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C-04 Robert Bartlett II Site Faunal Analysis

C-04 Robert Bartlett II Site Faunal Analysis

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Published by Craig Chartier
Analysis of the faunal remains from the late Dr. James Deetz's first Plymouth Colony excavations.
Analysis of the faunal remains from the late Dr. James Deetz's first Plymouth Colony excavations.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Craig Chartier on Apr 28, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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C-04 Robert Bartlett II Site Faunal Analysis
 The C-04 Robert Bartlett II site is located in South Plymouth, Massachusetts just on the other side of the Eel river from the Plimoth Plantation museum. This was the first site excavated by Dr. James Deetzin his quest for an early Plymouth Colony housesite. Deetz was invited to excavate the site by HarryHornblower, founder and president of Plimoth Plantation at the time, and the Society of theDescendents of Robert Bartlett who had erected a memorial boulder at the site in 1910.Deetz excavations uncovered a cellar hole that he initially identified as being to a "smokehouse" butlater, in 1963 when a stone lined hearth was found nearby, stated it was associated with the house. Thesite was initially believed to be the home of Robert Bartlett, a colonist who arrived on the Fortune in1623. Unfortunately, the artifacts recovered place the date of occupation at late 17th to early 18thcentury. It is now believed that the site was the home of Robert Bartlett II, Robert's son, and dates from1678-1743. The cellarhole deposits are believed, on the basis of clay pipe and ceramic evidence, to dateto circa 1743 when the house may have been dismantled.Faunal remains were recovered from the cellar hole and around the hearth. It is believed that the cellarhole deposit represents butchery and consumption waste place in the hole either by the site owners orneighbors to help fill it in. The hearth faunal remains, while scarcer, represent consumption waste fromoccupation of the house. Material was found either in cellar hole or scattered nearby in the "refusearea" to the north south and east, or to a limited extent near the hearth. Given the truncate nature of thecellar hole itself, it may be possible that the material found in the refuse area was actually from thecellar hole and had been plowed to the south, north and east over the years. There obviously had beendisturbance at the site since the abandonment (burning?) of the structure since the cellar had beencapped by the cobble layer. There was not a great concentration of material in the cellar holes, sopossibly the house was abandoned gradually over time and most of the movables/ useful things wereremoved. The amount of material recovered and the lack of a charcoal layer seems to nullify theproposition that the structure burned.The following contexts were identified during excavation and have subsequently been used for thisanalysis of the faunal remains:Feature 1 initial 100’ test trench divided into 5’ sections A-VFeature 2 CellarFeature 3 5’ wide test trench perpendicular to F1 (Refuse area)Feature 6 east of F3/A (Refuse area)Feature 8 south of F1/Q (Refuse area)Feature 9 east of F8 (Refuse area)Feature 10 large stripping east of F3HearthEU 1 by hearthEU 2 by hearthFeature 5EU 1
Test Trench 1Test pit 2Trench 2XU 5The use of the term "Feature" by the early excavators appears to have been an idiosyncratic term andfor the most part did not refer to actual features as we define them today. Instead the "feature" to theexcavator was the area that they were testing, they could have just as easily called it Test 1 as Feature 1.For the following discussion, for the sake of clarity, the term "Feature" will only be used whendiscussing the cellar hole which Deetz's called "Feature 2", the hearth, termed merely as "hearth" andExcavation Unit (EU) 1 and 2 "by" the hearth by the 19xx excavators, and the refuse deposit area. Thislast feature was identified during reanalysis in the 1990s and not by the original excavators. It wasfound to contain ceramics, clay pipe fragments as well as faunal remains and was located to the southand east of the cellar hole. The term refuse area encompasses what Deetz identified as "features" 3, 6,8, 9 and 10.
Along with the animal bones recovered, numerous fragments of shellfish were also found. A total of 206 fragments were recovered from the hearth (n=101) and the refuse area (n=105). These fragmentsrepresent the remains of four species that could have easily been collected a short distance to thenortheast at Plymouth beach. The species present were the Surf Clam (
Spisula solidissima
) 56fragments representing a minimum of 10 individuals; Soft-Shell Clam (
 Mya arenaria
) 135 fragmentsrepresenting a minimum of 26 individuals; Quahog (
 Mercenaria mercenaria
) with one individualrepresented by four fragments; and Oyster (
Crassostrea virginica
) one individual represented by onefragment. Shellfish appears to have been a supplement to the diet of the inhabitants and may not haveformed a larger portion of it.
Unidentified Mammal
A total of 202 (76.2%) of the 265 bone fragments recovered were classified as unidentified medium (n=133/ 65.8%) or large (n=69/ 34.2%) mammal due to their fragmented nature and lack of anyidentifiable surface markers that would allow species identification. Sixty-five of these unidentifiedfragments (32.2%) had been burned to the point of being calcined with the calcined bone making up24.5% of the total faunal assemblage.The distribution of unidentified bone across the test area can be seen in Table 1.Table 1. Distribution of unidentified bone
LocationUnidentifiedCalcinedCellar hole2213Refuse Area7738Hearth3814
The majority of the unidentified bone fragments were recovered from the refuse area to the south andeast of the cellar hole with the second highest context being within the cellar hole itself. It is possiblethat the refuse area provided the material that was later dumped in the cellar. This possibility is beinginvestigated by comparing artifacts from the two areas to possibly identify ceramic cross mends. Themajority of the calcined bone was also recovered from the refuse area indicating that this was likely ahousehold refuse dump that contained hearth debris and hearth cleaning ash.
Species Present
Sixty-three fragments could be identified to the species level. These fragments represented eightspecies and 11 individuals (Table 2).Table 2. Overall site species occurrence
SpeciesNISP/ %MNI/ %Cattle232Pig82Sheep213Horse41Chicken21Duck31Sturgeon11Striped Bass11TOTALS6311
The majority of the species present were domestic mammals and birds with fish, like shellfish, makingup a smaller percentage of the overall contribution to the diet of the inhabitants.The cattle and horse remains obviously represent a greater meat weight and available food supply than

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