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Saturday, May 28, 2011

University of Maine Photography Session

Yesterday we spent the entire day in the basement of the University of Maine's Anthropology/Folklore building. This place is more or less my dream playground equipped with labs, mechanized photo stations, a flint-knapping room, and a repository (aka The Cave) that holds the majority of Maine's artifacts. We had two goals for our work yesterday.

1) Photograph artifacts that were recovered from the Hirundo excavations and represent the cultural chronology of the site.

2) Sort through and scan slides from the original Hirudno excavations and field schools in the 1970's.

The photos we took and scanned will be used for an upcoming Hirundo Archaeology webpage and public lectures (i.e. Rebecca's a week from today!)

Here are some examples of artifact photos:

Ground Felsite Plummet, Archaic (9000-3000 BP)
Though the true purpose of these items remains uncertain, it is
hypothesized that they were used as weights for fishing.

Felsite Projectile Point, Middle Archaic

Chert Projectile Point, Late Archaic

 Ground Slate Projectile Point, Early-Middle Archaic

The early-mid Archaic period in Maine is partially complexing as chipped stone artifacts became vastly replaced by ground stone technology. In other words, people make tools by grinding instead of chipping. As soon as it came into place, ground stone technology suddenly transitioned back to chipped stone towards the end of the Archaic era. Some archaeologists argue a change in population caused a change in technology, others suggest the transition was merely a fad among a single culture. 

Ground Slate Celt, Archaic
Axe Head or Chopping Tool (perhaps hafted to wood handle)

The chipped/groundstone technology change marks a large question mark across the spectrum of archaeology. What exactly does the transition mean? Does it suggest the incursion of a new population? Or, does it represent technology changing as it does today? Take for example computers: if an archaeologist identified 21st century humans by their computer preference we would mostly be broken up by Mac and PC users. Can you say that different computers identify unique cultural groups? Depending on what questions you are asking, it could be completely legitimate or absolutely inaccurate.

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