GETTING TO THE POINT: THE GEOCHRONOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, AND PALEOENVIRONMENT OF SHERIDEN CAVE, WYANDOT COUNTY, OHIO.

Kenneth B. Tankersley

Kent State University

Brian G. Redmond

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History
Ohio Archaeological Council © 2001

Sheriden Cave contains a deep stratigraphic sequence of unconsolidated late Pleistocene and early Holocene deposits. Ten stratigraphic units have been defined on the basis of color and particle size analysis. Thirty radiocarbon age determinations have been obtained for the strata using accelerator mass spectrometry on 13 samples of bone and dentin collagen from seven species of mammals and 16 wood charcoal samples, and a single conventional decay date was obtained on wood charcoal (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Stratigraphic profile and associated 14C determinations at Sherdien Cave
Figure 1. Stratigraphic profile and associated 14C determinations at Sherdien Cave
 


Since 1990, the disarticulated remains of more than 60 vertebrate taxa have been recovered from Sheriden Cave (Bills and McDonald 1998). With the exception of the masked shrew (Sorex cinereus) all of the vertebrates recovered from the early Holocene strata consist of amphibians, reptiles, and mammals that are living in the immediate vicinity of the cave today. The bulk of the vertebrate taxa have been recovered from the late Pleistocene strata and include the extralimital caribou (Rangifer tarandus), masked shrew, yellow-cheeked vole (Microtis xanthognathus), heather vole (Phenacomys intermedius), porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum), pygmy shrew (Sorex hoyi), ermine (Mustela erminea), pine martin (Martes americana), fisher (Martes pennanti), northern bog lemming (Synaptomys borealis), and extinct flat-headed peccary (Platygonus compressus), giant beaver (Castoroides ohioensis), stag-moose (Cervalces scotti), short-faced bear (Arctodus simus), and long-nosed peccary (Mylohyus nausutus). Wood charcoal from the late Pleistocene strata includes pine (Pinus sp.), spruce (Picea sp.), larch (Larix laricina), eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), white cedar (Thuja occidentalis), hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), balsam fir (Abies balsamea), willow (Salix sp.), and poplar (Populus sp.).

A single-beveled, crosshatched, bone projectile point was discovered July 30, 2000 in late-Pleistocene geological contexts at a depth of 17 cm below the Holocene-Pleistocene boundary and approximately 10 m below the surface in the one-meter excavation square N0W3. The western and northern walls of the cave bound this unit. The artifact was found near the reported find-spot of a large Wyandotte chert side scraper, in an ash-like matrix that contained masses of wood charcoal, and burned peccary bone (Platygonus compressus), and within a meter of a cervical vertebra of a snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) bearing distinctive chopping marks, a fluted projectile point, another single-bevel, crosshatched, bone point, and the perforated fragment of a left peccary ilium (Redmond and Tankersley 1998; Tankersley and Redmond 1999). Although the puncture wound on the ilium approximates the size and shape of the bone points, their relationship remains uncertain.

Stylistically, and metrically the two bone points are nearly identical (length 134.2 and 119.4 mm, maximum width 13.8 and 14.2 mm, minimum diameter 10.6 and 11.6 mm, bevel length 46.0 and 46.9 mm, and weight 16.0 and 12.8 g), and they are unmistakably similar to artifacts recovered from Paleoindian sites in Alaska, Saskatchewan, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Florida (Lyman et al. 1998: Table 1; Jenks 1941; Dunbar 1991). They are also strikingly similar to some Eurasian Upper Paleolithic single-bevel bone and antler points that date between 11,000 and 23,000 BP (Knect 1993).

Figure 2. Lateral and ventral views of single-beveled bone point recovered from Sheriden Cave in 1995 (Drawing by Luba Gudz
Figure 2. Lateral and ventral views of single-beveled bone point recovered from Sheriden Cave in 1995 (Drawing by Luba Gudz
 


The bases of the bone points are long, straight, with angular bevels that are covered with crosshatched patterns of incised lines (Figure 2). On each point, the incising of the beveled end most likely represents an attempt to roughen this contact surface prior to their attachment to a shaft. The distal end of each point is tapered to a point and one of the specimens display impact damage typical of its use as a projectile. The surfaces of both bone points are covered with marks from carving, grinding, scoring, incision, and polishing, demonstrating that they were manufactured while the bones were fresh and resilient. Radiography of the points revealed that they were produced from thick (>11.6 mm diameter) splinters of dense mega-mammal cortical bone.

Radiocarbon dates, stable carbon isotopes, and magnetic susceptibility place most of the vertebrate and paleobotanical taxa, as well as the archaeology, in the Younger Dryas chronozone, a period of megamammal extinction. The timing of extinction is coincident with the early Paleoindian component. The culture bearing deposits date within 400 radiocarbon years, between ca. 10,500 and 10,900 uncalibrated radiocarbon years B.P. (approximately 12,000 to 13,000 years ago).

References Cited

Bills, Thomas M. and H. Gregory McDonald
 1998  Fauna from Late-Pleistocene Sediments of the Sheriden Cave Site (33WY252), Wyandot County, Ohio. Current Research in the Pleistocene 15: 101-103.

Dunbar, James S.
 1991   Resource Orientation of Clovis and Suwanee Age Paleoindian Sites in Florida. In Clovis Origins and Adaptations, edited by R. Bonnichsen and K. L. Turnmire, pp. 185-213. Peopling of the Americas Publications, Corvallis, Oregon.

Jenks, Albert Ernest
 1941   Beveled Artifacts in Florida of the Same Type as Artifacts Found Near Clovis, New Mexico. American Antiquity 6:314-319.

Knecht, Heidi
 1993  Early Upper Paleolithic Approaches to Bone and Antler Projectile Technology. In Hunting and Animal Exploitation in the Later Paleolithic and Mesolithic of Eurasia, edited by G. L. Peterkin, H. M. Bricker, and P. Mellars, pp. 39-45. Archeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association Number 4.

Lyman, R. Lee and Michael J. O'Brien
 1998  A Mechanical and Functional Study of Bone Rods from the Richey-Roberts Clovis Cache, Washington, U.S.A. Journal of Archaeological Science 25: 887-906.

Redmond, Brian G. And Kenneth B. Tankersley
 1998  Early Paleoindian Point from Sheriden Cave. Ohio Archaeological Council Newsletter 10(2):5-6.

Tankersley, Kenneth B. and Brian G. Redmond
 1999  Radiocarbon Dating of a Paleoindian Projectile Point from Sheriden Cave, Ohio. Current Research in the Pleistocene 16:76-77.