Friday, February 25, 2011

Faunal Analysis from Fort Hunter (36Da159)

This week's blog entry comes to us courtesy of Elizabeth Claire Dalton, a senior at F&M College, who has been working with a portion of the faunal collection from our excavations at Fort Hunter Park for an independent study. Thanks go to Claire for this week's TWIPA post.

Hello all!

My name is Elizabeth Claire Dalton, a senior double major in Biology and Anthropology at Franklin and Marshall College working on my Honors Independent Study in Anthropology. I have been doing research with the State Museum of Pennsylvania’s Fort Hunter Collection, specifically feature 2-06, which we speculate was a refuse pit that dates approximately to the French and Indian War period.

Ms. Dalton

Fort Hunter was one of three in a chain of Forts established by the British in the mid-1750s along the Susquehanna River in preparation for the French and Indian War (Carr et al. 2007:53). The largest of these three forts is Fort Augusta and the other fort, larger than Fort Hunter, was Fort Halifax (Carr et al. 2007:53). Fort Hunter served as a supply fort for Fort Augusta, shipping them supplies via boat several times a month (Carr et al. 2007:53).

Feature 2-06 was filled with faunal remains. The reason for the uncertainty surrounding the exact period of time during which this refuse pit was in use is the absence of datable artifacts. The vast majority of the bones have rodent gnaw marks, leading me to the preliminary conclusion that Feature 2-06 was a meat/animal remains refuse pit.

Feature 2-06

Thus far, I have found some bones with saw and cut marks in accordance with butcher marks (Lyman 1977:68-70). Mostly the bones that have marks consistent with butchering are cow bones. Even if butcher marks are not present, it does not exclude the possibility that the animal was eaten. For instance, the remains of the three-year old horse do not have cut or saw marks, but this does not eliminate the possibility of the horse being used for food. In this collection, there are some bones that have spiral fractures, which might indicate that the bone was broken in this manner to allow for access to the bone marrow for stock for soup.

faunal analysis in progress at the State Museum's Section of Archaeology

The goal of my research is to examine what the dietary life was like at Fort Hunter for the soldiers and how this shaped their daily lives. My research is currently in its preliminary stages, but thus far the faunal remains have been primarily identified as domesticated animals. I have identified bones belonging to horses, cows, sheep, pigs, and deer, which is in accordance with the historic colonial sites dietary patterning (Jolley 1983:70). I have found a fair amount of horse and cow bones, some pig bones, and a few deer bones. At this stage in my analysis, however, I have only identified one sheep bone. For this analysis, I am calculating the minimum number of individuals, assessing age, tabulating cut/saw/defleshing/rodent bite marks, and with enough data, biomass estimation or meat yield.

I would like to give special thanks to the Archaeology staff at the State Museum of Pennsylvania, Dr. Kurt Carr, Mrs. Janet Johnson, Mr. James Herbstritt, Mr. David Burke, and Mrs. Elizabeth Wagner for their help and support. I am also grateful to Zoology and Botany Curator Dr. Walter Meshaka for allowing me to borrow part of his skeletal collection and sharing his birthday cake with me.

I want to extend my thanks to Dr. Mary Ann Levine, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Franklin and Marshall College and my advisor, for all of her help guiding me through this research and sparking my interest in archaeology in the first place. I would not be where I am today without you, Dr. Levine. My sincere thanks go out to Dr. Teagan Schweitzer of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania and Dr. Kirk Miller D.F. Fackenthal, Jr. Professor of Biology, Franklin and Marshall College for allowing me to take pictures of their skeletal collections and my parents who, bless their souls, helped me amass and clean my comparative skeletal collection.

If you have any questions or information that you would like to pass on to me, please feel free to email me at

For more information, visit or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .

Finally, before we go this week, we invite you to join us at the State Museum on Sunday the 27th for the much anticipated opening of the newly refurbished Paleontology gallery on the third floor, featuring the permanent installation of the Marshall's Creek Mastodon in its new surroundings. From Noon until 4 PM, curators and docents will be dispersed throughout the Museum's galleries to interact with and engage visitors for what promises to be an informative and enjoyable event.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post, any chance of some follow-ups from Ms. Dalton?