Paleoethnobotany and household archaeology at the Bergen site : a Middle Holocene occupation in the Fort Rock Basin, Oregon
Helzer, Margaret Mary, 1963-
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Helzer, Margaret Mary, 1963-
This study analyzes the botanical and archaeological material from a Middle Holocene occupation at the Bergen site, located in the Fort Rock Basin, Oregon. It serves to complement and enhance over a decade of research focused on regional settlement patterns in the Northern Great Basin. While previous studies in the region have focused on broadly based settlement patterns, this study shifted the interpretive lens toward an in-depth analysis of a single family dwelling, which was occupied some 6000 years ago. It thus introduces the domain of "household archaeology" into the practice of archaeological research in the Northern Great Basin for the first time. Macrobotanical analysis was conducted on 215 soil samples collected on a 50cm grid from this house. An additional 20 samples were analyzed from a second house structure at the site. These analyses have provided evidence of diet, environment, and social behavior associated with the prehistoric occupants of the house. The abundance of charred bulrush (Scirpus ), goosefoot (Chenopodium ), and waada (Suaeda ) seeds in the deposits indicate that small seeds of wetland-adapted plants were an important dietary resource during the Middle Holocene in the Fort Rock Basin. The patterned distribution of botanical material in 215 soil samples across the floor of the house provide strong evidence of prehistoric human activity areas. The highest concentration of seeds and charcoal in the house was located near the central fire hearth, where cooking and food preparation took place. An east-facing entryway is suggested by the presence of a secondary concentration of seeds and charcoal on the eastern edge of the structure. Analysis also revealed a differential distribution of seed types across the house floor. Higher concentrations of bulrush in the northern area of the floor, away from the hearth, suggest the presence of sleeping mats. Results of this study indicate that plant remains are not evenly distributed through archaeological deposits, therefore care must be taken when sampling for macrobotanical remains. Research at the Bergen site provides the basis for recommendations to assist future archaeologists in determining the best and most cost-effective locations within excavations to take macrobotanical samples.
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