Matthew P. Purtill

Gray & Pape, Inc.
Ohio Archaeological Council © 2001

Recent archaeological investigations (Phase I, II and III) by Gray & Pape, Inc., at the Misery Acres Site (33Ot263) have identified a small, single component seasonal camp on Middle Bass Island located within the western Lake Erie basin (Figure 1). Prompted by construction for a new airport, Phase III investigations concentrated on a site section (Area A) minimally effected by post-depositional disturbance (either cultural or geological) and retaining a high degree of spatial integrity (Purtill and Miller 2000).

Figure 1. Location map showing Area A of Misery Acres
Figure 1. Location map showing Area A of Misery Acres

Mitigation efforts were undertaken in the Fall of 2000. These tests included 60 m2 of hand excavated units and systematic piece-plotting of larger artifact classes. Results of Phase III investigations revealed 2,641 prehistoric artifacts, 320 of which were piece plotted. The assemblage includes debitage, FCR, ceramics, cores, unifaces, bifaces, hammerstones, pitted stones, projectile points, a net-sinker, and a miscellaneous groundstone tool. A variety of activities are suggested from the assemblage including early stage lithic reduction of local pebble cherts (including bipolar reduction), edible resource collecting and processing, fishing, and possible small game hunting.

Although still on-going, preliminary results suggest the site appears to represent a small, short-term fishing and gathering camp occupied during the warm weather months. Based on a single C14 date with multiple probability ranges - A.D. 650 - 810 and A.D. 840 - 860 (2 Sigma calibrated [Beta-151152]), the exclusive presence of Riviere Ware ceramics (Fitting 1965), and the recovery of a single Madison point, Misery Acres is argued to date to the Riviere au Vase Phase (A.D. 700/750 - 1000) of the Western Basin Tradition (Stothers et al. 1994; Stothers 1999). Due to poor preservation (especially for faunal material), direct subsistence data is limited but several potential food sources have been identified including small fragments of probable corn kernels (Zea mays).

Most interestingly was the intact nature of the site. Phase III investigations documented a sealed occupation layer across the site which resembles an intact occupation floor (Figure 2). This layer produced an array of artifacts disclosing a high degree of clinal patterning. The co-association of related artifact types (e.g., tools vs. utilized debitage) suggests well preserved activity areas. The A.D. 650-810/840-860 C14 date from wood charcoal recovered from the suspected "floor" (in close proximity to several dentate ceramics), further corroborates evidence for an intact, sealed deposit.

Figure 2. Plan view of Southeastern Block
Figure 2. Plan view of Southeastern Block

In sum, Misery Acres is providing a wealth of information regarding the nature and organization of small, seasonal camps located among the Lake Erie islands. The intact nature of the deposits represents a unique opportunity to document the range of activities undertaken at such locales. Importantly, detailed analysis of Misery Acres is providing vital comparative data for researchers who hope to accurately reconstruct prehistoric settlement/subsistence patterns in the Great Lakes region.

References Cited

Fitting, James E.
 1965  Late Woodland Cultures of Southeastern Michigan. Anthropological Papers No. 24. Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Purtill, Matthew P. and Cinder Miller
 2000  Phase II Investigations at the Misery Acres Site (33OT263), Put-In-Bay Township, Ottawa County, Ohio. Unpublished report prepared by Gray & Pape, Inc.

Stothers, David M.
 1999  Late Woodland Models for Cultural Development in Southern Michigan. In Retrieving Michigan's Buried Past: The Archaeology of the Great Lakes State, edited by J. R. Halsey, pp. 194-211. Cranbrook Institute of Science, Bulletin 64.

Stothers, David M., James R. Graves, Susan K. Bechtel, and Timothy J. Abel
 1994  Current Perspectives on the Late Prehistory of the Western Lake Erie Region and a Reply to Murphy and Ferris. Archaeology of Eastern North America 22:135-196.