Tuesday, April 13, 2021

 Where People Lived on the Pecatonica River Valley During the Middle Holocene (5000-500 BCE)

Speaker: Sara Pfannkuche

April 25, 2021 • 3:30pm • Zoom!

Sara Pfannkuche joins us on Sunday, April 25 to present the penultimate lecture in this season’s offerings.  A professional archaeologist who has worked on both historic and prehistoric sites in the United States for nearly 30 years, she is completing her PhD in Anthropology at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Archaeologists attempt to identify how people adapted to their environment in the past by looking at where sites are located on the landscape. This type of analysis, known as settlement pattern analysis, is usually done in conjunction with large regional archaeological surveys. This presentation focuses on the uses of settlement pattern analyses and the application of this technique for the Pecatonica River during the Mid-Holocene. 

While settlement pattern analysis is often applied to large river systems, it has rarely been done for smaller drainages falling within the uplands of the major rivers.  

One such river is the Pecatonica River of southwest Wisconsin and north-central Illinois. The Pecatonica is the main tributary to the central valley of the Rock River. Its mouth is located within the Village of Rockton, Illinois, 3.5 miles south of Beloit, Wisconsin. The headwaters are about 120 miles to the northwest, within the Driftless Region of southwest Wisconsin.

During its short course, the river passes through a variety of landscapes: unglaciated terrain of the Driftless region, areas covered in till and lake deposits from the Illinoian glaciation, and areas covered by lake deposits and outwash dating to the Wisconsinan.

The study of the settlement patterns for this river, especially during the Mid-Holocene (5000 to 500 BCE) with the end of the Hypsithermal (a time of a drier and warmer climate) and the establishment of the modern climate, can give fresh insight on how aboriginal people dealt with shifting climate patterns away from the major river valleys. 

 Many archaeologists have applied Driftless Area settlement patterns to the entire Pecatonica Valley, but the lack of rock shelters for the glaciated half of the river valley for use as winter/spring habitation sites makes it unable to explain how people would have lived year-round.

In addition, the Driftless region’s mixed prairie/forest vegetation is not the same as the predominant prairie/savannah biomes located in the Illinois portion of the river valley. The differences in geomorphic and vegetative variables for these locations suggests that different resources were available in the areas that might influence how native people utilized the landscape. (pictured: Late Archaic point found within research area)

Our April meeting will include discussion on past climate change and its effects on a regional landscape and the aboriginal people who lived on it. How this change might have affected their lifestyle will be explored using evidence gathered through archaeological investigations.

Beginning in 2006, Sara Pfannkuche expanded her work on historic and prehistoric sites to include museums, curating archaeological collections and designing exhibits and tours. She helped open two museums including the Pick Museum of Anthropology at Northern Illinois University (February 2012) where she was Interim Director.  In 2018 she co-founded Midwest Heritage Resource Consultants, which specializes in archaeology, museum planning, curation, and exhibit design. She is also a past-President of the IAAA, of which CAS is a member organization.

Take another opportunity to explore topics in archaeology from the online connections we have expanded this year.  The April program is planned for Facebook Live, so visit our Facebook page for this and all sorts of interesting information. (However, not all sessions will be recorded for later viewing or be on Facebook Live – the March lecture was not.) We encourage you sign in for the Zoom and participate in the Q & A. 

 Lectures begin officially at 3:30pm, but members are invited to join the Zoom early, signing on at 3:15pm for an informal period to socialize and converse with our speaker before we open to the public at 3:30pm. 

Topic: Sara Pfannkuche  - Where People Lived on the Pecatonica River Valley during the Middle Holocene (5000-500 BCE)                                                           
Time: Apr 25, 2021 03:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
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Friday, April 9, 2021

Mike Ruggeri Reports

Keeping An Eye On Archaeology News & Events

Chocolate Trade Between the Ancient Southwest and Mesoamerica

Trade between Mesoamerica and the Ancient Southwest in macaws, parrot feathers, copper bells, turquoise, turkeys, pottery was well known to archaeologists for some time.  

Only recently have we become aware of the large chocolate trade between Mesoamerica and the Southwest from the 9th Century on.

Researcher Patricia Crown had seen cylindrical vessels at Maya sites that previous researchers discovered contained chocolate. Using sophisticated new technology, the chemical building blocks of chocolate, theobromine and caffeine, were found in these vessels.
In 2009, Patricia Crown was looking at cylindrical vessels that looked like the ones she saw at Maya sites at the Ancestral Pueblo site of Pueblo Bonito. She saw these vessels contained pigment decoration that was applied in the same manner as the Maya used in decorating their vessels. She then ascertained that these vessels may also contain the chemical proof of chocolate. So she and her team analyzed the vessels in the lab.

[photo: Room 28 Pueblo Bonito]

In Room 28, at the Site of Pueblo Bonito, she found layers of these types of jars, and with further digging, found an astounding 200,000 ceramic items. She sorted out the ones that came from the cylindrical type and had them tested for theobromine and caffeine. Sure enough, the tests came back positive, and we now know that the Ancient Puebloans were trading for chocolate grown 1,200 miles to the south in Mesoamerica. These date to 1000 CE.

[photo: Chaco Chocolate Vessel]

The Mesoamericans were drinking chocolate as a valuable beverage going back at least 3,500 years. They were using chocolate beans as currency. And we have recently found that they were using chocolate as a means of payment for work and services.

Further studies in smaller housing units in Mesoamerica, where poorer people lived, contain those cylindrical vessels that have tested for the presence of chocolate. So chocolate was a huge commodity in the Mesoamerican economy.

Patricia Crown followed up on these studies and did the same research on these vessels in smaller units in the Chaco Canyon, close to Pueblo Bonito and further afield, and found the same phenomena. Poorer folks had access to chocolate, probably as payment for services.

The Chaco culture had its florescence from 850-1150 CE. So chocolate was finding its way to the Chaco culture from Mesoamerica as early as 1000 CE, as we know from dating the Chaco vessels.

Then came the huge surprise, still a mystery. Dorothy Washburn, from the University of Pennsylvania, tested shallow “Abajo Red on Orange” bowls at the site of Alkali Ridge, far to the north of Chaco in Utah. And to her surprise, they contained theobromine and caffeine – in other words – chocolate!

The folks at Alkali Ridge were an extension of the Ancient Puebloan culture far to the south, and these Red on Orange bowls were different from the usual pottery found in the area. And they date to 780 CE, a full two centuries before chocolate at Pueblo Bonito.

This is an astounding find for many reasons. How did this happen? Why is this so much further north from Mesoamerica and yet the dates are 200 years earlier than the Chaco Culture dates? Why have there been no finds of chocolate between this Utah site and the New Mexico sites on the way to Utah? How did it arrive there? Who transported it? Mysteries now abound.

This coming June, I will give a Zoom talk for our membership on this whole subject with more material, some answers, and even newer discoveries. I hope to see you all there.

Friday, April 2, 2021

 Collaborative Archaeology in Red Cliff, WI

Setting the Example in Modern Archaeology

~ reflections by James Meierhoff, PhD Candidate UIC ~

In the wake of the recent world-wide social movements we have experienced and witnessed lies the future role of anthropology in our society. While present issues of ethnic disparities and economic inequalities have come to the fore, our collective history, our understanding of ourselves as a community, a country, a culture, are also being questioned. How can perspectives and past experiences of all people be included in that history? (One only need to review the issue of historical monuments in the USA for one such debate.) Academically, the subfield of archaeology has been focused on trying to understand and relate to its past – which is deeply rooted in colonial institutions, perspectives, and goals – in order to understand its future. But what is sometimes overlooked is archaeology’s present.

    Perhaps the most productive way forward was demonstrated in March to the CAS and its guests during the presentation Connecting People, Past and Present:  Collaborative Archaeology in Red Cliff, WI. The talk was collaboratively presented by Dr. Heather Walder, Lecturer of Archaeology & Anthropology at UW La Crosse and Marvin DeFoe THPO (Tribal Historic Preservation Officer) of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Their research is based in Frog Bay Tribal National Park, Wisconsin, the first of its kind in the United States.  

    Their project’s framework is based on the concept of “Community Based Participatory Research”, which provides a methodology for engaging Native and local communities as equal partners of archaeological research. The researchers at Frog Bay approach their project collectively:  community stakeholders and traditional archaeologists engage in the research together in an immersive environment, thus providing a platform for differing perspectives to inform the archaeological data generated. This allows Native perspectives to enhance and inform the interpretation of archaeological material collected while  outside researchers (often field school students) can experience what life was like, and in many ways still is, at Frog Bay. 

    At the core of Community Based Research are often divergent but necessarily shared goals. Long gone should be the days of archaeologists simply seeking permission to perform their research in a community for their own ends. Instead, conversations should commence with local, often descendant groups, inquiring how archaeology can enhance understanding of their past, and collectively devise plans on how to accomplish those shared goals together.  The speakers illustrated very well how this can work.