The Analysis of Microartifacts to Evaluate the Diet and Cooking Techniques of Paleoindianand Archaic Age Inhabitants of the Dust Cave Archaeological Site in Alabama

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CONFERENCE: Posters-at-the-Capitol

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Dust Cave, an archaeological site in Alabama, dating to the Paleoindian and Archaic Age has excellent preservation conditions for features such as charcoal pits, fired clay surfaces, and hearths, utilized for cooking. For this reason researchers were able to study not only what types of foods the inhabitants of the site were eating, but their cooking techniques and the locations of food preparation within the site. During the excavation of the site, geoarchaeologists collected chemical and micromorphology samples from the features. These samples indicated the types of microartifacts (artifacts centimeters to millimeters in size) that latter researchers could expect to find. This microartifact analysis of the Dust Cave features was an attempt to provide quantitative data about the diet and cooking techniques of the inhabitants and promote microartifact analysis as a means of complementary data to better interpret archaeological sites. The 2-4 mm size grade of microartifacts from each feature was analyzed. Microartifacts were sorted by types such as charcoal, faunal remains (animal/ fish bones), snail shells, botanicals such as charred nutshells and hackberries, and stone flakes created by tool making. A count and weight for each microartifact category was recorded for each feature. It was found that the volumes of each microartifact type in a feature depended on the type of feature, the feature’s chemical signature and the contents of its micromorphology samples. These results helped archaeologists better understand the food ways of Dust Cave inhabitants and contributed to the promotion of microartifact analysis.