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Bone Sharp Faunal

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UM 486

Late Archaic, Late Woodland
Middleboro, MA

A total of 398 fragments of bone and 81 fragments of shell were analyzed. Like most archaeological sites where calcined bone makes up the majority of the faunal remains recovered, most of the assemblage could not be identified beyond the level of bird, small mammal, mammal, or medium mammal longbone and flatbone. The fragments that could be further identified consisted mostly of white-tailed deer but grey squirrel, red fox, canine, turtle, box turtle and herring/ alewife were also present in limited quantities.

Young turkey remains were recovered from one unit. The nature of the soil indicated at it was recently disturbed soil, likely associated with the turkey farm located at the property.

The assemblage was subdivided into a total of 12 concentrations based on the distribution of the faunal remains across the project area. Concentrations 1, 2 and 3 contained the bulk of the faunal remains recovered. The other nine concentrations ranged from one to nine fragments each. The three large concentrations likely represent areas where the primary processing and disposal of the faunal remains occurred. The smaller concentrations may be isolated depositional spots of faunal remains ancillary and originating from the larger concentrations.

The 81 pieces of shell recovered represented three species, quahog, soft shell clam and surf clam, and were likely transported to the site from the south or east coasts during the prehistoric or Contact Periods. The fragments may represent as few as two quahog, two surf clams and one soft shell clam, indicating that shellfish were not processed with the shells being disposed of at this site.

The assemblage from UM 486 was compared with similar prehistoric calcined bone assemblages in Lakeville, Taunton and Middleboro. The gross classes present at the various sites, it can be seen that all of the sites yielded small mammal remains. In most cases these accounted for only a small amount of the total assemblage (.9 to 2.5%). At the Nemasket Site, which was the Phase II examination of UM 486, small mammals accounted for 14.6% of the total assemblage. At all of the sites, medium mammal (medium mammal longbone, flatbone, deer) was the most common gross class identified, likely testifying to the importance of deer to Native people. Birds accounted for a small percentage of the identified bone in all cases except for UM 286 where it made up 2.2% of the total assemblage. This may be due to seasonal variations in the species utilized or is just a product of idiosyncratic behavior that resulted in more bird bones being thrown into the fire by the inhabitants of this site. Fish was only recovered from the UM 486 site and may show that most fishing and fish processing was conducted at specialized camps located closer to prime fishing locations such as islands, falls, the coast or narrow points in the river where weirs were set up. Finally, turtle was recovered from all of the sites with it contributing from .3 to 4.9% of the total assemblage.

The occurrence of the deer elements that were identified was also compared between those sites. It was found that the pattern at UM 486 was similar to Riverside 4 in Lakeville. At both these sites, a wide variety of elements from deer were identified, making it possible that entire deer carcasses were returned to this site for processing, as opposed to hunters returning with just the meatiest elements. Both of these sites date primarily to the Woodland Period, indicating a possible pattern of complete carcasses being returned to more permanent sites during this time as opposed to the Late Archaic sites which show more selection in what elements are present in the assemblage. The difference may also have to do with disposal practices. Perhaps Woodland people threw more deer bones into the fire than Archaic people just by chance.

The recovery of box turtle and herring remains from UM486 suggests that the site was occupied at least during the spring and summer. Unfortunately, herring were smoke dried to be used for the rest of the year and turtle shells were often used for rattles and other ceremonial instruments, so the both may be stored or curated items that were used at anytime during the year.

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