restricted access 5. Lithic Raw Material Sources
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82 5 Lithic Raw Material Sources Joseph F. Winiarz During the investigations of the Corey site, it was decided that a nondestructive and inexpensive method of comparing artifacts to raw lithic sources was needed. In order to fully assess the natural variations in the region’s geology, and to aid in identifying the origin of artifact material recovered, raw material samples were collected from areas that were suspected local source sites, in addition to more distant localities that were possible candidates. These locales are situated along the Onondaga Escarpment, a ridge of sedimentary limestones and dolostones of Devonian age. The escarpment outcrop can be traced from the Hudson River valley along the southern rim of the Mohawk River valley, passing just south of Syracuse and along the northern heads of the major Finger Lakes to Buffalo, New York (figure 5.1). The Corey site is located fourteen miles south of the escarpment. Because the appropriate analytical mode is dependent on the question asked, and because the question can often be constrained by the resources available, the goal of this work was to establish a microscopographic database of local raw lithic materials so that an initial visual comparison could be made to help determine the origin of recovered lithic artifacts (chapter 6). The database is meant to supplement more technically accurate methods by providing a cost-effective and nondestructive method of comparing lithic sources. This raw material database and the comparative lithic analysis experiment is a pilot study that should be expanded by adding additional quarry-site sample information as well as geological testing data. Lithic Raw Material Sources | 83 Background When Jack Rossen of Ithaca College began excavating the Corey site in central New York, the subject of lithic material origins came into question. Rossen understood that by determining the origin of the lithic material used, it was possible to make certain ecological and cultural inferences. Sixty years ago, Alex Krieger and John Witthoft faced the same question: “The presence or absence of indigenous materials at a site can infer cultural selection” (Krieger 1954, 275). “If manufacturing materials not indigenous to a region are found in a site, trade or migration can be inferred” (Witthoft 1952, 470–73). There are several different methodological approaches used in the systematic examination of lithic artifacts. Each of these methods has varying benefits and limitations, including cost, ease of application, and sensitivity to particular elements. Among these methods are visual and microscopic petrology, optical emission spectrography, atomic absorption spectrometry, X-ray fluorescence (XRF), and instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA) (Jarvis 1988, 5). For this project, the appropriate analytical mode would have to be one that was nondestructive, inexpensive, and readily available for use both in the field and in the 5.1. The Onondaga escarpment, where prehistoric quarries of high-quality chert were located. (Courtesy of Matt Gorney and Ithaca College Digital Media Resources) 84 | joseph f. winiarz laboratory. Using the fingerprint analysis database that law enforcement agencies have as a model, a similar photomicroscopic database of locally obtained raw lithic material was created to provide preliminary identifying characteristics such as color, grain size, composition, fracture planes, inclusions, and luster. Although specialists have repeatedly stressed that visual lithic analysis is both unreliable and inaccurate (Jarvis 1988, 5), the statement was made in reference to “eyeballing artifacts” and not to matching materials using a microscopic database. In New York State, the only major chert resource is one that is not only visually similar but also chemically homogenous . Because some Onondaga cherts are accessible across much of the state, it is very difficult to determine where any artifact may have specifically originated (Jarvis 1988, 1). A basic assumption of this study is that if the cherts are similar but not identical, individual samples could reveal differences. Thus, I began the collection and categorization of raw lithic materials from various quarry sites located along the Onondaga Escarpment in order to establish a database as a reference point for material origin . Within the Onondaga cherts, it has proven possible to distinguish high-quality Onondaga Escarpment quarry cherts from lower-quality streambed cherts. Data on northeastern US chert sources was described by Barbara Luedtke as chaotic (1992, 1993). Although there are voluminous amounts of information pertaining to morphology and typology, there is limited geological cross-referencing on the origin of materials. Access to this type of data would be a boon to New York State archaeology (Jarvis 1988, 2). Although there are partial compilations of chert sources...


Subject Headings

  • Indians of North America -- New York (State) -- Cayuga County -- Antiquities.
  • Excavations (Archaeology) -- New York (State) -- Cayuga County.
  • Cayuga Indians -- Religion.
  • Cayuga Indians -- History.
  • Cayuga Indians -- Antiquities.
  • Cayuga County (N.Y.) -- Antiquities.
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