Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Department of Sociology and Anthropology: Archaeology
James M. Skibo
Serving a multitude of functions from subterrestrial cavities of storage, basins for cooking, to vessels that securely hold pounds of rice allowing the grains to be danced upon to thresh, pit features are one of North Americas most common archaeological feature. These constructions are dug to fit a diversity of needs based on the people who manufacture them. By understanding the distinct function(s) a pit or group of pit features played at a site-level, the needs of the people who inhabited that landscape are better understood. The nature of a pit feature is to store something or process a food resource that is of value, by virtue of the objects pits once contained, those materials are predominantly reclaimed from the pit when it was in use. This lack of associated material remains found in the archaeological record make it difficult to understand the activates associated with these features. Recorded pit features of the lower peninsula of Michigan have contained varying floral remains, charred wood, burned soils, fire-cracked rocks, and limited amounts of ceramics and lithics. A considerable amount of regional ethnohistoric accounts demonstrates the importance of pit features in the subsistence and settlement patterns of native Upper Great Lakes groups. Despite these accounts, and high frequencies in which these features manifest throughout the region, there have been no formal archaeological investigations into pit feature use in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
To address this regional gap in research, archaeological investigation of selected pit features at the Muskrat Point site (03-910) was conducted under the direction of the Grand Island Archaeological Project in the summer of 2017. Field survey identified 24 surface depressions, likely to be pit features along the southern end of Grand Island eastern lobe. Fifteen of these are located in the area of the Muskrat Point site, four of these surface depressions were excavated, each confirmed to be pit features. A performance-based approach is used to consider pit stratigraphy, macrobotanical remains, radiocarbon dating, and other contextual evidence in order to investigate pit feature function at this coastal Lake Superior site. This research acts as an initial step towards understanding the rolls pit features played in Native American lifeways of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Bartz, Emily R., "Pit Features: a View from Grand Island, Michigan" (2018). Theses and Dissertations. 980.