Title Page
 Table of Contents
 List of Tables
 List of Figures
 Shell rings in Southeastern United...
 Excavations on Cannon's Point,...
 Excavations on Cannon's Point,...
 Analysis of excavated material...
 Late archaic occupation on Cannon's...
 Post-excavation assessments of...
 Appendix 1: Shell ring site...
 Appendix 2: Faunal comparison by...
 Appendix 3: Illustrations: ceramics...
 Appendix 4: Feature summaries
 Appendix 5: 6s, 15E-Faunal...
 Appendix 6: Illustrations: decorated...
 Appendix 7: Ceramic inventory
 Appendix 8: Illustrations: grit-tempered...
 Appendix 9: Catalog of worked bone...
 Appendix 10: Illustrations: worked...
 Appendix 11: Catalog of lithic...
 Appendix 12: Catalog of utilized...
 Appendix 13: Floral distribution...
 Appendix 14: List of scientific/common...
 Biographical sketch

Title: Ceramics, molluscs, and sedentism
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00098150/00001
 Material Information
Title: Ceramics, molluscs, and sedentism the late archaic period on the Georgia coast
Physical Description: xv, 263 leaves : ill., maps ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Marrinan, Rochelle Ann, 1944-
Publication Date: 1975
Copyright Date: 1975
Subject: Indians of North America -- Antiquities -- Georgia   ( lcsh )
Antiquities -- Saint Simons Island (Ga.)   ( lcsh )
Anthropology thesis Ph. D   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Anthropology -- UF   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis--University of Florida.
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 253-262.
Statement of Responsibility: by Rochelle A. Marrinan.
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: Vita.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00098150
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000177852
oclc - 03101655
notis - AAU4353


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Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page v
        Page vi
    Table of Contents
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
    List of Tables
        Page x
    List of Figures
        Page xi
        Page xii
        Page xiii
        Page xiv
        Page xv
    Shell rings in Southeastern United States archaeology
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
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    Excavations on Cannon's Point, part I: Summer 1973, Spring 1974
        Page 19
        Page 20
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    Excavations on Cannon's Point, part II: Summer 1974, Winter 1975
        Page 37
        Page 38
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        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
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        Page 47
    Analysis of excavated materials
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
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        Page 87
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    Late archaic occupation on Cannon's Point
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
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        Page 98
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        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
    Post-excavation assessments of the late archiac
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
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        Page 118
    Appendix 1: Shell ring site summaries
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 129
    Appendix 2: Faunal comparison by screen size, 9GN 76 - Test 1
        Page 130
    Appendix 3: Illustrations: ceramics having orange motifs
        Page 131
        Page 132
        Page 133
    Appendix 4: Feature summaries
        Page 134
        Page 135
        Page 136
        Page 137
        Page 138
        Page 139
    Appendix 5: 6s, 15E-Faunal List
        Page 140
        Page 141
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    Appendix 6: Illustrations: decorated fiber-tempered ceramics
        Page 201
        Page 202
        Page 203
        Page 204
        Page 205
    Appendix 7: Ceramic inventory
        Page 206
        Page 207
        Page 208
        Page 209
        Page 210
        Page 211
        Page 212
        Page 213
        Page 214
        Page 215
        Page 216
    Appendix 8: Illustrations: grit-tempered decorated sherds
        Page 217
        Page 218
        Page 219
    Appendix 9: Catalog of worked bone and antler
        Page 220
        Page 221
        Page 222
        Page 223
        Page 224
    Appendix 10: Illustrations: worked bone
        Page 225
        Page 226
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        Page 228
        Page 229
        Page 230
        Page 231
    Appendix 11: Catalog of lithic material
        Page 232
        Page 233
        Page 234
        Page 235
        Page 236
        Page 237
        Page 238
    Appendix 12: Catalog of utilized shell
        Page 239
        Page 240
        Page 241
        Page 242
        Page 243
        Page 244
        Page 245
        Page 246
        Page 247
    Appendix 13: Floral distribution by level, 9GN76
        Page 248
        Page 249
    Appendix 14: List of scientific/common faunal names
        Page 250
        Page 251
        Page 252
        Page 253
        Page 254
        Page 255
        Page 256
        Page 257
        Page 258
        Page 259
        Page 260
        Page 261
        Page 262
    Biographical sketch
        Page 263
        Page 264
        Page 265
        Page 266
Full Text



Rochelle A. Marrinan





Although some research efforts may be individual undertakings, archaeo-

logical investigations characteristically are not. Many factors--the site,

quantities of material to be processed, techniques used to gather informa-

tion, and the usually public nature of excavations--preclude the possibility

that a single person can accomplish the field research singlehandedly.

During the four field sessions spent gathering data which make this disser-

tation possible, over 30 students were provided field research experience.

Their participation in the University of Florida Department of Anthropology

Archaeology Field Schools made possible the excavation of materials pre-

sented herein. It is with gratitude that I acknowledge the following field


Summer, 1973. Nain Anderson, Roberta Lemlich, Leonard Roberts, Sandra

Sampson, and Mary Turpen.

Spring, 1974. Chris Birdsall, Mark Brooks, Marion Drescher, Leslie

Gresh, Steve Hamburg, Lynne Jackson, Tim Kohler, and Hugh Prine.

Summer, 1974. Richard Atwood, John Barksdale, Debbi Baukney, Bill

Christofferson, Robin Futch, Jean Gearing, Elizabeth Hill, Brenda Lavelle,

David Lawrence, Maureen Lineaweaver, Karen Malesky, Harvey McKenzie, Janet

McPhail, and Rebeca Quintana-Garcia, Connie Welsch, and Joy Willard.

Winter, 1975. Nain Anderson, George Edwardson, Sandra Forney, Tim

Kohler, and Mary Turpen. Robin Futch, Elizabeth Hill, Roberta Lemlich,

Janet McPhail, and Rebeca Quintana-Garcia volunteered many weekends of

assistance which added needed time to field work.

Analysis of excavated materials involved the assistance of many

specialists. I should like to thank Dr. Fred Thompson, Malacologist,

Florida State Museum, for aid in identification of the molluscs; Dr.

Pierce Brodkorb of the University of Florida Department of Zoology for

assistance with the intricacies of avian osteology, and Dr. David

Hubbel, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of

Florida, who made possible the processing of soil samples. Dr. William

R. Maples, Chairman of the Department of SociaLSciences, Florida State

Museum, aged the few human'skeletal elements recovered. Dr. Robert L.

Stephenson, Director of the Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology,

University of South Carolina, made copies of preliminary work on South

Carolina ring sites available. Dr. E. Thomas Hemmings, West Virginia

Geological Survey, made available copies of manuscripts in preparation

and preliminary field analysis.

Special thanks is extended to Chester DePratter, University of

Georgia, for his continued interest. His knowledge of the Georgia

coastal area provided numerous insights. Charles Pearson, University

of Georgia, shared his knowledge of sites within the project area. Mr.

Pearson first reported the Marsh Ring site in 1972. Dr. Donald L.

Crusoe, Southeastern Archaeological Center, made available copies of

manuscripts in preparation and discussed his research findings.

Preliminary paleobotanical identification was made by Timothy A.

Kohler using the facilities of the University of Florida Herbarium

and his own collections. Mr. Kohler was twice a field crew member and

any expression of gratitude of his contributions would be insufficient.


George Edwardson and Lynn Cunningham (University of New Mexico)

spent considerable time with illustrations presented. Roberta Lemlich

provided the photographs of lithic and shell artifacts. Dr. William

R. Maples kindly made the photographic equipment of the Department of

Social Sciences, Florida State Museum, available.

Sea Island Properties, Inc., made this project possible and it is

impossible to thank them sufficiently. However, I would specifically

like to thank Mr. William A. Jones, Sr., Mr. William A. Jones, Jr.,

and Mr. J.D. Benefield, Jr., for their kindness and cooperation. I am

very grateful that the opportunity to conduct research in such an

interesting and extremely beautiful area was mine.

To the members of my committee, I extend thanks for their continued

academic and personal support. Dr. Dickinson spent considerable time

editing this manuscript. Dr. Patton generously provided information

and encouragement. Dr. Milanich provided advice, field assistance, and

editorial time. Dr. Wing has been a great help to me since I first

came to her for assistance with a field school project as an undergraduate.

Since that time and particularly since 1973, she has made space available

for work, comparative collections, and invaluable information on almost

a daily basis. I have greatly profited from this contact.

Dr. Fairbanks initially interested me in this research topic and

continued financial support for field and analytical work. Four field

sessions constitute a major outlay of funds. I am particularly grateful

for the confidence, the personal contact, and the direction he has will-

ingly given. In the final analysis, Dr. Fairbanks is responsible for pro-

viding the opportunity to undertake this research.


There are probably others to whom an expression of gratitude is

due. I apologize for any oversight and wish to point out that while

the above-named individuals have provided information from their

special competencies, I am responsible for its presentation in this




This dissertation is a study in the application of hypothesis for-

mulation and testing to archaeological investigation of an early prehis-

toric aboriginal culture. It is presented chronologically in order to

document the considerations and observations in perspective. To do other-

wise would create an artificial impression of smoothness and correctness

that is not real. Further,'this study is seen as an exploration of the

application of more systematic methodological techniques in field exca-

vation. Analysis of data thus collected to an long-standing problem in

southeastern United States prehistory generates very interesting results.

Finally, it is intended to be a contribution to the status of knowledge

on the subject of southeastern shell ring sites. To this point, it is

a compilation of data presently available in the archaeological litera-

ture as well as a presentation of data resulting from field excavations

on Cannon's Point, St. Simon's Island, Glynn County, Georgia. It is

believed that such data be used for comparative purposes by investigators

considering the same or similar problems.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS . . . . . . . . . . . ii

PREFACE . . . . . . . .... . . . . . vi

LIST OF TABLES . . . . . . . . . . x

LIST OF FIGURES. . . . . . . . ... . .. xi

ABSTRACT . . . . . . . . . . . . . xiii


ARCHAEOLOGY . . . . . . . . . . 1

Introduction . . . . . . .. . . . . . I

The University of Florida St. Simon's Island Archaeological

Project . . . . . . . . . . . 2

Southeastern Shell Rings . . . . . . . . . 3

Previous Investigations and Interpretations . . . . 9

Chronological Assessment . . . . . . . . .. 13

The Cultural Phenomena . . . . . . . . .. 15


SUMMER 1973, SPRING 1974 . . . . . . .. 19

Present Environment . . . . . . . . 19

Excavation Strategy: Objective and Techniques . . .. 24

Summer 1973: Excavation Summary . . . . . . .. 25

Spring 1974: Excavation Summary . . . . . .... 28

Preliminary Observations . . . . . . . .... 32


SUMMER 1974, WINTER 1975 . . . . . . 37

Formulation of Hypotheses and Test Implications . . . 37

Summer 19749 Excavation Summary . . . . . . 39

Winter 1975: Excavation Summary . . . . . 41

Summary of Excavation Findings . . . . . . .

Evaluation of Hypotheses and Test Implications . . .. 45


Radiocarbon Dates . . . . . . . . . 48

Cultural Remains . . . . . . . . .. . 51

Faunal Materials . . . . . . . .. . . 67

Floral Remains . . . . . . . . . . 78

Other Analyses . . . . . . . .. .. . 80

Consideration of Methods and Techniques . . . . 82


Prehistoric Environment . . . . . . . .... 89

Techno-environmental Adaptation .. . . . . . . 91

Seasonality and Sedentism. ... . . . . ... 96

Extra-areal Relationships . . . . . . . . 102


The Cultural Phenomena . . . ... . . . .. 105

Relationships to Other New World Sites . . . . .. 109

Summary and Conclusions . . . . . . .... .116

APPENDIX 1 . . . . . . . . . . . ... 119

APPENDIX 2 . . . . . . . .... ... . 130

APPENDIX 3 . . . . . . . .... . . . . 131

APPENDIX 4 . . . . . . . . ... . . . . 134


APPENDIX 5 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140

APPENDIX 6. .. . . . . . .... . . . . 201

APPENDIX 7. .. . . . . . .... . . . . . 206

APPENDIX 8 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 217

APPENDIX 9 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 220

APPENDIX 10 . . . . . . . ....... ......... .225

APPENDIX 11 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 232

APPENDIX 12 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 239

APPENDIX 13 . . . . . . . . . . . 248

APPENDIX 14 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 250

REFERENCES CITED . . . . . . . . ... ...... 253

BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . . . . . 264


Table 1. Site Distribution . . . . . . . . . . 6

Table 2. Ring Dimensions in Meters . . . . . . . . . 8

Table 3. Chronological Summary . . . . . . . .... .16

Table 4. Radiocarbon Dates for Ring Sites . . . . . ... 35

Table 5. Radiocarbon Dates for Other Fiber-Tempered Sites. . ... 50

Table 6. Ceramic Distribution for the Cannon's Point Ring Sites . 56

Table 7. Ceramic Distribution for the Marsh Cultural Level . . .. .57

Table 8. Total Recovered Ceramic Material . . . . . .. 58

Table 9. Composite Molluscan Species List 9GN57, 9GN76 . . ... 69

Table 10. Faunal Lists: 9GN57, 9GN76, and Marsh Cultural Level . . 71

Table 11. Dietary Contributions of Selected Species . . . ... 75

Table 12. Seasonal Availability of Identified Flora . . . ... 79

Table 13. Human Skeletal Material . . . . . . . .... 83

Table 14. Contribution of Screening by Weight of Processed

Material 6S, 15E . . . . . . . .... . 85


Figure 22 . . .

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 4 .

Figure 5

Figure 6 .

Figure 7

Figure 8

Figure 9

Figure 10

Figure 11 .

Figure 12

Figure 13

Figure 14

Figure 15

Figure 16

Figure 17

Figure 18

Figure 19

Figure 20

Figure 21

S 5

. 20

. 21

. 26

* 31

S 132

* 133

. 202

. 203

S. 204

. 205

. 218

. 219

. 226

. 227

. 228

. 229

. 230

. 231

. 237

. 238

. 244

List of Figures continued

Figure 23 ... . . . . . . . . . .. 245

Figure 24 . . . . . . .. . . . . .. . 246

Figure 25 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 247

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Rochelle A. Marrinan

August, 1975

Chairman: Charles H. Fairbanks
Major Department: Anthropology

Previous researchers have contended that during the Late Archaic Period

(circa 2500-1000 BC), human groups on the present-day coast of South Caro-

lina and Georgia practiced a mollusc-centered subsistence strategy. The

abundance of molluscan resources has been viewed as evidence of a rela-

tively permanent residence pattern. This stable pattern of residence was

thought to have been instrumental in the innovation of fired clay pottery.

Today these former habitation sites exist as annular rings and amorphous

middens of molluscan debris.

Recent archaeological investigations on Cannon's Point, St. Simon's

Island, Georgia, in such habitation sites indicate that although molluscan

resources were obviously an important contributor to prehistoric subsistence,

crustaceans and vertebrate fauna (particularly fishes) also were critical

nutritional supplements.

Fiber-tempered ceramics, to date the earliest type of earthenware

reported in the United States, are present in all of the Late Archaic

Period sites excavated. Affiliations between Georgia fiber-tempered

ceramic decorative motifs and motifs associated with Orange pottery from

the St. John's River drainage in Florida are noted. This finding supports

the previous observation of Holder and others for the St. Simon's Island

area. The Georgia coastal ceramic tradition is considered influential

in the development of Orange ceramics.

Reconsideration of the generally accepted belief that decorated fiber-

tempered ceramics are later than plain ceramics is urged based on the findings

from the excavation of two shell ring sites (dated by radiocarbon at 2240-

1815 BC and 1910-1665 BC). Decorated ceramics occur in these sites at all

levels, dating coevally with plain specimens. Reconsideration is also urged

for Waring's contention that the Bilbo-style engraved bone pins are a stylis-

tic development. Both of the two bone pin fragments recovered in the Cannon's

Point excavations were from a sub-shell stratum.

In the marsh surrounding the largest ring site, a cultural deposit was

exposed 0.5-1.0 meter beneath the present surface. The association of cul-

tural materials (ceramics, worked bone, lithics, flora, and fauna) with tree

stumps suggested that environmental change is evidenced in the immediate

vicinity of the ring sites. When deposited, the Marsh Ring accumulated in

a forest environment. Ceramics from this cultural deposit are both fiber-

tempered and grit-tempered; however, the manner in which deposition occurred

is unclear. Radiocarbon dates indicate that environmental change in this

area occurred after 835-820 BC.

Permanence of residential pattern cannot be fully evaluated at present.

Evidence suggesting a Spring-Fall occupation of the Cannon's Point sites


is considered tenuous at this time. Investigation of inland riverine sites

having fiber-tempered ceramics is needed to evaluate the relationship of

these biotopes to the coast.

Excavations in the Cannon's Point shell ring sites have demonstrated

that more systematic methods and techniques must be applied to data reco-

very. Perceptions of coastal cultural developments have been framed in

terms of cultural inventory and artifact attributes. Development of a

research strategy to investigate the articulation between human culture and

physical environment is urged to provide an understanding of cultural events

during the Late Archaic Period.




For thousands of years prior to the founding of European colonies

in the New World, native American populations experienced remarkable

variety in cultural complexity, geographical distribution, and in their

use of environmental resources. Today archaeological sites are monuments

to this diversity of prehistoric lifestyles. Just as the strangeness

of such people and places promoted early Europeans to attribute unusual

origins and abilities to native peoples, the intricacies and apparent

inexplicabilities of human cultural remains still encourage some to

speculate novel derivations of human artifacts. It has been the task

of archaeology to attempt to demonstrate causality in the adaptability and

flexibility of mankind. To the student of prehistory change is perhaps

the most obvious fact and the one most challenging to explain. Plog

(1974:8) considers explanation of change to be the primary undertaking

of productive archaeological research. The methodology employed in

explanation is a critical issue in archaeology today for it is not

sufficient to simply ... tie data to cultural phenomena ..." (Plog

1974:4). Recovering significant archaeological data from field research

strategies having the objectives of hypothesis formulation and testing

affords the opportunity to investigate parameters germain to explication and

explanation of cultural processes (Binford 1962; Watson, LeBlanc, and Redman

1971). As a result of these objectives, contribution to the corpus of

anthropological knowledge may be achieved.

The present study demonstrates the use of archaeological data to

explain cultural phenomena. It proceeds from a review of the pertinent

archaeological literature to recognition of specific needs and problems

requiring further study within the research area. Hypotheses are generated

for field testing using excavation techniques selected to maximize data

recovery. Hypotheses, it should be noted, do not spring forth at the need

of the investigator. Rather, they are usually the result of continuing

research. In this study, it should be made clear that the status of

information regarding the research topic was not sufficient enough to

support more than very general hypotheses at the outset. As excavation and

more importantly analysis progressed, data suggested direction for

inquiry. Hypotheses were generated to structure excavation strategy and

future analysis. Working hypotheses will be explicitly stated in Chapter

2 and 3.

The University of Florida St. Simon's Island Archaeological Project

Dr. Charles H. Fairbanks and Dr. Jerald T. Milanich of the University

of Florida Department of Anthropology were approached in 1972 by Sea

Island Properties, Inc., regarding a proposed archaeological survey of

Cannon's Point, St. Simon's Island, Glynn County, Georgia. Several sites of

known archaeological interest were in areas scheduled for development

promoting the landowners' concern for recovery and preservation of

prehistoric and historic materials. Ruins of the Couper Plantation were

listed in the National Register of Historic Palces. Excavations in the

extensive shell heaps on the property had been made by Preston A. Holder

during the late 1930's. Human skeletal remains were frequently exposed

in plowed fields. A shell ring site was identified by a site survey

team in 1972.

A grant (#GB-37889) to support excavations was awarded by the

National Science Foundation (Fairbanks and Milanich) in 1973. Field

research began in that year. Investigation of the changing relationships

between man and his environment during the period 2000 BC and AD 1865

was the organizational theme of the project. The presentation and

discussion which follows concerns the Late Archaic aspect of the project

(circa 2000-1000 BC). Field research and analysis were also supported

by funds from the Sea Island Foundation.

Southeastern Shell Ring Sites

Structures of unusual size, location, composition, or configuration

have been popular subjects for study and speculation: pyramids, henges,

and earthen effigy mounds are but a few examples. Accounts of early

travelers, proceedings of learned academies, and personal letters

document the interest in such sites. William McKinley of Milledgeville,

Georgia, wrote of circular shell heaps on Sapelo Island, Georgia, in 1872.

His letter to the Smithsonian Institution is included in the Annual Report

for that year (McKinley 1873: 422-428). Apparently this is the first

mention of a shell ring site. The first excavations at Sapelo were some

twenty years later. Clarence B. Moore and field party conducted excavations

within the largest shell enclosure (1897: 71-73). As a result of Moore's

coastal investigations, two other shell ring sites were reported (1899).

However, because large quantities of artifacts were not forthcoming, Moore's

group shied away from further excavations in ring sites. Fifty years

later, the first scientific investigation of a shell ring was headed by

Antonio J. Waring, Jr., in the largest Sapelo Island ring (Waring and

Larson 1968: 263-278).

Circular accumulations of shell dot the barrier islands along the


coast of South Carolina and Georgia. Shell ring sites are located on the

first barrier island, or as is more commonly the case, on islands in the

lagoon and estuaries between the initial barrier and the mainland.

Ring sites are frequently located in salt marsh environments. At this time,

known distribution is limited to the states of South Carolina and Georgia.

South Carolina reports twenty-two; Georgia has at least half that many.

Table 1 summarizes published distributional information. It is possible

that two additional shell ring sites exist in Florida (Talbot Island,

Jupiter Island). The cultural inventories of these sites do not exhibit

any similarity to Georgia and South Carolina sites. Oysters (Crassostrea

virginica) are the most abundant constituents, but other species are

present, particularly clam (Mercenaria sp.) whelk (Busycon carica), and

ribbed mussel (Geukeysia demissa). While most species are estuarine,

several terrestrial forms are observed. In addition to molluscs, sediment,

vertebrate remains and human cultural materials are present.

Dimensions of the shell rings are extremely variable (Table 2).

In general, diameter ranges from 37 to 46 meters. Height also varies

considerably, a result to some extent of time and weathering. All

measurements are given in metric. While a few rings have a complete

circular contour, most are incomplete in some aspect. Erosion, shell

borrowing, and initial construction design may account for this.

Speculations regarding ring function began with McKinley's (1873)

suggestion of use for games, ceremonials, or torture. Since that

time, additional hypotheses have been offered. Moore (1897), as

another possible explanation, considered fortifications. Waring and

Larson concluded that the Sapelo Island rings were public in nature and

FIGURE 1. Shell Ring Site Distribution.

Table 1: Site Distribution, South Carolina and Georgia

Site Designation Location Source


Stratton Place

Buzzards Island

Crows Island

Yough Hall (Auld)


Lighthouse Point

Hanckel Mound

Horse Island

Fig Island 1

Fig Island 2

Fig Island 3

Murrays island

Chester Field















South Carolina
Bull Bay

Leeward of Capers Island

Leeward of Capers Island

Leeward of Capers Island

Leeward of Dewees Island


James Island

Wadmalaw Island

Leeward of Seabrook Island

Edisto Island

Edisto Island

Edisto Island

Edisto Island

Port Royal Island

Guerard Point 38BU21

Edwards 1965

Hemmings and Waddell n.d.

Hemmings and Waddell n.d.

Hemmings Field Map

Crane and Griffin 1964:9-10

Hemmings and Waddell n.d.

Hemmings and Waddell nd.

Hemmings and Waddell nd.

Hemmings and Waddell n.d.

Hemmings Field Map

Hemmings 1970a, 1970b

Hemmings 1970a

Hemmings Field Map

Flannery 1943:147-153
Griffin 1943:159-167

Hemmings and Waddell n.d.

Okatee River

Table 1 Continued.

Site Designation Location Source

Large Ford Ring

Small Ford Ring

Sea Pines Ring

Pagelson Ring

South Ring

Ring near Skidaway

Oemler (North)

Sapelo Ring 1

Sapelo Ring 2

Sapelo Ring 3

A. Busch Krick

Bony Hammock

Ring at Cannon's Pt.

West Ring




9CH 15











South Carolina
Hilton Head Island, north

Hilton Head Island, north

Hilton Head Island, south

Skidaway Island

Skidaway Island

Skidaway Island


Sapelo Island

Sapelo Island

Sapelo Island

Creighton Island

St. Simon's Island

St. Simon's Island

St. Simon's Island

Calmes 1968:45-48

Calmes 1968:45-48

Calmes 1968:45-48

DePratter n.d.

DePratter n.d.

DePratter n.d.

Waring 1940:182

More 1897

Waring and Larson 1955-60

Crusoe and DePratter n.d.

DePratter n.d.

Marrinan 1973

Marrinan 1975


Table 2: Shell Ring Dimensions (in meters)

Approximate Surface
Site Diameter Height Base Width Area Excavated Source

Fig Island

Chester Field

Large Ford

Small Ford

Sapelo I

Sapelo 2

Sapelo 3

A. Busch Krick

Bony Hammock

Cannon's Point

West Ring

Skidaway South

Pagelsen Ring

Ring near Skidaway

Oemler North





















1.2-1.5 (west)
.3-.6 (east)









76.7 m2

24.18 m2

108.7 m2

7.53 m2

1.67 m2t

49 m2

8 m2

Hemmings 1970

Flannery 1943

Calmes 1968

Calmes 1968

McKinley 1873

DePratter n,d.

DePratter n.d.



DePratter n.d.

DePratter n.d.

DePratter n.d.

DePratter n.d.


represented some ... ceremonial or social arrangement ... (1955-60:

273). After excavations in the Sewee Mound ring in South Carolina,

Edwards concluded that the site represented the remains of an aboriginal

fishtrap (1965). Refuse debris from internal pile dwellings is another

suggestion (Caldwell as quoted in Crusoe 1973). Unpublished sources

have contended that these sites were supports-for structures built

directly on the midden accumulation or protection fot dwellings

located within.

It should be mentioned at the outset that some argument exists

regarding ring origin as being of natural construction rather than

human. Proponents of the natural origin view contend that redeposition of

naturally occurring oyster bars and human cultural debris by storms and

currents is responsible. Clarence B. Moore was convinced of their

human origin but interested himself in determining them to be aboriginal

rather than English. This study suggests human construction responsible

for ring sites. Data supporting this contention will be presented

in Chapter 3.

Previous Investigations and Interpretations

An examination of the results of four shell ring site excavations is

made at this point since information from these sites comprises the foundation

for existing interpretations of prehistory during the Late Archaic.

The relevant sites are Sapelo Island Ring Number 1 (Waring and Larson 1955-60

263-278), Sewee Mound (Edwards 1965), Hilton Head Island Rings (Calmes

1968), and Fig Island (Hemmings 1970a, 1970b). Because the following

comments are general considerations, the reader is referred to Appendix 1

for a detailed summary of information available for these sites.


Previous excavation strategy followed two basic approaches. Waring and

Larson and Hemmings excavated 10-foot wide trenches from approximate

ring center through the shell deposit to the exterior edge. Edwards and

Calmes selected a smaller sampling size (5-foot square units) and

tested more locations within the site.

Excavation techniques varied significantly. No use of screens is

reported by Waring and Larson or Calmes. Hemmings used 1/4-inch

screen as a standard at Fig Island and relied on window screen for separating

material recovered from features. After observing the quantities of

faunal material lost through 1/4-inch screen, Edwards changed to 1/8

inch. Additionally, he used water separation in the screening process.

Location of sites presented some logistical problems for investigators.

Hemmings and Edwards experienced tidal innundation during excavation

because of low elevation above sea level. The higher elevation of the

Sapelo Island sites precluded such problems with tidal water or elevated

ground water levels during excavation.

Reporting of information is sketchy. Waring and Larson's (1955-60: 263-278).

report appears in The Waring Papers, published in 1968. Until a few

years ago, this report was considered a rather thorough job. In comparison

with more recent archaeological research, it lacks information on many

relevant questions. Calmes (1968) brief paper comprises the total

published information on the Hilton Head Island sites. Oriented

toward establishing chronological placement of the sites on the basis of

ceramics, it offers very little else. Edwards' (1965) report is

entitled "preliminary." No further analysis has been made public.

Information on Hemmings' Fig Island excavations are contained in two

papers dealing very generally with that site. Faunal information for


this site is available from the Zooarchaeology Laboratory, Florida State

Museum. The Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology of the University of

South Carolina has graciously made their copies of Hemmings' artifact

analyses available.

Data are variously interpreted. The following discussion summarizes

interpretations of excavators and other southeastern prehistorians;. The

origins of human inhabitants of the coastal area during this time period

(circa 2500-1000 BC) are obscured by the fact that there is no solid

evidence for an inland-coastal cultural continuum. Sites dating within

the time span circa 4000-2000 BC are absent in the coastal plain.

Waring (1940:191) posits an inland cultural development for coastal

peoples based on lithic technology. Since no lithic material is

naturally available in the coastal strand, Waring and lately Crusoe and

DePratter (n.d.:15), agree that previous cultural development in an inland

area is probable. The extensive shell heaps in the states of Tennessee,

Kentucky, and Nothern Alabama are offered as examples of possible

sources of a cultural tradition that later adapted to the lower

Atlantic coast (Stoltman 1972:53). Basic similarities in riverine and

coastal subsistence are also offered as further substantiation of the

riverine origins of these peoples. Riverine mollusc gatherers are

believed to have made the adjustment of estuarine mollusc procurement while

fishing and hunting techniques required only slight reorientation to.the

new environment.

Analysis of the cultural remains rests on three important artifact

classes: pottery, projectile points, and worked bone. Shell tools, a

common component of cultural inventories in coastal sites are not

distinctive enough for the purposes of tracing cultural affiliations.


Ceramics appear early in this geographical area and are very distinctive

In the United States, ceramics initially occur in the southeast and are

dated at circa 2500 BC (Stoltman 1966:872). These ceramics are fiber-

tempered; a typological distinction based on the inclusion of vegetal

material as a tempering agent. A plain ceramic horizon preceded decorated

ceramic types (Waring and Larson 1955460; Hemmings 1970b; Milanich 1971).

Evidence for this progression is observed at Bilbo, Sapelo Island, and

Stallings Island (located at the Fall Line on the Savannah River near

Augusta, Georgia). Ceramics are variously termed: Stallings, Bilbo, St.

Simons. It should be noted here that the type site for fiber-tempered

ceramics is the Stallings Island site (Claflin 1931). It is riverine

in orientation. Subsequent reports of fiber-tempered ceramics in Georgia

and South Carolina were lumped under the Stallings nomen. Decorative

types included incision, punctation, combinations of these techniques, and

drag and jab (frequently called linear punctation). Ceramics are

apparently hand-molded as no evidence of coil fracturing is observed.

In South Carolina, ceramics are primarily sand-tempered and typed

Awendaw, Horse Island, or Thoms Creek (DePratter, Jefferies, and Pearson

1974). Radiocarbon dates indicate that sand-tempered and fiber-tempered

ceramics are at least partially contemporary in occurrence with the latter

occurring first. It is possible that Awendaw and Horse Island are coastal

variants of the Thoms Creek type which is identified for inland

contexts. Ceramic types overlap geographically. Fiber-tempered types

are reported from as far north as the Edisto River drainage in South

Carolina. Sand-tempered types are reported along the Savannah River

drainage from the coast inland.

Lithic artifacts associated with fiber-tempered ceramic sites (rings

and middens) are large, triangular stemmed projectile points usually


termed Savannah River Stemmed. It has been noted that recovery of any

quantity of lithic material from ring sites is not usual. These sites are

especially non-productive of lithic debris and worked examples. Bilbo,

a non-ring midden site located near Savannah, Georgia, yielded large

quantities of lithic artifacts (Waring 1940: 152-197). It is contended

that this feature is unusual in the coastal area (Crusoe and DePratter

n.d.; Marrinan 1973).

Bone tools include both crude and sophisticated workmanship. Some

forms are consistent and stylized enough to be described and given type

names. The long bones of deer were fashioned into several types of

artifacts, but the most distinctive one is the Bilbo-style bone pin des-

cribed by Waring (1940: 165-171). This artifact is made from a split

section of the deer metapodial and frequently retains a portion of the

proximal articular surface. Incised designs are occasionally present on

the surface. Geometric motifs are the usual decoration; naturalistic

designs are unknown. Waring contends that the style changes from a

"nail-head type" to an "expanded-headed type" (1940-42: 254). Thus the

latter pin style indicated a later chronological placement to Waring

(1940-42: 254).

Chronological Assessment

Radiocarbon dates for fiber-tempered sites (both ring and midden)

fall within a 2500-1000 BC time range. This period has been termed

Stallings, St. Simon's, Bilbo, Sapelo-St. Simon's, and Fiber-tempered.

Chronological designations are categorical conventions used to organize

information, artifacts, and sometimes intuition. Using such a structure,

prehistory is examined and interpreted. At times, these exercises

become particularly cumbersome as the chronological dilemma of fiber-

tempered sites aptly exemplifies.


Understanding Late Archaic cultural developments on the Georgia

coast is complicated by the assignment of several typological names

derived from distinct geographical locales (e.g. Stallings, Bilbo, St.

Simon's). There is a lack of consensus regarding just what criteria

should be used in developing these designations: artifacts or adaptations.

There is also a tendency to use attributes of a single artifact as the

basis for developing typological levels.

Waring (1940: 160) observed that Stallings nomen cannot be applied to

the coastal sites since there were too many dissimilarities. These observed

differences were ceramic: vessel shape and thickness, execution of a

punctated design, presence of crude simple stamping on vessel bottoms

(1940: 160). He proposed a bipartite Bilbo nomen: Bilbo I with plain fiber-

tempered ceramics and Bilbo II with decorated fiber-tempered ceramics and

elaborately decorated bone pins. Williams (1968: 320-321) presented a

Stallings Island Culture composed of a Stallings Island Phase, a Bilbo

Phase, and a St. Simon's Phase. This structuring encompasses the geographical

aspect but considers little else.

Milanich (1971: 119-128) expressed dissatisfaction with the equating

of Stallings Island and the coastal cultural traditions. He developed a

bipartite division for the coast: Sapelo Phase and St. Simon's Phase.

The Sapelo Phase is associated with shell ring sites but temporally overlaps

the midden-related St. Simon's Phase. These phases mark the beginning of what

Milanich called the "Coastal Tradition" and are based on radiocarbon

dates, differences in subsistence orientation, distinct settlement types, and

artifact inventories. Crusoe (n.d.: 4-10) presented a four-part

division (Stallings 1-4) articulating the Georgia area with Bullen's


(1954: 47) Orange chronology for Florida. The criteria for these divi-

sions are primarily changes in manufacture and decoration of fiber-tempered

ceramics. It is rather obvious that no consensus exists. Table 3 summa-

rizes the different chronologies.

The Cultural Phenomena

At this point, it is pertinent to summarize the cultural phenomena

peculiar to the coast as exemplified by fiber-tempered ceramic sites in general

and shell ring sites in particular. The explication and explanation of these

cultural developments are the tasks to which this study is addressed.

A. Reliance on molluscs is the most obvious characteristic. This

subsistence strategy is held responsible for influencing settlement pattern

and allowing more sedentary existence. Lengthy settlements are inferred

from the extensive and deep deposits. Habitation areas during the time

period circa 2500-1000 BC are of two types: ring and amorphous midden.

Both are primarily composed of shellfish refuse. Some researchers consider

coastal inhabitants derived from inland riverine shellfish gatherers (e.g.

Tennessee River Valley Archaic people).

B. Ceramics first appear in the United States at this time. The

inclusion of ceramics in a site inventory once lent credence to claims

of sedentism (as well as horticulture). A nomadic existence was said to

be ruled out by the problems of transporting ceramics. In Georgia

and extending to the Edisto River drainage of South Carolina, fiber-tempered

ceramic types are recovered. For the remainder of the area of distribution

of shell ring sites (to the Santee River in South Carolina) and with some over-

lapping at the coast and inland in the Savannah River drainage, sand-tempered

types occur.

C. Cultural inventories are sparse and quantities of recovered arti-

facts vary with location. There is also some suggestion that inventories

Table 3: Chronological Summary.

Waring Williams Milanlch Crusoe

Bilbo Period
Bilbo I
Bilbo II

coastal sites

CRITERIA Bilbo Period
duration of
Bilbo I
plain fiber-
tempered cer-
plain or simply
decorated nail
head bone pins
baked clay objs.
large, stemmed
equilateral tri-
angular projec-
tile points

Stallings Culture
Stallings Is. Phase
Bilbo Phase
St. Simon's Phase

Stallings Is. Phase
Stallings Is. and
nearby inland
Bilbo Phase
coastal Savannah
River area
St. Simon's Phase
Mclntosh and Glynn

Not developed

Coastal Tradition
Sapelo Phase
St. Simon's Phase

coastal sites

Sapelo Phase
Georgia and South
Carolina ring
St: Simon's Phase
Coastal Georgia
non-ring fiber-
tempered ceramic

Stallings Period
Stallings I-IV

coastal and inland sites for
duration of fiber-tempered

I -absence of decoration
II -punctated and incised
Ill-grooved designs and
rims introduced
IV -pottery began to be made
with other tempering

Table 3 Continued.

Waring Williams MTlanich Crusoe

decorated fiber-
tempered ceramics
expanded head elab-
orately decorated
bone pins

DATES 2000-1000BC Sapelo I 2500-1800 BC
1000-500 BC St. 11 1800-1500 BC
Simon's Phase III 1500-1200 BC
IV 1200-100 BC

SOURCE Waring 1968:254 Williams 1968:320-1 Milanich 1973:51-53 Crusoe n.d.:4-10

vary with type of site (i.e. middens may be more productive than ring

sites). Sites nearer the Savannah River contain more lithic material.

Bone pins are a very important diagnostic artifact but their function

is uncertain. Cultural inventories are composed of subsistence-

oriented items made of locally available materials.

D. At approximately 1000 BC there is an end to this lifestyle.

Molluscs decline in subsistence importance, new ceramic types

utilizing different construction and tempering techniques appear, and

cultural inventories change.

This then was the cultural problem to be archaeologically

investigated and interpreted. A better explanation of the particular

adaptation made by the occupants of the coastal area was obviously a very

real need considering both the data base available for archaeological

interpretation as well as the interpretations generated.



Present Environment

The Atlantic mainland is protected by barrier islands along the

majority of its extent. These islands are characteristically elongated in

contour and result from deposition of water- and wind-borne sediments.

Width is usually limited to several kilometers, but length may exceed 160

kilometers. St. Simon's Island is one of the southern barrier islands

along the Georgia coast. Located between Sapelo and Jekyll Islands, it is

approximately 57 kilometers from the Georgia-Florida border (Fig. 2).

The northern end of St. Simon's Island is divided into two points of

land: Butler Point on the west and Cannon's Point on the east (Fig. 3).

These points are separated by an expanse of salt marsh through which Jones

Creek meanders. The archaeological project area comprises the entire

eastern point. To the north, the area is bounded by the Hampton River;

on the south by a property line fronting on Lawrence Road. Little

St. Simon's Island forms a protective barrier to the north against the

Altamaha River and against the Atlantic Ocean on the east. Consequently,

the Cannon's Point area is sufficiently distant (3.8 km) from the first

barrier that vegetational wind forms produced by increased salt content in the at-

mosphere are observed only in a very marginal fringe along the marsh edge.

Extensive changes in the floral cover of Cannon's Point have been

affected since the Plantation Period by land clearing for cultivation of

commercial and staple crops and by free ranging cattle and pigs. In a

FIGURE 2. St. Simon's Island and Adjacent Islands.

FIGURE 3. The Cannon's Point Project Area.


very limited way, this practice is continued today. During the Plantation

Period, a lane of oaks was planted along the main access to the planter's

home. John Hamilton Couper whose family owned the Cannon's Point Plantation

from 1794-1861 was an ardent amateur naturalist who introduced many

different plant species (Lyell 1849). Land clearance probably left few

areas of Cannon's Point untouched. In some-areas, live oaks (Quercus

virglnlana) are all the same size and pines are heavily concentrated in

other areas (it Is not clear if this condition represents planting of pine

or regrowth of a previously cleared area).

Floral cover of the Marsh Ring site (9GN57) is presently dominated by

cedars (Juniperus virginiana) which evidence wind forms and stunting. A

few oaks are observed. The understory is sparse but yaupon (Ilex!vomitori )

and marsh (Iva sp.) elder are present. Yucca (Yucca alterniflora) grows

on the highest elevation of the ring. Because the ring is open on its

northeast arc, a marsh vegetation composed primarily of Spartina

alterniflora grows within. Outside the ring stretches an extensive salt

marsh dominated by Spartina and Juncus romerianus, interrupted only by

meandering tidal creeks. Presently, the closest tidal creek is located

at approximately 160 meters distance. Nearest high ground is 35 meters

southwest, the edge of which is fringed by palmetto (Serenoa reopens ,

yucca, oak, and cedar. The West Ring (9GN76) Is located some 85 meters

southwest of the marsh ring on high ground. On its south arc, this ring

erodes into the marsh. Oaks, magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), cedar,

hickory (Carya), and hackberry (Celtis) are common in the floral cover of

this area. Yucca, palmetto, Smilax sp., yaupon, and grapes (Vitis)

contribute to a rather dense understory in the immediate ring environment.

Spanish moss is found within the forest margin.


In the Hampton River, the average annual tidal factor is guaged at 2.1

meters (United States Commerce Department 1954). At periods of high tide,

the marsh ring is completely surrounded by water and the center innundated.

Fiddler crabs (Uca spp.) abound in and around the marsh ring. A species

of land crab Is frequently observed in the trees atop the marsh ring but

incidence drops as one progresses Into the forest. Salicornia virginica

a common marsh plant is frequently observed in the moist areas near the

land edge (Carlton 1975:13). A small freshwater stream possibly the result

of ditches constructed during the plantation period empties into the marsh

west of the ring sites. Water is caught in a shallow depression inland

and flows easterly into the marsh during wet periods. Flow is minimal

during dry periods. Although topographic maps show several artesian

wells in the area of Cannon's Point, none are presently free-flowing.

Terrestrial animals seen in the vicinity of the rings include birds,

mammals, and reptiles; both native and introduced forms. Deer, raccoons,

and opossums have been observed during daylight hours and after dark.

Feral pigs, cows, and horses are presently free in the area. Marsh

hawks (Circus cyaneus) and red-tailed hawks (Buteo Jamaicensis), are the

largest predatory birds seen. Turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) are

frequently observed. Wood ibis (Mycteria americana) and herons (Ardea

herodlas and Hydranassa tricolor) are common shore birds. Red-winged

blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus), mourning doves (Zenaidura macroura),

pleated woodpeckers (Hylatomus pileatus), painted buntings (Passerina

ciris), and blue jays (Cyanocitta cristata) are frequently observed in

the immediate surroundings. Diamond-back terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin)

and musk turtles (Kinosternon sp.) were observed on the ring sites.


Several snakes were present: black racer (Coluber constrictor), indigo

(Drymarchon corals), and corn snake (Elaphe guttata).

Excavation Strategy: Objective and Techniques

A review of available shell ring literature initially suggested the

following problems for investigation:

a. ring function
b. subsistence reconstruction
c. radiocarbon dating for southern distributional extent

Determining the manner by which the site was deposited offered the

most plausible means of approaching the question of function. Utilization

of large, adjacent excavation units was thought to provide the most

efficient means of examining stratigraphy, changes in contour, or features

related to structures on or in the ring. A 3 x 3 meter excavation unit

size was selected. Additionally, systematic mapping of cultural and

subsistence material was planned to overcome the difficulties of excavating

a shell site.

Screening was considered imperative to reconstructing aboriginal

subsistence strategies. Past reports had all too casually dispensed with

this aspect. One-fourth inch screen was selected for standard screening

with additional reliance on flotation of material from features. Quantities

of faunal material were anticipated, but recovery of floral remains was

considered particularly important. Flotation was intended to provide the

means of recovering floral material.

Radicarbon dates were similarly considered important. The Cannon's

Point excavations represent a southern extreme of shell ring distribution.

On the basis of the nearest similar site, a relative date of circa 1500 BC


was selected as a working date. The Sapelo Island Number 1 Ring had an

average radiocarbon date of 1750 BC and primarily plain ceramics. The

marsh ring was known to have decorated sherds from a surface collection made

in 1972 by the author.

Summer 1973: Excavation Summary

Field crew members numbered five persons for the ten week session.

A section of the south arc of the marsh ring was selected for excavation

because of the absence of tree cover. A transit station (ON,OE) was

established on the southwest arc and tied to a benchmark on the nearest

high ground (Fig. 4). A surveyor's stake from the 1970 property survey

was located and a large cedar next to this stake became the benchmark.

An east grid line was set out with stakes at 3-meter intervals. From

this line, a north-south stake line was set out at 15E and 18E. The area

included a 3-meter wide cut across the ring from south to north. Originally,

excavating a north-south trench across the ring was planned.

The matrix encountered in the south arc was a sticky, chocolate

colored clay. It was impossible to separate material in the screen.

Midway through the field session, a pump was secured allowing water

separation of material. This procedure facilitated processing of excavated

midden material and undoubtedly increased recovery. Water was obtained

from two reservoir sumps dug in the marsh floor south of the ring. While

digging the second of these pits, considerable aboriginal cultural

materials were exposed at a depth of 0.6-0.7 meters below the present

marsh surface. Additionally, the stumps of two trees were observed but

no shell deposit was seen.

FIGURE 4. The Marsh Ring (9GN57) and Marsh Excavation Units.


In the midden excavation units (a6S, 15E and 09S, 15E), removal of

material proceeded in 15 cm levels; actual midden removal was accomplished

by 5 cm layers. Initially three and four prong rakes were used but

these were discarded since it became apparent that they posed problems for

vertical control as well as the trauma to midden inclusions. Trowelling

was a slower but more precise means of removing material.

Tests were begun in the ring center (OON, 15E and 03N, 15E). Stripping

of superficial marsh grasses was done by hand. Initially, screening was

attempted but this proved productive only in areas where midden was

projecting into the excavation units (in DON, 15E only). Finally, a

I x 1 meter sondage was made prior to leaving the field. This test

revealed a sandy deposit below the marsh grass and was virtually sterile.

Excavation units in the ring midden provided quantities of faunal

material. In addition, a sizeable ceramic sample was obtained. Sherds

were all fiber-tempered. Plain ceramics were more frequent than decorated.

Motifs included punctation, incision, and combinations of these. Several

sherds suggestive of Orange Series motifs were recovered. Shell tools,

basally blunted and having holes near the spire, were infrequent midden

inclusions. Several examples of worked bone were recovered but none were

decorated beyond circumferentially incised lines. Neither of the units

opened in the ring midden were completed.

Excavations below the marsh surface (027S, 18E and 0275, 21E) exposed

fiber-tempered ceramics in association with grit-tempered sherds. Faunal

remains were present but minimal. A few nutshells (Carya spp.) were

recovered. These findings suggested a now-drowned cultural deposit made


at a time when the environment in the vicinity of the marsh ring differed


Testing in the ring center was not extensive and revealed no features

suggesting either structures or disturbance. In the excavation of oON,15E,

the extent of midden deposit contracted perceptibly toward the ring

evidencing slump. This indicated that the ring was higher and basally

thinner than its present dimensions.

Spring, 1974: Excavation-Summary

The field crew numbered nine people for the ten week session. Of

initial concern was the completion of the two opened units on the south arc

of the ring. it soon became evident, however, that this pursuit was an

impossibility given the tidal conditions. Ground water levels were too

high and continuous pooling of muddy water forced abandonment of this

area. Attention was turned to the area of highest elevation on the north

side of the ring. The grid system was extended northward and two adjacent

units (ol8N,OE and I18N,3E) were opened in the area of maximum height.

These 3x3-meter units extended along the apex of the ring.

As a direct result of our 1973 findings, changes were made in both

excavation techniques and In processing. Excavation preceded by 5 cm.

levels to allow observation of changes in cultural material, flora, and

fauna. A 30 cm.2 column sample area was reserved in each square to allow

qualification and quantification of midden constituents. Screen size was

reduced to 1/8-inch. This change was motivated chiefly by dissatisfaction

with previous floral recovery. Two standing screens having 3/4x3/8-inch

expanded mesh upper screens and 1/8-inch detachable underscreens had been

constructed. Use of flotation sampling was again planned for features and

areas of high humic content.

A sump was dug several meters off the north edge of the ring. Again,

ceramics were exposed associated with the remains of trees. No aboriginal

flora or faunal materials were recovered. The grid was extended to enclose

this area (041N,12E) and the finds were mapped in place. The original

intention in digging the sump was to allow processing of excavated

materials on the north side of the ring. Wheelbarrows were used to

transport excavated midden to the screens on the marsh floor for processing.

This practice eliminated problems from backdirt.

In addition to the sump excavation unit (ahlN,12E), two additional

units were opened In the marsh north of the ring (o54N,12E and c80N,12E).

A small quantity of ceramics and one historic or modern fencepost were

recovered. The post was cedar and had bark adhering to the exterior.

As the distance of excavation units increased from the vicinity of the

Marsh Ring, the incidence of cultural material decreased.

A superficial scattering (0-10 cm.) of grit-tempered sherds was

observed in the north ring excavation units. No decorated ceramics were

recovered during this field session. One-half meter of midden material

was removed and processed from each square. One shell disc bead and one

bone point were recovered in the screens. Faunal recovery was heavy;

flora, particularly Carya and Celtis were frequently observed in the matrix

and in the screens.

Because the excavations in the marsh north of the ring had shown no

concentration of cultural material, attention was turned toward the south

marsh. Two adjacent 3x3-meter units were opened (033S,15E and 033S,12E).

Both squares proved productive far in excess of our expectations.

Excavation proceeded by shovel until cultural material was encountered.

Usually fragments of carbonized wood were exposed Immediately above the

cultural deposit. Once cultural material had been exposed, trowels were

used. Cultural materials and features were mapped in place for future

study of distribution and associations. A Igrge stump, apparently burned

in place was an interesting feature. Adjacent to it was a large cedar

root burned only on the side next to the stump_(west).

Attempts to return to the two south excavation units in the ring

proper continued to be frustrated by high tides. A new unit (030N,3E)

opened on the north arc of the ring at the intersection of midden and

marsh met with the same problems. It was possible, however, to note that

slump in this area had been more gradual than that noted in the south ring

interior (oON,15E).

A second ring site was identified by testing during the Christmas

holiday in 1973 (Fig. 5). The West Ring (9GN76) was located on land

southwest of the marsh ring. It was incomplete on the south side where

intersection with the marsh occurs. Presently the site is located beneath

a substantial humic layer from hardwoods and thick understory. A 2x2-meter

unit (Test 1) had been opened on its north arc and screened using 3/4x3/8-inch

expanded metal screen. Fifteen centimeter levels were used but time did

not allow completion of the test. After the unit had been excavated to

45 cm. below the surface, only the southern 1x2 half of the square was

excavated to sterile (65 cm.). Sand-tempered sherds and one possible

complicated stamped sherd were recovered in the first level; below this

*--Z- N

FIGURE 5. The West Ring (9GN76) Diagrammatic Representation.

'''''~ Li
I 1 ' '' '.'r ?
*. -.
'0 i 7 .*Is.L9 .'..cf1

'-~.4 ' *

'J*& r'. 'C'
..r ~~~ I *, :;I:-1

-I: *. -i "& .4'$.t *! I* ,
.1.. L.~r:~'37

'I..,~ 'I ** *' 71

It .' I:''".

decorated and plain fiber-tempered sherds were collected. Harsh

periwinkle (Littorina irrorata) shells were recovered In greater frequencies

In this test than in the marsh ring. Their use as food items was indicated

by the consistent removal of the spires of each shell.

During the Spring 1974 Field Session, the unexcavated northern 1x2

meter half of Test I was excavated and processed using water separation

over 1/8-inch screen. The results presented in Appendix 2 offer a strong

case of the value, in terms of recovery, for use of fine screens in shell

sites. A second 2x2 meter test (o5S,30E) was opened on the east side of

the ring. Material was removed in 5 cm. levels. The unit was not completed

prior to the close of this field Session.

Preliminary Observations

After the first two field sessions, numerous observations were

stated preliminary to formulating hypotheses by which to structure the

following Summer Field Session excavations. There were many interesting

aspects of excavation findings to consider for more vigorous testing. An

assessment of these observations follows.

A. Environmental change: The presence of a cultural deposit below

the present marsh surface suggested an instability in the marsh in this

area. Evidence of the continuing changing relationship of marsh and high

ground on the east side of Cannon's Point is observed by the marginal

area of dead and dying trees along the marsh edge. The marsh was thus

perceived as a dynamic factor in the Cannon's Point environment. The

fact that the ring, at deposition had stood in a forested area indicated

that the "fishtrap" hypothesis was not valid.


B. Ceramics: A plain to decorated ceramic continuum seemed to be

indicated by preliminary findings from the south ring at excavation units.

Decorated ceramics were confined to the upper three levels (0-45 cm.).

Below that, to the depth that excavation had progressed (90 cm.), only

plain ceramics were recovered. A cultural level having fiber-tempered

ceramics and grit-tempered ceramics located 0.5-1.0 meters below the

present marsh surface suggested an occupation following the ring-

building inhabitants and not associated with mollusc midden debris. While

flora, fauna, and cultural material were recovered, no mollusc concentration

was exposed beneath the marsh surface. Some contact with the St. Johns

River area of present day Florida was indicated by the presence of Orange

Series ceramic motifs. These are illustrated in Appendix 3. Evidence

of this contact had been initially observed by Holder (1938) and noted

again by DePratter (n.d.) at the Bony Hammock site on St. Simon's Island.

C. Lithics: An increased amount of lithic material, slight though

it was, in the marsh cultural level and the West Ring indicated an

availability and use not demonstrated in the Marsh Ring. This suggested

a change related to the increased amounts of deer present.

D. Subsistence: Marked differences in faunal recovery were obvious.

For example, fish remains were numerous in the Marsh Ring faunal assemblage

but the lower levels of the West Ring provided evidence that use of fish

had far greater importance (both by number of species identified and number

of individuals) to the Inhabitants of that site. Marsh periwinkles,

small marsh-dwelling gastropods were found in the West Ring midden used as

food items, suggesting a need to utilize less productive resources.


Periwinkles have far less food value to offer for the time expended in

gathering and preparation. The midden deposit was much thinner (0.65 cm)

in the West Ring than in the Marsh Ring (average 1.3 m). Appendix 5 clearly

shows that faunal elements present in the marsh cultural level were higher

in numbers of deer and small mammals. Reptiles were noticeably more

frequent. Fish, while present, were not numerous.

E. Dates: The working date, selected from a comparison of the Sapelo

Island Ring (Number 1) suggested a 1000 year-time span (marsh ring, West

Ring, and marsh cultural deposit). Because grit-tempered ceramics

included no check-stamping, a later decorative trait, a terminal date of

750 BC was selected. The working time range was then 1750-750 BC. Table 4

lists radiocarbon dates for shell ring sites.

After considering these points, an hypothesis based on marsh change

to account for the observed differences in faunal procurement offered a

point from which future excavations could be directed and analysis structured.

Test implications supporting such an hypothesis basically depended on

continuing support for the observations noted above. The proposed 750 year

time span did not seem unreasonable given the three cultural entities.

Length of debris accumulation was estimated from Hilton Head Island sites.

Calmes (1968) reported that the Sea Pines ring had two feet of deposit and

totalled approximately 300 years. On Hilton Head Island, Calmes (1968: 45-58)

obtained radiocarbon dates for the Ford Rings (Large and Small) representing

a total deposition time in excess of 800 years (eight feet and two feet of

midden deposit respectively). Test implications would be examined through

extending excavation in the West Ring and marsh cultural deposit.

Table 4: Radiocarbon Dates for Shell Ring Sites.

Site Date Material/Significance Source

Yough Hall

Large Ford Ring

Small Ford Ring

Sea Pines Ring

Sapelo Island

A. Busch Krick

Cannon's Point
(Marsh Ring)

West Ring

1820 BC:3770 + 130 BP (M-1209)

1635 BC:3585 + 115 BP (1-2850)
1170 BC:3120 + 110 BP (1-2849)

1940 BC:3890 + 110 BP (1-3047)

1450 BC:3400 + 110 BP (1-2848)
1160 BC:3110 7 110 BP (1-2847)

1650 BC:3600 + 350 BP (M-39)
1850 BC:3800 350 BP (M-39)

1265 BC:3215 + 80 BP (UGA-226)
1520 BC:3470 T 85 BP (UGA-227)

1815BC:3765 + 90BP (UM-521)
2240 BC:4190 + 90 BP (UM-520)

1655 BC:3605 + 110 BP (UM-523)
1910 BC:3860 + 90 BP (UM-522)

Oyster: Upper level

Charcoal: 56-57" (Level 9)
Oyster: 27" (Level 4)

Charcoal: Basal level

Clam: 20-26" (Basal level)
Conch: 0-6" (Upper level)

Oyster: Dates early ceramics

Conch: 5.7-6.0 ft.
Charcoal: 4.6 ft.

Oyster: Dates upper level
Oyster: Dates lower levels
human cranium

Oyster: Dates upper levels
Oyster: Dates lower levels

Williams 1968:330-331
Calmes 1968:47

Williams 1968:329

Crusoe and DePratter

Eldrldge 1975


Completion of all opened excavation units in the marsh ring would end

excavation at that site. Analysis would be oriented at reconstruction of

the aboriginal environment.



Formulation of Hypotheses and Test Implications

Information from analysis was at this point adequate for the evalu-

ation of research directions. Each of the previously stated observations

was carefully considered. Overall, the most concrete and interesting

aspect of the excavation was the indication that a change in resource

usage occurred. Using the marsh ring as a base, change is reflected in

the West Ring and the marsh cultural level. The question of cause was

posed. The approach then taken considered the possibilities that such

a finding could have cultural cause, environmental cause, or a combination

of these factors could be responsible. It was decided to pursue causal

statements within the ecological realm since the cultural status of these

populations was not sufficiently developed (i.e. social organization, popu-

lation density, population size, etc.).

Several hypotheses were generated and suitable test implications

were formulated.

Hypothesis I

Ho: No perceptible change in resource usage is evident
among the Late Archaic sites in the Cannon's Point

HI: A perceptible change in resource usage is evident
among the Late Archaic sites in the Cannon's Point

Test Implications

11: Inter-site vertebrate inventories are comparable.

12: Inter-site molluscan usage is comparable.




This hypothesis offered the ability to objectively test the observation

that a change in resource usage was in fact observable and repeatable

through new excavations.

Hypothesis 2

H : During the period of occupation (ca. 1500-750 BC) no
changes in the marsh occurred.

Hi: During the period of occupation, marsh encroachment
and silting occurred.

Test Implications

I1: Submarsh shell midden having fiber-tempered ceramics
is not found.

12: Changes in the marsh occurred subsequent to the

This hypothesis was offered both to suggest causality and establish the

time of the proposed ecological change.

Hypothesis 3

Ho: Marsh silting and land encroachment would have no effect
on molluscan and vertebrate fauna availability.

HI: Marsh silting and land encroachment would have an effect
on molluscan and vertebrate fauna availability.

Test Implications

IY: No effect can be documented in the literature.

12: No effect can be demonstrated in excavation findings.

These hypotheses offered a framework within which to structure the

Summer and Winter Field Sessions. Specific excavation goals were devised.

Extended excavations of the marsh were planned. Excavations in the marsh

north of the marsh ring indicated that the cultural concentration evident

on the south side of the ring was not present. Four units had been opened

in the marsh south of the ring and at least six more were planned to allow

testing of areas between the marsh ring and land. Determination of the

limits and focal areas of the cultural deposit was a goal. Testing east

of the ring was planned. If time allowed, additional testing of the West

Ring was planned. However, the investigation had been initially committed

to a strategy of collection of deep stratigraphic samples of floral,

faunal, and cultural materials from the marsh ring and no reason to aban-

don these priorities was seen.

Recovery techniques would continue in the same manner. Trowelling

of exposed material in the marsh excavation units was believed to be com-

parable to removing the material in a level. Mapping of in-place finds

was particularly important in determining the depositional nature of the

marsh cultural level.

Summer 1974: Excavation Summary

Only six weeks were given to excavations in the Late Archaic component

of the project locale during this field session. Work proceeded on the

north marsh ring units. Three additional units were opened in the marsh

south of the ring (l15S, 6W; 030S, 3W; 030S, 12W). Several levels of the

remaining uncompleted West Ring unit (1SS, 30E) were processed. Crew mem-

bers numbered between 12 and 15 persons daily.

Approximately one meter's worth of midden material was processed from

the north ring units (Gl8N, OE; 018N, 3E). Of special interest were two

features: Feature #18 (l18N, 3E) and Feature #21 (318N, OE). Feature #18

had initially been defined during the Spring 1974 session as an area of

increased incidence of floral and faunal material with a high humic content.

The feature was sampled for flotation on several occasions. A large crab

concentration (Callinectes sp., approximately 100 individuals represented)

was exposed during the Summer Field Session. Feature #21, also initially


defined during the Spring Field Session, was observed to be an area of

dark brown soil within the shell deposit. As excavation progressed, a

level of cemented shell was encountered. The most visible aspects of

this feature were the numerous hackberry seeds and the ashy condition

of the shells. This feature was assumed to represent a hearth. No decora-

tion was obvious on any of the ceramics recovered from the north excava-

tion units to this point.

One south ring unit (a65, 15E) was reopened but tidal problems con-

tinued. A well point was positioned in the southern (and lowest area)

portion of the square against the baulk, but problems with pump availa-

bility prevented continuous use of this means of water evacuation. The

unit was again closed after the identification of Feature #23, an area of

blue-grey sand believed to represent submidden soil mixed with obviously

weathered oyster and clam shells.

The marsh excavations were notable. Each unit contained several

lithic fragments, most of which were worked. Additionally, some worked

bone was recovered. Deer antler was a more common item than previously

observed. Ceramics continued to be exposed in the same associations.

While carbonized material was recovered in each unit, no large concentra-

tions of tree stumps or roots were encountered.

A I x 1-meter test (o6N, 8E) was opened in the shell projection in

the center of the marsh ring. The object of this test was determination

of ceramic contemporaneity of this deposit. Ceramics were all plain fiber-

tempered sherds. Sterile was reached at 0.75 meter below the present sur-

face. Material was removed by trowel and hand rake and processed through

3/4 x 3/8 inch mesh using water.

Winter 1975: Excavation Summary

With the exception of a brief look at submidden sterile in a 1 x 1-

meter test (06N, 8E), commitment to a rather laborious processing of

midden material resulted in uncompleted excavation units. An overriding

objective of the Winter Field Session was the completion of excavation

units. Crew members numbered six for the 10-week session. Weather was

expected to be problematical but fortunately was mild.

The first good look at submidden sterile-came one month into this

field session when O18N, OE was completed. Submidden was reached at 1.65

meters below the surface. Two features (#26, #27) were defined in the

interface. Both were pottery concentrations having plain fiber-tempered

sherds with the exception of one curvilinear incised and punctated fiber-

tempered sherd. A human cranium was recovered at 1.3 meters below the

surface, well within the midden deposit. A human pelvis was found at

approximately the same level but was three meters distant from the cranium.

Another remarkable feature (#24) was identified within the shell deposit.

This feature had a very high faunal content and was reminiscent of the

remains of a dumped cookpot.

Elevation of sterile was higher than anticipated. The midden deposi-

tion was apparently made in an area having a slight sandy knoll. It is

interesting to note that decorated ceramics were encountered below one

meter in depth. Decorative motifs were combinations of punctation and


Considering the time required to process midden material, it was

decided to excavate only one half of the remaining north excavation unit

(018N, 3E) to sterile. The southern half of this square was selected


because it contained Feature #18, an area of increased fauna and flora.

Sterile was reached at 1.65 meters. Decorated ceramics were encountered

at I meter and below. A projectile point and an elaborately engraved

bone pin fragment were recovered from the interface.

On the south side of the ring,Q6S, 15E was finally completed. Again

the interface was a highly productive area. A plain bone pin, a worked

lithic specimen, and a quantity of ceramics were recovered. Decorated

ceramics were recovered in this unit in Levels 1-3 (0-45 cm) and Levels

7-9 (90-135 cm). Sterile was reached at 1.3 meters below the present

surface. A well point was successfully used to evacuate water from this

unit. A human molar was recovered from the interface.

When the human cranium was recovered inDlSN, OE, no additional human

skeletal material could be observed. Since very little skeletal material

had been recovered from shell ring sites, examination of the area behind

(west) the baulk was indicated. A 1.5 x 2-meter excavation unit was

opened (019.5N, 2W) to expose the adjacent area. After removing 1.75

meters of shell overburden, no additional material was observed. No

screening was used, but a visual collection of flora, fauna, and cultural

material was made. Excavation of this area added a 2-meter expanse for

observation of the interface. More ceramics were recovered from this

area than in the midden. All ceramics were plain fiber-tempered.

Four excavation units were opened in the marsh: three south of

the ring (0455, 15E; 024S, 24E; o42S, 24W) and one east of the ring (oON, 58E).

In the east excavation unit, only three raccoon (Procyon lotor) teeth were

recovered after 0.75 meter of excavation. Instability of the floor (spon-

giness) forced a premature closure. The physical conditions encountered

in the unit were unlike any of the south units.

Each of the south marsh excavation units was remarkable in the quan-

tity of cultural material recovered. The southernmost, and least produc-

tive, square excavated in the marsh was 045S, 15E. The most westerly

and moderately productive was a42S, 24W. Additionally, below the cul-

tural level, white sand was exposed. This unit is closest to present

high ground. In the vicinity of the original marsh sump excavations of

1973, 124S, 24E was opened. A fragment of human cranium was recovered

from this unit along with the cultural and subsistence assemblage. It

should be noted that during this field session, an attempt was made to

screen material excavated from the marsh units. This proved unfeasible

because of the added water problem created by the water-screening.

There was too much additional seepage generated. If the screening could

have been done at some distance from the opened excavation unit, it would

prove more acceptable.

The West Ring excavation unit (a5S, 30E) was completed. In the basal

midden deposit, numerous potsherds were recovered. Sherds were plain and

decorated fiber-tempered ceramics. The decorative motifs were unusual

in comparison with those previously recovered. Combinations of puncta-

tion and incision in curvilinear and rectilinear designs were unlike the

primarily horizontal application usually observed. Quantities of fish

otoliths were recovered in the lowest levels of this unit in the same

manner as Test 1.

Finally, the last excavation unit to be opened in the vicinity of

the marsh ring wasdl2N, 15E, positioned in the center of the ring. The

location of this unit offered the ability to check the extent of the pro-

jection of shell in the center of the marsh ring. Previous testing had


revealed that it was contemporaneous to the surrounding midden on the

basis of ceramic constituents. However, as the overlying marsh accumu-

lations were removed, the projection was seen to extend into the center

much farther than indicated on the surface. Probing of this area revealed

that the situation with regard to extent of the projection is unclear.

Overlying marsh would need to be removed to make an assertion of extent

or absence in an area.

Summary of Excavation Findings

In terms of material excavated and information gathered, the Winter

Field Session had been one of the most profitable sessions. Excavation

units in the marsh ring had been completed providing an observation of

the condition of the submidden deposit. A second unit in the West Ring

and five additional marsh excavation units had been completed. All of the

previous conceptions of the progression of cultural events on the coast

were questionable in light of the information gathered. The working date

no longer inspired any confidence. Chronological placement by radiocarbon

dating could conceivably assign these sites early or late dates. Some

findings worthy of discussion follow.


The interface proved to be a particularly productive area. More

cultural material was concentrated in this area than any level of the

midden deposit or any feature. Elaborately engraved bone pin fragments,

supposedly a late cultural feature were recovered from the base of the

midden deposit. Decorated ceramics and two examples of lithic artifacts

came from this area of the site.



Plain and decorated ceramics occur in these ring sites without

stratification. Thus, a plain to decorated ceramic continuum could not

be supported by the findings. The fiber-tempered ceramics from the

north excavation units contained a perceptible amount of grit-tempering,

not observed in the ceramic samples from the ring sites. This suggested

a situation of transition in ceramic manufacturing techniques to grit-

tempered types.

Skeletal Material

Human skeletal material, though scanty, was not recovered in the con-

text of an articulated burial, but scattered throughout the midden deposit.


Further evidence of the forested nature of the environment prior to

ring deposition suggested that the site was constructed by human inhabi-

tants rather than natural forces. The fact that the interface represented

such a heavy concentration of human cultural remains was considered evi-

dence that the midden had begun to accumulate as the result of human

subsistence practices or intentional placement.

Evaluation of Hypotheses and Test Implications

As the Summer and Winter Field Sessions progressed, it became evident

that one hypothesis was unprovable given the extent, direction, and capa-

bilities of excavations and a second unsupported by excavation findings.

An examination of these hypotheses is made to point out the problems.

Hypothesis 3: Null Hypothesis Marsh silting and land
encroachment have no effect on molluscan and verte-
brate faunal availability.


While an effect upon molluscan and some vertebrate fauna by increased

amounts of sediment could be documented as possible (Buck 1956: 249-261;

Galtsoff 1956: 408-419), our excavation findings did not demonstrate such

evidence. No relict oyster beds were defined. While a probable margin

of inundated land can be observed from aerial photographs of the area,

no direct correlation between silting and encroachment could be demonstrated

for local molluscan fauna. The Null hypothesis, while not acceptable, is

similarly not rejectable either. This is a situation in which reformula-

tion and a new excavation strategy are required prior to acceptance or


Hypothesis 2: Null hypothesis During the period of
occupation (circa 1500-750 BC) no changed in the
marsh occurred.

Discernible changes in the marsh in the vicinity of the ring sites

occurred subsequent to the fiber-tempered occupation. Radiocarbon dates

indicate that inundation of the south marsh cultural level occurred after

835-820 BC. No submarsh midden deposit having fiber-tempered ceramics

was exposed by excavation supporting Test Implication 1. No molluscan

fauna was exposed in association with any material from the marsh cultural

level. Argument for accepting the Null hypothesis is felt to reflect the

findings at the site.

Hypothesis 1: Null hypothesis No perceptible change
in resource usage is evident among the Late Archaic
sites in the Cannon's Point area.

In the analysis of faunal material from the three cultural deposits

in the Cannon's Point area, consistent differences in faunal inventories

are observed. This involves molluscan and vertebrate faunal components.

Appendix 5 lists the results of the faunal analysis from the Late Archaic


occupations. Intersite vertebrate inventories are not similar. The West

Ring demonstrates a higher reliance upon fish. Analysis of fauna from

the marsh cultural level reveals an increased use of mammals and reptiles.

Intersite use of molluscan resources is not similar. The West Ring indi-

cates a subsistence use of periwinkle, an incidental mollusc in the

marsh ring. The marsh cultural level demonstFates no use of molluscs.

Therefore, neither of the test implications are supported. The Null hypo-

thesis must be rejected for lack of supporting evidence and the Test hypo-

thesis accepted.



Radiocarbon Dates

Radiocarbon dates were not available untjl May, 1975, well after

the close of the Winter Field Session. Material for dating was sub-

mitted to the University of Miami Radiocarbon Dating Lab.

Apparent age was calculated relative to 0.95X NBS
oxalic acid radiocarbon dating standard. Quoted
precisions are one standard deviation and include
only the counting precisions of the unknown sample,
background, and modern standard. (Eldridge 1975)

A discussion of the six samples, their proveniences, and significance

The Ring at Cannon's Point (Marsh Ring): 9GN57

Two samples were submitted from the north excavation units. Since

these units were located in the area of maximum depth of deposit, material

for dating from this area was desirable.

1815 BC Sample taken from (18N, 3E at approximately 13 cm
3765+90 BP below the present surface (1.13 m below datum).
UM-521 Sample consisted solely of oyster shells (Crassos-
trea virginica). This sample dates the upper levels
of this deposit and was removed just below the humic
zone. Sample is from Shell Sample #118, Field Speci-
men #848.

2240 BC Sample taken from al8N, OE west baulk at a depth of
4190+90 BP 1.46-1.58 m below the surface (2.09-2.21 m below
UM-520 datum). Sample taken from the immediate vicinity
of human cranium. Sample of oyster shell exclusively.
Sample dates the lower midden levels and the human
cranium. Sample is from Field Specimen #663.

The West Ring: 9GN76

Two samples were submitted from the east baulk of Test 1 with the

intention of dating the upper levels and the basal levels of the deposit.

1655 BC Sample consisting solely of oyster shells (Crassos-
3605+110 BP trea virginica) taken from approximately 19 cm be-
UM-523 low the surface (1.86-1.97 m below datum). Sample
dates upper levels of midden. Removed just below
humic zone. From Field Specimen #83, Shell Sample

1910 BC Sample taken from the lowest level of midden deposit
3860+90 BP at approximately 46 cm below the surface (2.24 m
UM-5T2 below datum). Shell Sample #16 comprised only of
oyster shells (Crassostrea virginica). Field Speci-
men #84.

Table 5 provides radiocarbon dates for non-ring fiber-tempered sites.

Marsh Cultural Level

Two samples were submitted from separate proveniences on the south

side of the marsh ring (9GN57). The first sample was collected during

the summer of 1973; the second in the spring of 1974. Dates from these

proveniences were felt to be requisite for determining the age of the

fiber-tempered/grit-tempered ceramic associations. Additionally, some

indication of the length of time represented by the marsh build-up would

be given.

820 BC Sample collected from o27S, 18E and consisted of wood
2770+95 BP taken from a tree stump associated with floral, faunal,
UM-5T9 and cultural materials. Ceramics were fiber-tempered
and grit-tempered. Depth of the sample was approxi-
mately 61 cm below the present marsh surface (3.21 m
below datum). Field Specimen #40. Dates demise of
tree--probably at time of marsh encroachment.

835 BC Sample taken from 033S, 12E at a depth of 76-87 cm
2785+80 BP below the surface (3.36-3.47 m below datum). Field
UM-5T8 Specimen #279 consisted of carbonized material from
a carbon concentration associated with faunal remains.
Sample dates the fiber-tempered/grit-tempered cultural

Table 5: Radiocarbon Dates for Fiber-tempered and Related Sites.

Site Dates Materlal/Slgniflcance Source

Rabbit Mount

Clear Mount

Stallings Island



Daws Island


Cannon's Point

2515 BC:4465 + 95 BP (GXO-345)
2500 BC:4450 + 135 BP (GXO-343)

920 BC:2870 + 110 CGX01752)

1780 BC:3730 + 150 BP (M-1278)
2500 BC:4450 + 150 BP (M-1277)

2165 BC:4125 + 115 BP (0-1047)

1870 BC:3820 + 125 BP (M-11ll)

1780 BC:3730 + 125 BP (M-1112)

1750 BC:3700 + 125 BP (M-1109)

1820 BC:3770 + 200 BP (M-236)

1445 BC:3395 + 100 BP (GX-2281)

970 BC:2920 + 200 BP (M-267)

820 BC:2770 + 95 BP (UM-519)
835 BC:2785 80 BP (UM-518)

Charcoal: 18/B11 1.2-1.8 ft.
Charcoal: 15/Bl1 1.3-2.4 ft.

Charcoal: Pit 4, base of pottery
Charcoal: Pit 2, below pottery

Charcoal: 5.5-6.0 ft. (dates
lowest pottery)
Charcoal: 5.5-6.0 ft. (dates
lowest pottery)
Bone: 5.5-6.0 ft. (dates
lowest pottery)
Charcoal: 3.0-3.5 ft.

Oyster: Dates pottery

Oyster: Dates pottery,burlal

Shell: Dates refuge ceramics

Wood: Dates cultural level
Carbonized wood: Dates cultural

Stoltman 1966:872

Peterson 1970:80

Bullen and Greene

Williams 1968:329-

Williams 1968:329

Brockington 1971:

Williams 1968:329

Eldridge 1975


Correction factors based on dendrochronological analysis is pre-

sented here to provide an indication of realistic dates. All dates are

given as date range from Ralph, Michael, and Han 1973: 1-20.

Radiocarbon Date Dendrochronological Correction Range

1815 BC+90 years 2180-2070 BC
2240 BC+90 years 2910-2580 BC
1655 BC+110 years 2110-(1750-1710) BC
1910 BC+90 years (2410-2340)-2140 BC
820 BC+95 years 1010-800 BC
835 BC+80 years 1010-810 BC

Cultural Remains

Cultural inventories reconstructed by archaeological excavations in

shell ring sites are not elaborate. Based on the raw material utilized

in construction, four categories are recognized: ceramic, bone/antler,

lithic, and shell. It is pertinent to remember that cultural items made

from plant resources constitute a potentially diverse category no longer

recoverable. In sites where conditions of preservation have been favor-

able (e.g. caves or bogs), the contribution of plant resources is impres-

sive. The absence of cultural items constructed from plant materials

generally creates a rather lopsided view of aboriginal technology.

Although occupational debris in the marsh cultural level was covered

by a considerable deposit of muddy silt, no examples of culturally modi-

fied wood or fiber were recovered from aboriginal contexts. This would

seem to indicate that inundation occurred so slowly that deterioration

of any such material was completed prior to submergence. Similarly, no

impressions of basketry, matting, or twining were observed on fiber-tem-

pered sherds.


Ceramic typology mirrors the lack of consensus previously noted in

consideration of cultural chronology. Claflin's report (1931) of the

Stalling's Island excavations introduced the terms Stalling's Island

culture and Stalling's Island pottery. Unfortunately, Claflin did not

recognize the ceramics as being fiber-tempered or propose any relation-

ship to known vegetal-tempered ceramics from Florida (Wyman 1875). Holmes

(1894) had more succinctly described vegetal-tempering in aboriginal cera-

mics. Holder (1938) noted vegetal tempering in the ceramics in his

collections from St. Simon's Island, Georgia. As a result of his fin-

dings, a St. Simon's Fiber-Tempered type was recognized. This type,

however, was never formally described, and Holder's work has been pub-

lished only recently (Chance 1974).

That this ceramic type existed and was used is documented by Caldwell

and Waring's application (1939) of the nomen in their description of

Chatham County, Georgia, pottery types. The Bilbo site report, written

in 1940 but not published until 1968, uses the terminology. Griffin (1943)

defined the Stalling's Island types and applied the Stalling's nomen to

fiber-tempered ceramics from the Beaufort, South Carolina, area estab-

lishing a relatedness, almost an equivalence between the ceramics of the

Stalling's Island and coastal Chester Field sites. He reiterated this

point in a subsequent paper defining the Orange ceramic types of Florida


The attempts to check unwarranted creation of ceramic types resulted

in the inclusion of all fiber-tempered ceramics in one of three regional

categories. This scheme was formalized by Sears and Griffin in 1950.


Regardless of any consideration of attributes other than ceramic ones,

ceramics were identified on the basis of the geographical location of

the find. That is, if the ceramics were excavated in Florida, they be-

longed to the Orange Series; in Alabama and Tennessee to the Wheeler

Series; in Georgia to the Stalling's Island Series.

It was not until the Bilbo site excavations that Waring began to

have second thoughts (ca. 1940). He then devised a Bilbo period chronol-

ogy which he introduced in a paper written around 1952 (1955-60: 253-255).

Williams (1968) lists the report of the Sapelo Island shell ring excavation

as being written between 1955 and 1960. In this report (1955-60: 265-280),

Waring adhered to the St. Simon's type with no mention of Bilbo classifi-

cation. More recently, Crusoe and DePratter (n.d.) have redefined the Bilbo

chronology and urged its usage. Crusoe (n.d.) in a paper written subsequently

proposes a four-fold classification returning to the Stalling's nomen and

articulating with Bullen's (1954) five-fold Orange period classification.

Since 1940, the status of excavations and particularly analysis of

sites on the Georgia coast has been that of very little public communication.

This is especially true for fiber-tempered sites. Excavations have consisted

of small tests with interest continuing in a ceramics-to-chronology orienta-

tion. No adequate site survey of the Georgia coast has been done during

this time. The situation in 1975 is not appreciably improved.

Proposal of a new typology, adherence to an old one, or consolidation

of several is not intended here. Coastal sites are significant in more

meaningful ways than ceramic motifs or attributes of ceramic manufacture.

Milanich (1971) takes a refreshing direction in proposing a Coastal


Tradition based on subsistence strategy, total artifact inventories, and

settlement type within a frame of radiocarbon dates. This is one of the

first attempts to understand cultural developments on the coast in terms

of a lifestyle and not in terms of viewing the people as possessors of

distinct artifacts.

The greatest problem to researchers is the absence of a systematic

body of data from excavated sites in either riverine or coastal environ-

ments. As many times as the Stalling's Island-rite has been excavated

or tested, interest in this site is primarily that of its unique ceramics

or ceramic change (Claflin 1931, Bullen and Greene 1970, Crusoe and

DePratter n.d.). The notable exception is Fairbanks' (1942) assessment

of the cultural traits represented by excavation findings. Too often

discussions of subsistence strategy in archaeological reports are obvi-

ously based on impression and not the result of analysis of food remains.

Riverine information is augmented somewhat by Miller's (1949) Lake Spring

site report and the paper by Phelps and Burgess (1964) on the White Mound.

The state of information reflects insufficient analysis and publi-

cation upon which to build a coherent structure of chronology or ceramic

typology. Until this data base is available, a moratorium on further

classification and categorization is urged to allow objective and impar-

tial collection of information. This should not be construed to propose

information gathering today and theorizing tomorrow. Rather it is recog-

nition that the framework within which the Late Archaic situation in

Georgia, as now perceived, is insufficient support. It is additionally a

recognition that the quality of the Cannon's Point collections precludes

their comparison with any extant collection. For these reasons, no new

scheme will be offered.

Before interpretive presentations of human development in the

Georgia coastal area are made, prehistorians must be willing to inves-

tigate the adaptation as a totality, not one or two traits.

A portion of this study is a contribution to such a data base.

Ceramics have been a major concern for archaeologists since their unique

ability to reflect cultural development was recognized. To this end,

a ceramic analysis is provided for each excavation unit giving level

distribution and totals. Many recovered decorated sherds are illustrated

with their respective proveniences. Illustrations of decorated ceramics

and rim forms may be found in Appendix 3 sherdss having Orange series

motifs) and Appendix 6. Additionally, distribution by level is provided

in Appendix 7. Illustrations of grit-tempered ceramics are included as

Appendix 8.

Ceramic fragments recovered from excavation units in the ring sites

were overwhelmingly fiber-tempered. Table 6 lists the distribution of

fiber-tempered and grit-tempered sherds for both ring sites. Table 7

lists ceramic distribution for each excavation unit in the marsh. Table 8

presents totals of ceramic material recovered from the three contexts.

It should be mentioned that fiber-tempered sherds tend to fragment upon

removal from the midden and as a result of excavation trauma. A sherd

is here defined as a ceramic fragment having both an interior and an

exterior surface intact. A paste fragment is defined as any ceramic frag-

ment lacking either one or both surfaces. Such a distinction reduces

sherd counts appreciably but is felt to be more representative of the

material reocvered. Weights are included to provide an indication of

paste fragment contribution to the total ceramic sample.

Table 6: Ceramic Distribution for Ring Sites (9GN57, 9GN76).

Provenience Fiber-tempered Sherds Grit-tempered Sherds

Plain Decorated Body Rim Total Weight Plain Decorated Body Rim Total Weight


o6S,15E 169 25 156 38 194 3696.2 g 1 1 1 2.0 g

a9S,15E 64 4 59 9 68 948.3 g

al8N,OE 231 8 225 14 239 3274.9 g 2 2 2 11.5 g

a18N,3E 79 4 67 16 83 1831.0 g 3 3 3 8.1 g

DON,15E 2 2 2 67.3 g 3 2 1 3 20.0 g


030N,15E 4 3 1 4 106,5 g
o6N,8E 28 28 28 184.1 g

al9.5N,2W 21 20 1 21 333.3 g
9 Units 598 41 560 79 639 10441,6 g 6 3 8 1 9 41,6 g


Test 1 45 2 44 3 47 808.9 g 17 5 22 22 69.9 g

35S,30E 33 12 34 11 45 687.0 g 2 1 3 3 3.5 g
2 Units 78 14 78 14 92 1495.9 g 19 6 25 25 73.4 g

Table 7: Marsh Ceramic Distribution.

Provenience Fiber-tempered Sherds Grit-tempered Sherds

Plain Decorated Body Rim Total Weight Plain Decorated Body Rim Total Weight

0 27S,21E

0 27S,18E

0 41N,12E


a 80N,12E

a 45S,15E

c 42S,24W

p 24S,24E

a 30S,12W






2 5

1 3



9 43

3 14

10 49

3 35

2 46

9 103














5.0 g

146.1 g

15.3 g

271,4 g

130,6 g

199.1 g

224.9 g

86.0 g

700.8 g

364.2 g

13 Units 289 27 277 39 316 5293.1 g 234 80 275 39 314 2143.4 g

Table 8: 9GN57 and 9GN76 Total Recovered Ceramic Material.

Total Total Paste Paste Paste Total Total
Provenience Sherds Weight Fragments(ft) Weight Fragments(gt) Weight Fragments Weight Ceramic Weight

3.4 g

34.8 g


j 27S,18E


o 56N,12E

0 80N,12E




E 30S,12W


ac 15,6W





5.0 g

541.9 g

298.8 g

115.0 g

79.2 g

62.9 g

667.0 g

443.0 g

955.8 g

851.3 g

757.9 g

2294.5 g

746.4 g

3698.2 g

948.3 g




16 24.9 g 71

5.4 g

11.1 g

6.1 g

5.7 g

1.0 g

525.1 g

262.2 g























6.8 g

108.9 g





Table 8 Continued.

Total Total Paste Paste Paste Total Total
Provenience Sherds Weight Fragments(ft) Weight Fragments(gt) Weight Fragments Weight Ceramic Weight

Ol8N,OE 241 3286.4 g 970 407.9 g 970 407.9 g 3694.3 g

1a8N,3E 86 1831.9 g 621 234.3 g 621 234.3 g 2066.2 g

tON,15E 5 87.3 g 8 22.7 g 8 22.7 g 110.0 g

a3N,15E 1 2.0 g 1 2.0 g 2.0 g

a30N,3E 4 106.5 g 78 41.6 g 1 2.2 g 79 43.8 g 149.8 g

06N,8E 28 184.1 g 36 33.8 g 36 33.8 g 217.9 g

al9.5N,2W 21 333.3 g 30 70.1 g 30 70.1 g 403,4 g

Test 1 69 878.8 g 98 102.2 g 9 8.6 g 107 t 110.8 g 981.0 g

05S,30E 48 690.5 g 363 194.4 g 363 194.4 g 884.9 g

24 Units 1395 19864.0 g 3576 2532.9 g 50 57.0 g 3626 2597,9 g 21820.6 g


Several observations regarding the ceramic collection from the

Cannon's Point Late Archaic sites are pertinent. The term fiber-tempered

is used to designate those sherds in which vegetal paste inclusions have

resulted in post-firing vermiculation and channeling. Grit-tempering

(grit in the form of visible quartz inclusions) is present in all ceramics

that are not fiber-tempered. While fiber-tempered sherds excavated in

Georgia should be typed Stallings, the situation for grit-tempered sherds

is either simple stamped or cross-simple stamped (Appendix 8). Radio-

carbon dates (820-835 BC) place these ceramics within the Refuge Phase

(ca. 1100-600 BC) as defined by Peterson (1970: 76-81).

Waring (1968: 198-208) first described this phase after excavating

the Refuge site, a shell midden located on a tributary of the Savannah

River in South Carolina. Distinction between Refuge and the later Dept-

ford phase was based on ceramic attributes. A coarser, thicker paste is

reported for Refuge sherds. This phase is best known from the Savannah

River drainage and its coastal affiliations are not clear. Peterson

(1970: 76-81) notes a distinct change in environmental usage in terms of

exploited resources and area of habitation. This information comes from

the excavations headed by Stoltman at Groton Plantation, Allendale County,

South Carolina. Peterson contends that Refuge sites are situated in the

uplands. When the swamps are used, occupation is not associated with

mollusc gathering since Refuge phase sites on Groton Plantation yield no

molluscan debris.

In the Cannon's Point project area, the marsh cultural level simi-

larly reflects no mollusc association. It is true that in this cultural

level, the majority of grit-tempered sherds were recovered in association

with fiber-tempered sherds, but it is in the latter sherds that an interesting

change is noted. In the fiber-tempered sherds from the ring sites, only

an occasional grit inclusion is observed. Fiber-tempered sherds from

the marsh cultural level, however, evidence a very high frequency of

grit inclusions. The tempering of the grit-tempered sherds from this

provenience were admittedly coarse, but assignment to a Refuge type may

be premature. As Stoltman observes (1974: 22) Waring's Refuge typology

was subjectively developed and may not be accurately reproduced by

another investigator. Perhaps the event occurring in the marsh cultural

level is one of development from predominantly fiber-tempered to grit-

tempered types--a pre-check stamped Deptford situation. Unlike fiber-

tempered ceramics, coil fracturing is frequently observed on these grit-

tempered sherds. Ceramic decorations continue to be distinct, however.

No incised or punctated motifs appear on grit-tempered sherds: no stamping

is present on fiber-tempered sherds. Decorative motifs on fiber-tempered

ceramics from St. Simon's Island shell ring sites are highly variable.

The typical Stallings motif, linear punctation, does not occur in this

sample and is generally not a common coastal decoration.

Waring (1955: 219) notes that Orange Incised, a Florida type, appears

to extend as far north as St. Simon's Island, Georgia. Excavations in

both ring sites substantiate this point (Appendix 3). Of particular

interest are sherds from the West Ring, particularly proveniences 59,

62, and 67. These sherds are nearly identical to Griffin's (1945) examples

of Tick Island Incised (see Griffin's Figures D-1). The sherds are from

basal levels of the east arc of the midden (the basal levels of the west

arc are dated at ca. 1910 BC). In the Marsh Ring, sherds having Orange

motifs are from the south arc excavations units and were recovered in the

first three levels.

As the ceramic tabulation shows, no support for a plain fiber-

tempered ceramic horizon is provided. Decorated ceramics are found be-

neath the midden as well as within it. It is interesting to note that

no decorated sherds were recovered on the north ring arc until almost

one meter of midden had been removed. On the south arc, decorated cera-

mics were very superficial.


Cultural items made of bone were far more common than those of antler.

A sizeable sample of worked bone was recovered, the majority small frag-

ments. Only three examples of utilized antler were identified. Much of

the antler recovered from marsh proveniences could not be verified as

utilized because of its poor state of preservation. All examples of

worked bone appear to be made of fragments of larger bones. Some may

be specifically identified as constructed from the metapodials of white-

tailed deer. A catalog of worked bone and antler is provided in Appendix 9;

illustrations of selected examples follow in Appendix 10.

Three basic categories of worked bone are exemplified: awls, points,

and pins. Awls are defined as pointed, tapered implements having an

expanded base. Frequently a constriction or grooving is observed at the

base. Seven examples were recovered. Only two points were identified,

one of bone and the other of antler. Points are characterized by short

length and are cylindrical but tapered in cross-section having a con-

stricted base. Bone pins have been one of the most characteristic arti-

facts from fiber-tempered sites. Pins are constructed of split fragments

of deer metapodial. Specimens are limited in length to the length of the

metapodial. In the Cannon's Point collections, length from base (or head)

to point is 12 to 16 cm. Fragments were rounded, apparently by abrasion,


and a high polish is usual. It is uncertain if the polish is a result

of abrasion in manufacture or from usage. Nine examples were recovered.

In addition, many of the worked bone fragments are parts of pin shafts

and points. The application of decorative motifs was limited to this

category. The most common design (#342) observed was a zoned triangular

or diamond incised motif. Two examples of the scroll designs of the

Bilbo type bone pins described by Waring (1940: 170-171) are included

in this collection. One is rectilinear (#776 and the other gives a hint

of a curvilinear design (#817a).

Worked bone was recovered as a midden inclusion with more frequency

than in features. In Features #19 and #21 (a highly cemented hearth

extending through the shared baulk), one awl, a broken pin tip, and one

decorated shaft fragment were retrieved. In Feature #20, another probable

hearth which lacked the consolidation of shells observed in Feature #19

and #21, most of a pin was recovered. In contrast, Feature #18 which

consistently yielded large quantities of fauna, produced only a fragment

of utilized turtle.

The elaborately engraved bone pin fragment (#776) was exposed below

the midden and its impression was visible in the submidden soil. Proven-

ience and Waring's criteria suggest a later date for these sites. The

radiocarbon dates, instead of supporting elaborately decorated bone pins

as a later development, suggest that in the Cannon's Point area this

artifact has a much earlier date.

One additional type of worked bone was frequently observed. In the

catalog, it comprises over 50% of the recovered examples. The carapace

of specific turtles evidences internal scraping which removed the verte-

bral attachments on the neurals and exposed the cancellous structure of


the pleurals and marginals. The carapace is cut from the plastron through

the bridge marginals apparently to allow removal of edible meat. This

cut area usually shows considerable polish. Such treatment of turtle

carapace is consistently seen on Deirochelys reticularia, Chrysemys cf.

floridana, and Malaclemys terrapin. These species have frenulated exteriors,

a fact that apparently was culturally valued. That they are the largest

turtles locally available is another observation which must be included.

Because scraping increases the porosity of the shell, it would seem that

items intended to be contained within (if in fact the shell was used as

a container) were dry instead of liquid.


Culturally altered lithic material recovered from the marsh ring

consisted of three examples. The location of each item is particularly

interesting. A granitic hone was recovered in Feature #19 associated

with a bone awl. In the submidden soil of the southern half of al8N, 3E,

a chert projectile point was recovered. This point, illustrated in Appen-

dix 11, is not a typical Savannah River Stemmed point, rather it is

reminiscent of a Florida Arredondo point typologically (Bullen 1975).

The third specimen is a stemmed, bifacially worked object excavated from

a pit adjacent to Feature #12. The specimen is of chert and appears to

have been repeatedly retouched. Its function may have been as a knife

or scraper.

During this time period, coastal sites have consistently produced

few lithic artifacts. The small inventory discussed above was expected.

Debris from tool-making or retouching was similarly meager, suggesting

that lithic items were brought to the coastal area as finished products.

No cores or reforms were recovered. A small number of chert flakes

were retrieved from the West Ring but no lithic artifacts. Quartz

pebbles were more frequently recovered, particularly in the basal levels.

The marsh cultural level presented a very different picture. Six

lithic artifacts were excavated in units south of the marsh ring. Flint

was black or bluish in color in contrast to the white specimens from

the marsh ring. Debitage was present in greater frequency than the few

chips recovered in the ring sites. It is probable that screening would

have produced additional specimens.

From the scarcity of lithic material in the ring sites and the

greater frequencies in the marsh cultural level, it seems apparent that

lithic availability in the coastal area increased with time. The change

in color is interesting also. Black flint outcrops have been reported

from the Fall Line but not from the coastal plain.


Definition of this class of artifacts if particularly problematical.

Certainly any shell is a potential tool but conditions of preservation

may obscure evidence of use. Clarification of criteria used for classi-

fication of shell tools was required as field work progressed. A mollusc

shell was considered utilized if non-naturally occurring alterations were

observed. These alterations could be evidence of use as food rather than

tool use. Additionally, it was anticipated that some specimens would

evidence both food and tool use modification.

Gastropods were the most commonly excavated mollusc class exhibiting

consistent alterations. Such molluscs can be removed from their shells

by pulling the animal out by its foot. Perforation of the shell provides


access to the muscle attachments, which when cut makes removal possible.

Holes in the shoulder of the shell or absent spires were considered alter-

ations for food use. The criteria for tool use were based on alterations

of the umbilical area (base) and lip edge (at the shell opening). Blunting

of the base, angular wear resulting in basal pointing, and lip edge wear

were the most consistently observed alterations.

Two gastropods were commonly recovered from the midden with such modi-

fications: Busycon carica and Busycon carica-eliceans. The former seemed

to repeatedly exhibit modification for food use, the latter for tool and

food use. Busycon carica is a thin-shelled species; Busycon carica eliceans

is a more robust species. Some of the archaeological specimens had segments

of shell removed exposing the columella. Such detachment produces sections

of shell which can be used for manufacture of other itesm (e.g. beads).

Bivalves were the most numerous midden inclusion, but evidence of food

or tool alteration was not as obvious. A single example of utilized oyster,

modified by the removal of a circular section from the valve body was re-

covered. Use is not known. In the West Ring, a clam shell (Mercenaria sp.)

with the umbo (hinge) removed and exhibiting considerable edge wear of this

area was retrieved. The specimen may have served as a dipper or scoop.

Single shells were generally encountered during excavation but occa-

sionally clumps of shells were observed, but these plus crustaceans (usually bar-

nacles) were not sizeable nor was their location repetitive. Many Busycons

were excavated with internally adhering oyster growth indicating that the

initial reason for collecting this specimen was not for food. Since these

specimens usually exhibited no modification from tool use, the choice of

these shells remains a question. Such gathering practices seem to suggest


a lack of discrimination in the selection of potential foodstuffs. Per-

haps the location of the habitation area was near enough to the source to

compensate for the waste of energy represented by transportation of ined-

ible mollusc shells. Another suggestion of the proximity of mollusc

sources to the habitation area is offered by one specimen which was

initially a tool then discarded in water andsubsequently regathered with

adhering immature oyster growth (Appendix 12, #568). This specimen demon-

strates immature oyster growth over edge wearand removal of the lip.

On the other hand, the functions of shell tools may have included acti-

vities done on or near the water with loss of this specimen being a pre-

dictable consequence of use.

Clams frequently exhibited exterior shell removal near the umbo.

Perforation did not occur but an inner layer of shell was exposed. A blow

to loosen the hinge and facilitate extraction of the mollusc is a probable

cause. Small concave areas of shell are frequently observed to be absent

from the lip of the clam suggesting that prying may have been attempted.

Most clams evidences neither lip nor umbo alteration. Appendix 12 catalogs

the utilized shell from both ring sites and includes photographs of selected


Faunal Materials

Molluscan resources represent such an obvious contribution to the

subsistence base of Late Archaic peoples that the perception of coastal-

dwelling groups as "oyster eaters" inevitably developed. Unfortunately,

little else was considered. Identification and enumeration of faunal

remains from the Cannon's Point sites indicates that it is more realistic

to perceive coastal inhabitants during this time period as participants


in a procurement system in which the tidal creek and the surrounding marsh

were critical sources of food. However, a discussion of molluscs is appro-

priate to initiate any consideration of Late Archaic subsistence.

While oysters are obviously the dominant species present, many other

molluscs occur as midden inclusions in significant quantities. All too

frequently, this fact has been overlooked. As noted previously, some

species combined subsistence and technological functions. A list of the

molluscs excavated from the ring sites is presented in Table 9 (identification

is based on Abbott 1974 and Burch 1962). It is apparent that mollusc habitat

varies greatly. Oysters, clams, whelks, stout tagelus (Tagelus plebius),

and mussels (Geukensia demissa) made the greatest food contribution. Marsh

periwinkles seem to have been more important in the West Ring while the subsis-

tence role of marsh snails (Ilyanassa obsoleta, Melampus bidentatus),

oyster drill (Urosalpinx cinerea), and others is less certain. These species

may have been gathered with other resources representing incidental inclusion

in the midden. Carnivorous terrestrial snails seem to have been drawn in

very large numbers to the decaying midden debris. There is no evidence that

these may have been utilized.

Table 10 presents a composite faunal list for each ring site and the marsh

cultural level. Taxonomy is based on the following sources: fishes Bailey

et al. 1970; amphibians and reptiles Conant 1975; birds Peterson 1947;

Robbins et al. 1966; mammals Burt and Grossenheider 1964, Golley 1962. The

diversity of faunal species identified is remarkable. Species lists for each

excavation unit and a level-by-level assessment of the faunal material is

available in Appendix 5. From these tabulations, it is evident that verte-

brate fauna is critically important to aboriginal subsistence. This point

is clearly supported when a dietary assessment of available data for molluscs

Table 9: Composite Molluscan Species List, 9GN57 and 9GN76

Species Common Name Habitat

Stenotrema fraterna (Pillsbry)

Triodopsis hopetownensis (Shuttleworth)

Polygyra cereolus (Muller)

Euglandina rosea (Ferrusac)

Haplotrema concava (Say)

Mesomphix vulgatus Baker

Melampus bidentatus (Say)

Detracea floridana (Gmelin)

Nerltina reclivata (Say)

Polynlces duplicate (Linn.)

Littorina Irrorata (Linn.)

Busycon carica (Gmelin)

Busycon carica eliceans (Montfort)

Busycon canallculatum (Linn.)

Ilyanassa obsoleta (Say)









land snail

land snail

marine snail

marine snail

marine snail

moon snail

common periwinkle

knobbed whelk

Keiner's whelk

channeled whelk

eastern mud nassa

floodplains, forested habitats

floodplains, lowlands

marsh edge

warmer subtropical and temperate climate,
lowland areas, damp habitats

lowland floodplains, damp vegetation

floodplains, lowlands, forests

brackish marshes

brackish marshes

brackish marshes

shallow-water sand bottoms

brackish water marshes on weeds

shore to 30 feet

shore to 30 feet

in sand; 3-50 feet

in muddy intertidal flats, salt marshes

Table 9 Continued.

Species Common Name Habitat

Urosalpinx clnerea (Say)

Eupleura caudata (Say)

Terrebra sp.

Odontostoma sp.

Limopsis sp.

Anadara ovalis (Bruguiere)

Tagelus plebius (Lightfoot)

Mercenaria mercenaria (Linn.)

Mercenaria campechlensis (Gmelin)

Dinocardium robustum (Lightfoot)

Crassostrea virginica (Gmelln)

Geukensia demissa (Dillwyn)

Crytopleura costata (Linn.)

Atlantic oyster drill

thick-lipped drill

auger shells



blood ark

stout tagelus

northern quahob clam

southern quahob clam

giant Atlantic cockle

eastern oyster

Atlantic ribbed mussel

angel wing

oyster bars; low tide mark to 25 feet

oyster bars

muddy and sandy bottoms

oyster bars

mud bottoms

6-100 feet

In sandy mud, intertidal

2-40 feet

in sand 3-50 feet

3-100 feet

estuaries, tidal creeks

marshes, intertidal

colonies In mud and clay

Table 10: Faunal List.

Fauna 9GN57 9GN76 Level


Decapoda x x
Callinectes sp. x x


Carcharhinidae x
Galeocerdo cuvieri x
Sphyrna sp. x x
Rajiformes x x
Dasyatis sp. x
Aetobates narinarl x


Lepisosteus sp. x x x
Amia calva x x
Elops saurus x x
Clupeidael x x
BrevoortiQ sp. x
Siluriformes x
Ictalurus sp. x
Ariidael x x x
Arius felis x x
Bagre marinus x x x

Micropterus sp. x
Opsanus sp. x x
Pomatomus saltatrix x
Carangidae' x x
Sparidael x
Lagodon sp. x

Archosargus sp. x x x
Sciaenidae' x x x
Bairdiella chrysura x x
Cynoscion sp. x x
Leiostomus xanthurus x x
Menticirrhus americanus x

Table 10: Faunal List. (Continued)

Fauna 9GN57 9GN76 Level

Micropogon undulatus x x x
Pogonias cromis x x x
Sciaenops ocellata x x x
Stellifer lanceolatus x x

Mugil sp. x x x
Prionotus sp. x
Paralichthys sp. x x x


Siren sp. x


Chelydra serpentina x
Kinosternon sp. x x x
Terrapene carolina x
Malaclemys terrapin x x x
Chrysemys sp. x x x
Chrysemys cf. floridana x
Deirochelys reticularia x x
Alligator mississipiensis x
Iguanidae x

Anolis carolinensis x

Natrix sp. x
Coluber constrictor x
Lampropeltis sp. x


Phalacocorax auritus auritus x
Ardea herodias wardi x
Bucephala clangula x
Buteo lineatus alleni x

Larus argenticus


Table 10: Faunal List (Continued)

Fauna 9GN57 9GN76 Level


Didelphis virginiana x x x
Soricidae x x
Cryptotis parva x
Blarina brevicauda x x

Scalopus aquaticus x
Sylvilagus sp. x x x
Rodentla x x x
Glaucomys volans x
Sciurus carolinensis x
Microtinae cf. Neofiber x
Neofiber alleni x
cf. Neotoma x
cf. Peromyscus x x
Oryzomys sp. x
Peromyscus sp. x
Sigmodon hispidus x x

Lutra canadensis x
Mustela vision x
Canis familiaris x x x
Procyon lotor x x x
Odocoileus virginianus x x x
Homo sapiens x x

Indicates elements only identified to this level.


and several vertebrate species is made. Table 11 documents the fact that

crustaceans and vertebrate fauna comprise a more significant contribution

by weight than molluscan fauna.

With a few notable exceptions, all fishes identified are marine and

inhabit the tidal creek biotope. The exceptions are freshwater catfish

(Ictalurus sp.), bowfin or mudfish (Amia calva), and bass (Micropterus sp.).

All usually inhabit freshwater biotopes but may enter brackish waters. They

are represented in the faunal collection by a very small number of fragments.

Their presence in these sites may indicate a change in the local habitat.

It is possible that these species were resident in semi-permanent ponds on

the island. Such standing water as is present on the island today depends

upon rainfall and is generally scarce. Freshwater catfish are taken today

in marine habitats when unusually high freshwater run-offs occur. These

run-offs may be caused by increased rainfall over a period of time or by

storms. A similar situation occurring prehistorically may account for the

presence of these species. Additionally, freshwater turtles were recovered

from most excavation units.

The tidal creek biotope constantly fluctuates with tidal condition.

At periods of high tide, the tidal creek expands vastly. Conversely, at

periods of low tide, the marshes extend for miles. Many mammalian species

other than man depend upon the marshes and tidal creeks for their maintenance.

Crabs (particularly of the genus Uca fiddlers) constitute a staple item in

the diet of island raccoons. Deer and rabbits (Sylvilagus sp.) include marsh

grasses in their diets. Otter and mink, both semi-aquatic mammals, prey on

numerous species present in these biotopes. Many avian species are perma-

nent residents of the area, others are seasonal. While the majority of avian

Table 11: Dietary Contributions of Selected Species (Watt and Merrll 1963)
(100 grams of edible portion)

In 0
E 2

4A E E E U
E m E 0 C <
SI 0 < E 1 I
01 2) 5 2 Z O I E O r 1
01 -. In 2 0 2 a ro u2
Iv E L 2 E E > E u
E1 2 -C E -a E I E C -0
,0 4J n0 0 I) c In C I o o U 0
S O 4 L C L 0 0 4j U
M to I I W -C L 0 0 C In
ap L) LU O LLa < U IL 0. 1 > I- Z <

Eastern oyster,

Atlantic mussels,
meat+liquid raw

Clams, hard

Menhaden, canned

Croaker, Atlantic

Drum(redflsh) raw

Spot raw

Crab steamed

Rabbit raw

Deer venison raw

84.6 66 8.4

83.8 66 9.6 1,4 3.1

86.2 49 6.5 .4 4,2

67,9 172 18.7 10.2

79.2 96 17.8 2.2
71.3 133 24.3 3.2

80.2 80 18.0 0.4

65.3 219 17.6 15.9

78,5 93 17.3 1.9 .5

73.0 135 21.0 5.0

74.0 126 21.0 4.0

1,8 3.4 1.8 94 143 5,5 121 73 310 ,14 .18 2.5




1.8 43 175 0.8


1.0 10 249

234 87
323 120

273 55


60 ,12 .08 5.5
70 .13 .10 6.5

.15 .05 3.5

.16 .22

2,170 .16 .08 2.8 2

.23 .48 .63

Table 11 Continued.

0 E E
M E c -0
u E E E U
E m 01 A E6 01 C E <
n .- 1A E 3 0 < E 0-
S-o E 3 E > E U
L ) c 1 >. 01 E O 0 *- C C a *-
w) G- C E E l E *- C -0
4- 0 O I- cn 0 3 E E C L.
M O a-) .0 0 A C ( *- ( o 0 U 0
S 0 4-' L .f 0 0 4-1 -0 4- .0 U
S 1- (0 *- (A ( -C 1- 0 0 C -
da o L.. U C Lw < UL a a- > i- z <

Opossum roasted 57.3 221 30.2 10.2 2.3 .12 .38

international units.


species identified from the collections are permanent residents, one migra-

tory species is present (American golden-eye).

Two species identified are not present-day residents of the area.

Aetobates narinari (spotted eagle ray) is not reported for the Georgia

coast (Dahlberg 1975: 31). Similarly, the present distribution of Neofiber

alleni (Florida water rat) does not include the Georgia coast (Burt and

Grossenheider 1964: 200-202).

Several species are particularly important in the faunal sample: blue

crab (Callinectes sp.), menhaden (Clupeidae cf. Brevoortia), marine catfish

(Ariidae), members of the drum family (Sciaenidae), and mullet (Mugi1 sp.).

The majority of individuals in the sample are represented by these species.

Mammalian species contribute a greater amount of edible meat by weight than

fish or crabs but are not present in large numbers in the collections. It

is obvious from the areas tested that mollusc gathering was augmented largely

by fishing.

Amphibian fauna is represented by only one genus, Siren. In general,

amphibian remains were so tiny that adequate collections were not available

for positive identification. Consequently most of the recovered amphibian

fauna is listed as unidentified. Reptilian fauna, particularly snake verte-

brae, presented a comparable problem. The condition of erosion and frag-

mentation of the elements makes the identification of snakes very tentative.

Turtles were well represented. It is interesting to note that turtles in

the marsh cultural level included two species not present in the ring sites:

Chelydra serpentina and Terrapene carolina. Chelydra serpentina was present

in considerable quantity. One fragment of alligator was recovered from the

marsh cultural level. This was the only example of this reptile retrieved.


Many species may represent incidental inclusions rather than food

remains. Some of these are flying squirrel, mole, shrews, green anole

(chameleon), and several species of rats. Regardless of their function,

the presence of these small animals add considerable information about

the prehistoric environment.

The role of the dog is uncertain. Dog remains occurred in the midden

as any other food remains might have been observed. One partial maxilla

was recovered in Feature #19. Its cracked and burned condition suggests

that whatever the premortem function of the dog, its postmortem role in-

cluded human consumption. It is interesting to note that no teeth were

recovered with the maxilla or in the feature. While dog teeth are frequently

recovered drilled for stringing, no evidence of this practice was observed.

Dog remains were recovered at each of the locations.

The marsh cultural level evidences an increased incidence of use of

turtle and deer. As previously mentioned, no molluscan remains were asso-

ciated with any of the faunal or cultural material exposed beneath the pre-

sent marsh surface. This absence suggests several hypothetical answers:

a decreased abundance of molluscs, a culturally motivated subsistence

change, differential use of the area (i.e. not for mollusc harvesting),

or differential preservation of bone and shell beneath the marsh. At this

time, adequate support for any of these hypotheses is lacking.

Floral Remains

Regardless of the reports of previous investigators, floral material

is a midden inclusion and may be retrieved using screened samples. Floral

remains were recovered as seeds, nutshells, and carbonized nuts (particu-

larly acorn). A tentative floral list is provided in Table 12 with addi-

tional plotting of the seasonal availability of the edible parts of the


Table 12: Seasonal Availability of Identified Flora.

Species Month Comments Common Name
J F M A M J J A S 0 N D

Pinus spp.

Juniperus spp.

Carya spp.

Quercus spp.

Celtis spp.

Prunus serotina

Ilex vomitoria

Bumelia lycoides
Foresteiera spp.

Vitus spp.

Brassica spp.

shed seeds

Mature berries

mature nuts

__ mature acorns

berries may per-
sist through

mature fruit

leaves available
year 'round

S fruit available

fruit available

fruit available




Red cedar




Black berry



Swamp privet




Pinus is not present in the sample in any quantity. Juniperus spp.

is presently the dominant cover of the marsh ring and present on the

West Ring. In the marsh cultural level, juniper roots were exposed.

Identification was based on the characteristically red inner coloration

and odor. Quercus spp. was moderately abundant. Carya spp. was the most

numerically abundant nutshell. Considerable quantities were recovered

throughout the midden with a significant increase in the submidden soil.

It was not possible to determine whether these'fragments were burned or

carbonized. An increased frequency of Carya was noted in Feature #18,

#24, and #25. Celtis spp. is second to Carya in abundance. Its frequency

is particularly high in Features #19, #20, and #21. There seems to be

some correlation between the occurrence of Celtis and areas identified as

probable hearths. Celtis is also abundant in the general levels throughout

the midden. Prunus serotina, Ilex vomitoria, Bumelia lyciodes, and Fores-

teiera sp. are not present in any quantity. It should be remembered that

the leaves of Ilex vomitoria are known to have been used aboriginally for

ceremonial drinks (Swanton 1946: 699).

In general, the floral species identified still grow in the area.

Brassica spp. has been tentatively identified but is not common. This

species represents an introduction from Eurasia or Africa (Small 1933: 562).

Level-by-level species identification is provided in Appendix 13 for the West Ring.

Other Analyses


Soil samples were taken whenever a feature was designated or an area

of unusual color or texture appeared. Additionally, a stratified sample

was taken from marsh unit 045S, 15E for comparative analysis. The question


of amount of carbonate resorption taking place was felt to be critical to

problems of differential preservation of shell and bone. Because marsh

periwinkle and Atlantic ribbed mussels were noted in marsh excavations

in a state of decay, comparative analyses were required to check the

carbonate levels. The samples were submitted to the Institute of Food

and Agricultural Sciences Soil Sciences Laboratory at the University of

Florida. Unfortunately, the tabulations were misplaced, and the only

results which are available concern pH values. These values are listed

below and indicate an alkaline environment, a condition already suspected

in view of the excellent bone preservation.

Soil Depth below
Sample # Surface pH value Associations

59 0-18 cm 7.4 Spartina growth heavy

60 31-43 cm 7.6 Spartina rootlets present
but growth not thick

61 70-80 cm 7.3 Corresponds to level of
cultural and subsistence

62 120 cm 7.5 Below the cultural level


Samples for pollen analysis were taken, particularly from the marsh

excavation units. Initial processing of these samples in the Florida State

Museum Paleoecology Lab revealed extensive Spartina contamination. Conse-

quently, the samples were of little value. One would question the value

of pollen samples in an area at the mouth of a river in any event. Much

of the pollen deposition may include water-borne pollens from non-local


Human Osteology

Although fpur of six excavation units in the marsh ring produced some

human skeletal material, the total inventory is small. Table 13 summarizes

this material. Skeletal material recovered was fragmentary but generally

gave the impression of being crushed in place. Because cannibalism had been

hypothesized to explain the fragmentary nature-of previous finds of human

skeletal material in shell ring sites, much care was taken to observe support-

ing information. However, no solid evidence of cannibalism is offered by

this collection. Admittedly, some of the bones have articular surfaces

missing but this could be caused by the manner in which the skeletal element

became a part of the midden.

The inclusion of non-articulated skeletal material in the midden pre-

sents a puzzle. It Is possible that the lower levels of the ring were

borrowed from shell heaps in which burials had been made. It is also pos-

sible that considerable shifting of the midden overburden through the years

caused relocation of material and disarticulation. It may be that the burial

practices of these people included exposure and that subsequent burial of

the remaining bones was haphazard. No cultural items have been excavated in

association with human skeletal remains.

The cranium and pelvis are probably from the same individual, a male

aged 22-28 years, although their locations in the midden are some three meters

diagonally distant. They are, however, from approximately the same level.

The remaining material is enigmatic, particularly the right leg and foot

from the south arc excavation units.

Consideration of Methods and Techniques

At this point, it seems appropriate to consider the methods and techniques

applied during excavation since analysis points out the inconsistencies, pro-

Table 13: Human Skeletal Material

Provenience Level Element Condition Sex/Age

femur, rt.

tibia, rt.

calcaneous, rt.




East Baulk pelvis


ilium and pubic symphysis present.

root absent; extensive attrition

u24S,24E 75-85 cm bs parietals

fragmented; distal articular surface in-
cluded in sample but not attached. Proxi-
mal articular surface absent from below
lesser trochanter. Sizeable portion of
diaphysis intact.

proximal epiphysis present In sample but
not attached; sizeable portion of diaphysis
intact. Distal articular surface absent.

medially split; articular surfaces for
talus present.

split with roots missing; extensive attri-
tion evident.

frontal, parietals, temporals, small amount
of occiptal present. Basal portions of
occlptal absent and left side of maxilla,
Right side of maxilla has one remaining
molar (M ) which evidences extensive attri-
tion. M Is erupted. Abcess noted in pre-
molar. Supraorbital torus present but not


a 6S,15E


O 18N,OE

d 18N,OE


Male/in 20's


badly eroded


or contributions of these aspects of excavation strategy. The methodology

and techniques applied are responsible for generating the raw data which

when analyzed, supports the observations made.


When an excavator makes a commitment to screening, several problems

immediately arise. Time required for field processing is greatly increased.

Material recovered similarly increases (depending on the site). The area

that can be excavated with the time allowed maybe lessened unless the

crew is large. Time required for post-excavation analysis is lengthened.

In a shell site, the amount of material to be processed when screening is

used is phenomenal. Most of the excavator's time is not spent in the exca-

vation unit but at the screen clearing shell debris and picking out the

archaeologically significant material. Davidson (1964) notes many of the

same problems and states:

In almost all cases, the critical division seemed to lie
between the 1/4 inch and 1/8 inch. Material retained by
an 1/8 inch sieve was identifiable without difficulty.
Objection to it lies in the great increase in time necessary
for a very small increase in exactness. The material re-
tained by the sieve was always less than 10% of the total
weight of the sample and usually considerably less.
(Davidson 1964: 155).

A very interesting comment on the amount of archaeologically significant

material recovered from a shell ring excavation level is offered in Table 14.

Calculations for this table were made possible by the fact that 06S, 15E was

excavated during the last few days of the Winter Field Session. Time did

not allow field processing of the material in the lower screen. Consequently,

significant material was separated in the top screen and bagged (note first

column); all material caught in the lower screen was bagged and processed at

Table 14: Contribution of Screening by Weight of Processed Material,n6S,15El





Total weight

Total weight lower screen

% of lower screen weight





Total weight

Total weight lower screen

% of lower screen weight

Level 7

Top screen
(3/8x3/4 in.)

25.5 g 42.0%

22.1 g 78.9%

1.2 g 25.5%

615.9 g 96.92%

664.9 g

Level 8

Top screen
(3/8x3/4 in.)

63.5 g 36.7%

130.2 g 96.3%

3.05 g 52.6%

975.6 g 99.92

1172.35 9

Lower screen
(1/8 in.)

35.5 g 58.0%

5.9 g 21.1%

3.5 g 74.5%

19.5 g 3.1%

64.25 g

11228.45 g

Lower screen
(1/8 in.)

109.4g 63.3%

5.05 g 3.7%

2.75 g 47.4%

0.8 g 0.1%

118.0 g

7418.0 g

Weights given represent the amount of material considered archaeologically
significant. Shell debris represents discarded material. Weights given as
"shell" here refer to terrestrial and marine molluscs recovered.
Includes weight of potsherds excavated and mapped in place in the excavation

Lower screen
Shell debris

11164.2 g

11164.2 g


Lower screen
Shell debris

7300.0 g

7300.0 g

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