by H. Trawick Ward
This feature was first observed as an oval area of mottled clay in Sq. 260R20 during the 1985 excavations. At that time the feature was augered and, based on the resultant fill profile, was thought to represent a possible burial. Re-troweling in 1986 revealed a surface of orange mottled clay containing brown loam that surrounded a central area of brown loam. In all respects, this configuration is very similar to that of burial pits as observed at the base of the plowzone. Generally, the orange clay soil represents the original burial fill, whereas the central deposit of darker loam reflects humus or midden soil that has slumped into a depression created as the cavity surrounding the decayed body collapsed.
The brown loam was labeled Zone 1 and the mottled clay was designated Zone 2. Upon excavation, Zone 1 turned out to be very thin (0.2 ft) and contained a small triangular projectile point, a few fragments of animal bone, and flecks of charcoal. Once Zone 1 was removed, the mottled clay fill extended uninterrupted across the length of the pit. It, too, contained very few artifacts and the small fragments of bone observed were fragmentary and highly decomposed. Zone 2 extended to the pit bottom, which was reached at a depth of 2.2 ft below the base of the plowzone. In other dimensions the pit measured 3.1 ft in maximum length and 2.2 ft in width. The pit walls were generally straight and sloped in slightly at the bottom.
Given the size, configuration, and fill characteristics of the feature, the original assessment of it having served as a burial pit still seems valid. The deteriorated state of the animal bone in the clay fill indicates conditions of poor bone preservation which might account for the lack of human bone at the bottom of the feature. The size of the pit also indicates that the individual buried probably would have been a young child. If so, the preservation potential of any skeletal remains would be even less. It therefore is not surprising that human bones were not present; however, the absence of grave goods is somewhat uncharacteristic in light of the cemetery burials. Perhaps they consisted of highly perishable organic materials such as cloth or furs.