540Profile BHT-1A0–17ls712900.88.515.523.822.<111141613E17–28si168221.<1<1111128BE/Bt128–54sil1867151.<1<1114157Bt254–93sil1867151.<1121316192BCt193–120sicl1258300.<1241521292BCt2120–135sil1575101.<1<11121382C135–202sil1070200.<157214863BCrt202–205cl31402912.<18942181Profile TU141A10–9sil415720.42.89.815.911.726.723.46.73.7<1<1113147A29–21sil247420.<1<1<18910BE/Bt121–40sil1871110.<1<11910102Bt240–57sil1769141.<1<11121382Bt357–83sil2462141.<11269333Cr83–120+l3148210.<12781753Profile BHT-2A0–10sl504731.44.512.418.912.918.518.410.03.9<1<13151817Bt110–24sil2463131.<1<118911Bt224–50sil2960111.<1<1114157BC150–72sil967240.<115131932BC272–93sicl1155340.<1651526422BC393–111sl5927140.62.218.530.66.77.410.98.64.8<115612503BCr111–125l5032185.55.112.516.610.111.411.29.6ND‡‡NDNDNDNDNDND† c, clay; cl, clay loam; l, loam; ls, loamy sand; si, silt; sicl, silty clay loam; sil, silt loam; sl, sandy loam.‡ Total sand, 2.0–0.05 mm; total silt, 0.05–0.002 mm; total clay, <0.002 mm.§ Sand separates: vcs, very coarse sand = 2.0–1.0 mm; cs, coarse sand = 1.0–0.5 mm; ms, medium sand = 0.5–0.25 mm; fs, fine sand = 0.25–0.10 mm; vfs, very fine sand = 0.1–0.05 mm.¶ Silt separates: csi, coarse silt = 0.05–0.02 mm; msi, medium silt = 0.02–0.005 mm; fsi, fine silt = 0.005–0.002 mm.# Cation exchange capacity by sum of cations.†† Base saturation by summation.‡‡ Not determined.
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